Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's a Girl Thing

There's a new face at the barn. His name is Star and he was born very early Tuesday morning. He won't be at our barn very long--his owner intends to move him and his mother to a pasture--but we are all just gaga over him. Ah, the young of any species.
 Long and wobbly legs at about 18 hours of life.

 Ooops, tired. Nap time.

Mama's a percheron cross, dad's an Arabian, Appy, quarter-horse. I expect he will be tall when he grows. Gayle had to cancel lessons on Tuesday because all of the horses were going nuts with excitement. Even if they weren't in a position to actually see what was up, Gayle says they all just knew something was going on.

In the process of pulling up drafts to finish, I found the following partial blog, which I think has to be from the summer of 2007, when I came off Ace in a longe-line lesson and had the experience of having the wind knocked out of me. It was ugly, especially the bruise that lasted forever, and the difficulty I had sitting and walking for a while. We even got an x-ray to make sure I had not broken my hip.

Last night, I went channel surfing while the remote was briefly in my control because Len was grilling dinner. TMC was running National Velvet for the millionth time, and for the millionth time, I tuned in somewhere other than at the very beginning--actually much closer to the end than that.

For all the books in my life, I've never read this girls' classic. At least I don't remember it. I have read Black Beauty, and I can't even think about that one without choking up all over. The British film with Nightcrawler--well, Alan Cumming--as the voice of Beauty has me sobbing buckets. I love King of the Wind but I've never been able to get through The Black Stallion. Many young girls read these and more. It's all part of that horse obsession.

12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor is so beautiful and wonderful in the film, but several things bother me:

1. The horse is called "The Pie." I assumed (correctly, when I checked) that's because in the book the horse is a piebald and this is short for "The Piebald." A piebald is a horse with big splotch black and white coloring. A scewbald is a horse with chestnut and white markings. In the U.S., we call them pintos (grade horses) or paints (when they have Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse bloodlines.) The horse in the film is a copper-penny chestnut with a big blaze and white socks. Quite pretty, and I am partial to that color since my Prince came dressed in it. I suppose they couldn't find an appropriate piebald for the film.

2. There are scenes where Elizabeth Taylor is clearly riding, and others where the stunt rider is far too big to be her. Ooops.

3. I can only assume that riding styles have changed dramatically since 1944, because the riders are leaning back as the horses take off over jumps. Their legs are pushed way forward. I don't jump, but I've photographed quite a bit of it, and these days the riders are practically prone along the horses' necks as the go over jumps. Legs are bent, so the ear-hip-ankle alignment stays in place. Heck, it was that leaning back with my legs forward that got me out of the saddle last month. So many of the horses are upside down, with their noses in the air and backs hollowed out--bad on the horse--indicated some pretty bad riders and extras.

I think I read that Louis B. Mayer gave the horse to Elizabeth Taylor for her birthday. She earned it. The movie was a financial success and the actress who played her mother won an Oscar (the film won two and was nominated for several more.)

I tried to find out where the film was shot, especially the steeplechase, but that's not clear. I found a blog, apparently by someone who served in WWII, which mentions seeing the film being shot at Pebble Beach, which does have an equestrian center. The Wikipedia entry on the film mentions the light poles in the background, pointing out that would not be seen if it was shot in England

The last (and only) time I saw a steeplechase in the flesh was probably 30 years ago in the hunt country of Virginia, where the course covered lots of farmland. I don't recall seeing as many horses in the field at the same time as are in the movie, but it was certainly exciting to watch.

 Melinda Snodgrass walking Ellie at Brookside Equestrian Center.

I now know that part of the film was made at Brookside, a lovely facility east of Los Angeles that fell into disrepair and was revitalized by the couple from whom my friend Melinda Snodgrass bought her two Lusitanos. It was gorgeous, with beautiful barns and covered arenas. I visited several times: once to see Vento before he was shipped to New Mexico and once to watch Melinda ride Ellie (then known as Ebony) before buying her when the barn was being disbursed. I expect the land will be turned into housing developments, if it hasn't started already.
Ellie. She's quite the princess.

It is harder and harder to find places to keep horses in the Los Angeles area because of the ever-expanding need for housing and business parks. Griffith Park was given to the city with express condition that it remain open and for horses, which is fortunate. In Chatsworth, where my boy lives, horse properties disappear every time something is sold. Melinda's moved her two horses to a nice facility out in Somis, but the auto ride out there can be challenging.

I wonder what little girls will do when they can no longer easily access these empowering animals which play such a large part in hopes and dreams when growing up. Playing with Breyer horses just isn't as good as giving a favorite pony a good grooming. Horses make girls taller, faster, stronger, braver, and give them leadership skills. What a shame to lose that.

1 comment:

Erin Maher said...

What a cute baby! When we had a baby at our barn, the horses also lost their minds. Byron actually dumped a rider in his excitement.

Loss of horse property is really sad. I know people are worried because the bullet train is supposed to go right through the Lakeview Terrace area and take out a bunch of trails. (If the bullet train ever happens.)

Saw NV lately and the riding terrified me too, as well as all the falls the horses take during the National. I can't handle it!