Live and Online Lecture

A Ride Through Civilization: The Horse

by Rupert Isaacson
29th July 2020


We are running a short series of live and online lectures in June and we do hope you will bring an aperitivo and join us for an hour before dinner. We have chosen subjects to stimulate new interests and conversation, ready for the imminent return to socializing. We invite you to join 15 minutes early to hear information on AHA’s plans for the future and there will be time for questions and answers at the end.

A Ride Through Civilization: The Horse

You’re walking down a city street in Rome, in London, Paris or Ulanbataar and you come into a large square; almost inevitably there’s a commanding monument to some chap (and occasionally a chapess) astride a dramatic looking horse, the pigeons soiling in his head yet taking nothing away from the charisma of the sitter. Is it the horse, more than the person sitting on it, that one responds to emotionally?

Why are these horses so dramatic looking? What breed are they? Why do they pace like that? Is it just for show or do those movements have some military function? Is the State demonstrating its military might? What about the equipment in the horse? The strange looking bits and archaic looking saddles – how did they function and why?

From the ancient Babylonian bas reliefs to the equestrian statues of the Parthenon, through the middle ages, the Renaissance and expansion into foreign empire you will notice, once your eye is trained, a subtle series of details in horse, equipment and the way the riders sit, that reflects the technological developments and philosophies – political and social – of the age.  We can begin to trace the march if ideas, not just of conquest.

The horse has always represented freedom to we slow two legged humans. Power, passion, dream – and the modern sculptures that we will end with are no exception. When we are on the back of an all-powerful yet humble horse, and have mastered the insanely complex art of making it a projection of our bodies and thoughts, we become superhuman.

Rupert is an accomplished horseman, author and documentary maker.  As a journalist, he took an interest the Kalahari Bushmen after which he wrote a bestseller and helped to take their land rights all the way to the UN.  When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson feared he might never communicate with his child. But when he discovered Rowan responded to horses, they travelled to Mongolia – the spiritual home of the horse – where shaman healing hands banished the tantrums, the incontinence and the hopeless isolation. Click here for Rupert’s bibliography.


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