EQUUS

SELFAWAREN­ESS IN HORSES

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This is an amazing photo, taken about 1907, of Tom Bass’ horse Columbus when he was the star of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. The sharp vertical break that cuts off the peaked tent at center-right is puzzling at first, until you realize that Cody and Columbus are looking into a mirror set up so that performers could check their costumes before going onstage. Cody’s expression fascinates me; he’s not looking in the mirror but down at Columbus. And the stallion’s expression fascinates me still more, because he is obviously aware that the reflection of himself is himself; in other words, the horse had become self-aware. This is evident also in every photo of the pair: Cody fires his gun or waves his hat or whatever, and Columbus almost offhandedl­y does what he’s asked while looking at the camera or the crowd. I believe that the horse was looking for his friend, Tom Bass. It is my experience that every empathetic horseman of genius—I have known three in my lifetime—has this effect on horses.

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