EQUUS - - Con­for­ma­tion In­sights -

“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...

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