MASTER HORSEMEN AT WORK
“There is only one way to accomplish things,” Franz Rochowansky used to say, “and that is the right way.” Honing each individual essential eventually gels as a complete picture distinguished by ease and harmony. Here Rochowansky, closest to the camera, rides a pas de trois with Alois Podhajsky and Johann Irbinger. Because he and his horse communicate at a deep level of sympathy, the master horseman can achieve results that transcend mere technique. Here in the third act of an actual bullfight, the horses of brothers Rafael and Ángel Peralta Pineda lie down upon request and then, in unison, quietly and confidently sit up—with a live bull only yards in front of them. Love and death lie at the heart of bullfighting at its best, and these master horsemen exemplify what it means to give of themselves utterly, to risk all, to live lives of courage, compassion and the power of command.
Probably the greatest rider of our time is mounted bullfighter çngel Peralta Pineda, seen here in a shot from the 1950s. Great empathy for animals of all species is another universal characteristic of master horsemen; Peralta explains in his autobiography that he began training animals as a little boy, by taming wild birds. Films of çngel and his brother Rafael show High School riding of an astonishingly high level and quality, incorporating techniques and movements, such as the terre-ˆ-terre and mŽzair, that were normal to the 18th century European “classical” era but which are not seen in modern competition. Normal practice during the classical era was to bring the horse along “in the four reins” by combining riding cavesson and bit—and this also bridges through Spain and Mexico to the American “buckaroo” school. Note the high-bowed saddle and box stirrups. I have never met çngel Peralta but greatly admire his work. Another master horseman whom I never met but greatly admire is Fredy Knie, Sr., of the Swiss National Circus. Fredy Sr. was known for his work not only with horses of all sizes and kinds but zebras, elephants, camels, rhinoceroses, giraffes and hippopotamuses. The smile we see in this photo was not just an expression plastered on for the audience; the rider’s pride and pleasure is centered in his horse, who after a solo Grand Prix exhibition willingly drops into a circus bow. Good humor, a joy always bubbling just beneath the surface, is another characteristic of the master horseman: Nothing is a grim drill, there is no roughness and no hurry, and the master makes every effort to inject novelty and interest into the daily routine.
Like the Peraltas, Fredy Knie, Sr., was able to coax superior performance from his horses. Here one of his Lipizzans performs a spectacular capriole. I have a film of Fredy Sr. assisting an Arabian stallion to perform courbettes: The animal makes 10 consecutive leaps—certainly a world record.