Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sepia Saturday 271: What if the Horse Doesn't Drink?

"It's a thirsty job, this Sepia Saturday lark. Trawling through those dusty old archives, sorting through those piles of faded old photographs, looking for the perfect Sepia Saturday prompt. You can't blame a chap for wanting a drink to celebrate the discovery of the perfect old sepia print. Something long, cool and refreshing; next to a charming little river perhaps. Somewhere to go with your mates and celebrate the end of another day's honest work. Where was I?  ..... ah yes, our Sepia Saturday prompt for this week - post your posts on or around Saturday 21 March 2015 - is an image from the Flickr Commons collection of the Nederlands Institute Voor Militaire Historie and shows a group of army horses enjoying a refreshing drink after a hard day's exercise. The choice of how you interpret this theme is entirely yours but drinking and horses spring to mind - or maybe drinking at the Black Horse Pub. Whatever you decided to go with, post your post and add a link to the list below."

The photo was taken around 1900 at Willemskazerne in Arnhem, Netherlands where the Horse Artillery Corp. was housed.

"Where the Ponies come to Drink" by Henry Herbert Knibbs
Some folks wouldn't understand it,—

writing lines about a pony,—

For a cow-horse is a cow-horse,—

   nothing else, most people think,—

But for eighteen years your partner,

   wise and faithful, such a crony
Seems worth watching for, a spell,
   down where the ponies come to drink.

How about not watering your horse at all!! Then you can go to the pub alone and have no worries. The idea of having all the conveniences of horsepower without all the upkeep was very compelling to the military. During WW1, there was more weight in fodder shipped for horses than the weight all other supplies for everything else combined. As wonderful and often heroic as war-time horses were, they needed more attention than they got. They starved, were diseased, wounded and left to die under the cruelest of circumstances. As bad as that war was for people, it was even more hellish for the poor horses.   

I found this interesting article about the British using spring-mounted rocking horses to train riders at the Army Equestrian School. They didn't expect to get too much out of this horse - "to give rookies the feel of the saddle and practice mounting and dismounting". Looks like the rocking horse would be useful for these minimal expectations. The neck roll dismount looks terribly dangerous (and unnecessary), even on a mechanical horse! While the horse would need little more than oil once in a while, the instructor, pictured here, probably needed a pint or two immediately after he dismounted. 

I found lots of patent applications for various horse substitutes - most bordering on the ridiculous. Mr. Rygg's horse creation shown in the patent, dated Feb. 14th, 1893 was intended only for teaching riding. Perhaps it worked for that purpose. 

The best fake horses seem to come out of our imagination. "Joey", for example, a puppet created for the play "War Horse" and created by Handspring Puppetry in Africa. It's manned by three puppeteers. Oddly enough, even though you can see people underneath and physically it's not very horselike, it's amazing that the three people can make it exude emotion and the feeling of "horse". There's always a catch though...the three puppeteers probably need TLC and a few beers at the pub every once in a while. Here's a video about Joey.

In case you have even more time to burn, here's a fascinating Tedtalk  by the puppeteers.

My personal preference for a horse is the kind that appeared in Equus. Each horse was played by one actor. When they needed a drink, there was only one drink required for each horse.  It's amazing what great actors can do with just a few props! 
Equus costumes   eqview.com
Add caption

Even more minimalist costumes for Equus. nocache.azcentral.com

And for the nostalgia part of the post, my grandfather Hector with his trusty team on the farm in Letellier, Manitoba. His horses were huge and strong and I believe they may have been of the Percheron breed. 

Trot on over to Sepia Saturday for more horses and drinking stories.


  1. Well I wonder about the origins of that sepia pic. Turkey? World War I?

  2. Willemskazerne in Arhnem, Netherlands where the Horse Artillery was housed from around 1881-1940. Photograph was taken around 1900.

  3. What a great post! I loved the video about "Joey". It really is amazing what puppeteers can make you believe even when you see them clearly right before your eyes. Case in point: The Muppets. Even the actors who starred with them in their TV show said they often forgot they were working with puppets because they seemed to 'real'.

    1. If you watch the Ted Talk the puppeteers gave, you can really see the horse in action with a rider.

  4. Training on a rocking horse -- well, that beats all.
    And yes, your grandfather's horses look like Percherons -- good work horse.

    1. I found out recently that my French Canadian relatives all came to Canada from Perche in the seventeenth century. Probably only a coincidence that my grandfather's horse had the same origins.

  5. Anonymous11:52 AM

    I remember seeing Equus, but it was a long time ago. I don't remember all those actors with the horse heads. It seemed only one actor was the horse. Am I remembering wrong?
    The alternative horses are very interesting. But so sad to think of all the horses dying in the war.

  6. Great take-offs on horses. I'll come back and watch the videos later...am just skimming tonight.

  7. I often used the "horse" in school gymnastics and remember wondering why a padded block was called a horse. Now I know! It seems the origins were in teaching riding acrobatics, which turned into gymnastics!

  8. I sure enjoyed all your horsing around here!

  9. What a classic Sepia Saturday ramble this is, a voyage of discovery full of interest and enjoyment.

  10. I love that realistic gymnastic horse, and Warhorse was a wonderful musical. I saw it both in London and here in Melbourne. Great post!

  11. Warhorse, the musical, was recently shown on UK TV - the 'horse' was superb. Great post.