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Nose To The Ground, Issue #003 -- Rocking Horses, Leland Stanford and Eadweard Muybridge
October 31, 2004
Greetings from Nose to The Ground; the beagle-inspired newsletter bringing you the latest from Your-Guide-To-Gifts-For-Horse-Lovers.com.
Survive the ghosts and goblins? The holiday season will soon be in full swing and winter is on the way. The snow on the peaks of the mountains to our east is likely going to stay and the snowline is slowly creeping down towards the valley floor. The horses now have their winter coats with our oldest Fjord, Nessi, taking on his annual polar bear look!
The size of our family increased last week with the arrival of Clancy, a 9 week old Beagle. Now Boo has a playmate and we have two Noses to the Ground (we'll keep the name of this newsletter in the singular for the time being anyway).
In this issue:
From Our Merchants
We bid a sad farewell to the Anita Lang Collection as she is in the process of selling her business. The horse jewelry appears to be long gone. We were hoping to see some of the nicer pieces in the closeout sale but that did not happen. So, we will be on the lookout for more fine jewelry ideas to share with you. When you fall off your horse........
Holiday Shopping Tips
A We have received a media kit on a new magazine, Horses Incorporated. . The magazine is published in Seattle and circulates primarily on the West Coast at this time. Judging from a half dozen cover illustrations, Horses Incorporated's audience is the English style rider-eventer-dressage participant, putting it in the same category as Practical Horseman and Dressage Today. Beyond that we can't tell you too much nor make a specific recommendation. If you are interested you can visit their website at www.horseinc.net.
Horse Art: Stanford, Muybridge and the Hobby Horse
The "Farm" in Palo Alto
Leland Stanford (1824-1893), railroad executive, governer, senator, pioneer in California's wine industry and founder of Stanford University, was also a breeder and trainer of horses. His farm (the Palo Alto Stock Farm) was one of the finest for trotting horses in the United States and in the 1880's and 1890's home to 600 horses and 150 trainers and staff. The "Farm" eventually became the site of Stanford University.
The horse was in turn named after the first major battlefield victory of the Mexican War. Stanford's trotters won numerous trophies and ribbons and several were credited with world record times. In his quest to breed the fastest possible trotters Stanford had a great interest in learning more and more about them, including details of the gait. One of the controversies at the time was whether or not a horse ever was completely airborne during the canter. The unaided human eye could not resolve that question.
Enter Muybridge. With a tempestuous personality, sporting a Walt Whitman beard, and carrying on in the grand tradition of the English eccentric, it was said of Eadweard Muybridge that had he never been born a novelist would have created him. Coming to America from England at an early age, Muybridge established a reputation as one of San Francisco's great 19th century landscape photographers. Over time, his interests narrowed and became focused upon photographing and studying the motion of animals and people.
The two worked together for nearly ten years. During that time Muybridge continually improved and refined his photographic processes. By 1877, Muybridge, in collaboration with Leland Stanford's engineering staff was able to photograph movement with a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second. It was here that he provided conclusive proof that the horse did have all four hooves off the ground during the gallop.
The Hobby Horse
What was key to the world of horse art was found in the photographs which showed every aspect of the horses' gait. The photos showed that, at full gallop, all four hooves were for an instant under the horses belly and off the ground. Up to that time, most paintings of horses at full gallop showed the front legs extended forward and the hind legs extended to the rear. Unless a horse's motion was to be similar to that of a rabbits's, this position would be anatomically impossible. This posture by the way, is often referred to as the rocking horse or hobby-horse posture.
It would be an adventure to say the least. Pleasure riding would be restricted to the walk, perhaps the slow trot. Canter? Forget it!
Driving? One horse or a team. Picture the effect if the horse(s) ran like rabbits. It would likely shake the buggy apart in a short distance.
If that were the case it would be amazing if the charioteer could stay aboard for even one lap!
When Muybridge's results became generally known (largely through publication in Scientific American in 1878) they were readily accepted by artists such as Degas, Eakins, George Stubbs and Remington. Others, like Rodin had to go through a period of "furious denial" before abandoning the "rocking horse" style.
Muybridge continued his work up until his death in 1904. Like Johm Stubbs' studies of the anatomy of the horse, Muybridge's work had a profound influence on equine art. The artist could now study detail that the human eye could not see. His work with Stanford attracted the attention of Thomas Edison and, together with George Eastmans ongoing work in the development of film, set the stage for motion pictures. Also, as Stubb's efforts provided a new level of anatomical detail to the veterinary world, Muybridge's work introduced photography to the world of scientific data.
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