Saturday, October 1, 2011

Horsey Love 1960


I decided, today, to listen to some meditative music and accompany it with images from Flickr.

At first I picked "Lotus" but that was boring and too many cars. So then I entered "Beautiful Horse."


There was a time I was addicted to pictures of beautiful horses. When I was a young girl. Trouble was, these pictures were hard to come by. I had to take out King of the Wind by horsey author Marguerite Henry, over and over from the library to see those gorgeous glossy plates of the magnificent battling stallions, one chestnut and one grey,who were fighting over who was to be Daddy of all Arabian horses.

The pharmacist on Decarie (Greene's?) owned some Standardbreds he raced at Blue Bonnets and he once gave me a magazine filled with black and white snapshots of said horses all standing in harness. Not the prettiest of pony pictures, but I appreciated the mag more than any opium-laced concoction he could have passed to me under the counter.

Why, was I so obsessed with horses, I now wonder.

Because I was starved for beauty for one. The Snowdon district of Montreal in the 60's was entirely lacking in charm, with row upon row of tawdry duplexes, with their bleak grey porches and dark brown front doors and no floral adornment at all, with only a few sparrows and maple trees and the occasional pheasant finding its way down from the mountain, to remind us city-dwellers we were part of nature. My elementary school was brick encased and built in the institutional architectural style used in prisons, madhouses and hospitals.

My own flat had no decorations. My mother had grown up rich in a bourgeois 4 story greystone, a virtual museum (not literal virtual musuem :) filled with baroque bric a brac, marble urns, bleeding heart icons, carved golden Chinese mirrors, and one or two fine art nouveau vases, which I keep on my mantelpiece today.

She resented  being middle class. She did no beauty at all in our home. All of my mother's creative energy went into cooking and dressing herself. No money left for decorating anyway.

Yes, horses are beautiful. My Flickr experiment is reminding me once again. And not all the pictures on the site are of Black Stallions pounding the earth with their hooves, mane flashing. Cavalia style. Like on the cover of a horsey romance. Although there are some of those. There are all sorts of  lovely breeds, many of which I used to know the name of, with sundry colour coats, many of which I used to know the name of.

Digression: Cavalia is Montreal based. Oh, my God. I would have died and gone to Heaven to see that show back then. And in the 1910's they had an annual horse show at the Westmount Arena. ("The automobile will never usurp the horse in the affections of Man," claimed a 1910 Montreal Star article about the show. Not quite true. ) As it was, I saw some pony extravanganza at Expo67 and in 1968 I spent two weeks on St. Helen's Island watching a horse show with Jim Day and Jim Elder (our soon to be Olympic Champions) and I even sneaked 'back stage' to stand near Canadiana, the big red horse.  I remember taking a picture of said horse, now long lost.

There are even some artsy shots of old horses, with clouded eyes, hanging their scrawny heads to the ground. Lots of pinto ponies. Not my favorite. People must like pintos. Yes, Lots of different kinds of horses. All beautiful.

Yes, I certainly was hungry for a glimpse of the exquisite equine figure, growing up as a girl. (I did collect 'porcelain' figurines from Woolworth in the primary grades, but my cat knocked them all down to the floor  one day.)

Oh, and there's the sex thing too. Horses are so masculine, all muscled and powerful and smelling of musk and dung. And you get to ride them. But still, as I see it now, meditating on it, just like the snake, the horse is more a symbol of female sexuality, even if appearances suggest otherwise.

The horse is clearly born a force of nature and then 'broken' and then harnessed by Man, sometimes combed and curried as a beloved slave other times exploited outright for its power and goodwill - but always under some sort of control. Like a female.

Sometimes a horse is kept in a small stall, (I know a horse lover who believes this is cruel as they are herd animals) other times allowed to run unsaddled within a fenced in area, but never allowed to go totally free.

I rode horses too back then in the 60'.s. On trail rides in St. Laurent, an area now totally built up with massive apartment buildings and shopping malls. As my father joked, the sad horses in question were 'one step away from the glue factory.'

But as it happens one day in say 1964 I had an existential horsey experience, somewhere North of Montreal, at de Verendrye Provincial Park, I think. I had accompanied a friend's family on a picnic excursion. They were recently arrived from England and they had no idea of the distances involved in travelling in Canada. They targetted said landmark, which, no doubt, on the map appeared but a few miles away, only to realize it was HOURS away.

We eventually got to some wild place at the entrance to said Provincial park, which was a park only in name, no amenities, and seeing this, the Dad and Mom set the picnic blanket and hamper in the middle of a field. While we were chomping away on our egg salad sandwiches, a huge beautiful black horse started galloping rings around us! Its luxuriant mane flashing, its hooves pounding the earth. Right before my famished eyes.

Splendid! And scary too. Soon an equally beautiful young woman appeared out of the ether. She was 20ish, (a most admirable age to a 10 year old)  and she strode up to our ridiculous picnic on her own long legs,  with her own luxuriant mane of jet black hair wafting in the breeze. She was wearing a riding habit, clean tan jodpurs and dark green 'redingote' or riding coat.

She  told us the magnificent beast was her horse. There was a stable, but she preferred to let her own animal run free. So she said with a kind of arrogance in her voice. Or was it just the fact that she was European? The horse was spoiled and so was she, from what I could see. Oh, to be spoiled like that!

Of course, I wasn't the only girl in my class obsessed with horses. Another girl, Katherine was her name, was lucky enough to be able to draw them. Talk about self-gratification.I was envious. It never occurred to me that I could learn to draw horses, too, by just practicing. I could have solved my horsey dilemma. Alas.