Sunday, March 31, 2013

Horse with Awkward Rider 1982

As a graduate student, lurking around the warm up area of a large national all breed horse show with my camera in hand, I found a certain kind of horse and rider that fascinated me. Horses originally bred for their smooth, rapid gaits that could comfortably carry a rider for long distances, they have since become fetishized objects, and attract a peculiar group of riders and owners.

These gaited horses, also known as Saddlebreds, are the most artificial of all the breeds.  On some of the breeds, the tail is altered ....set look is a tail "nicking" operation, in which the retractor muscles on the underside of the dock are partially cut (the tail is not broken, as some people believe). The tail is then placed into a tail set so that when the muscles and ligaments heal they are longer than they were initially.  Wikipedia  On others, most notably the Tennessee Walker, the hooves are...  "padded" or "built up," exhibiting a very flashy and animated gait, lifting their forelegs high off the ground with each step.  Wikiipedia  The Tennessee Walkers can also be "sored" , an illegal process which makes it painful for them to put their foot down, forcing them to quickly pick their feet up when they move.
X-ray of a padded shoe on a Tennessee Walker

The rider in my photograph is a bad rider, his posture atrocious.  His lifted heels show that he is off balance, and the position of the horse's neck and head show that the horse is not comfortable.   By adding the paint to the surface of the photograph, I was able to isolate and emphasize that awkwardness between the two, leaving a distilled moment of perfect wrongness.

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