I once heard an actor from a western series (Bonanza) say during an interview that horses were the dumbest animals in the world. That statement told me he knew nothing about them. An equine reflects the intelligence or experience of the rider—unless the horse is so terrified of the idiot rider there is no other way to react than to get rid of the jerk.
Stunt horses know exactly what they’re doing in front of a camera, from the clack of a clapper to hearing the call for quiet, action, cut, or wrap. Every time I watch a jumping event, I marvel at the courage and athleticism of the horses. Equine events have as many inconsiderate riders as they do excellent ones. Some are in it for the show, others for the love. Jump horses lope at barriers they can’t see over. They must trust in the pacing and direction of their rider, then fling themselves at and over. The horse won’t see the second rail or water trap on the other side until airborne. I’ve watched horses discover a second barrier while in flight and quickly pull up the heels they’d started to drop. They know when they’ve completed a perfect round and when they’ve lost.
For the Olympics and dressage competitions, there are high-schooled horses. Then there are the doctorate level, the Royal Lipizanners, descendants of the great war horses and destriers. I first learned of them from the 1963 Disney movie, Miracle of the White Stallions. During WWII, Colonel Ottomar Hermann, with General Patton’s help, spirited the white horses out from under the noses of the Nazis. When I heard they would be performing in LA at the Shrine Auditorium, I bought tickets for my parents and myself. This was in the late sixties and not inexpensive for a high school girl. Had to buy seats in the rafters. Imagine my surprise when the real Col. Hermann didn’t look anything like the gorgeous Robert Taylor from the movie.
Disappointment evaporated when the horses walked onto the stage, so calm, elegant, and sparkling white. Eight of them performed a complicated quadrille on that confined space with perfect grace and precision.
Other horses displayed the ancient art of the airs above the ground, initially defensive battle moves, with and without riders. Even when they did have a rider, after every feat, they walked to stage right, where the colonel stood, and received their reward, a caress and a treat.
One horse performed the capriole—a leap into the air and a striking outward kick of the back legs when reaching peak height—and did the leap until the horse decided it was perfect. Col. Hermann had explained that it might happen and that his stallions would give nothing less than their best.
The Hermann family created a farm in Florida with horses saved from Hitler’s rush to destroy or seize everything fine and beautiful. I read where the Lipizanners trained there understand English, French and German. I doubt a second rate actor with difficulty understanding the proper use of the to be verbs has the smarts to judge an animal species, especially ones better educated, with finer blood lines, and certainly more heart and courage.
Dedicated to Dutch, Duchess of Malibu, friend and companion for twenty years. I know I’ll see her again in heaven, and loved it when little Colton in Heaven Is for Real said that Christ has a horse of many colors.