The Englishwoman and the Horse
By Rupert Isaacson
Wednesday 3rd February 2021 6pm
The horsey Englishwoman is a well-known cliché. Our literature abounds with characters based on the motif. From PG Wodehouse’s fearsome, fox-hunting, braying Aunt Dahlia, to the demure but dashing Sophia Western whom Fielding’s Tom Jones pursued over hedge and timber, to the lesser known 19th century heroines of Surtees novels – Lucy Glitters and Lady Scattercash, working their way up from the slums through the circus via their equestrian skills to marry aristocrats and captains of industry. Clichés are based on fact but often miss the point. In England, the special love affair between women and horses has to do with something that struck terror into the hearts of the male writers of those times – freedom and power.
Through a series of pictures starting back in Celtic times with the horse goddess Epona and the Iceni warrior queen Boudicca, through the rise of royal and aristocratic horse breeders and riders such as Elizabeth I (an early pioneer of improving British bloodstock), to the Marchioness of Salisbury, the 18th century society hostess and first female master of foxhounds who – horror – also meddled in politics, to the leading suffragette and politician Nancy Astor and finally to the sports and society heroines of our own day.
The love of horses, freedom, self-determination and empowerment cuts across all social classes and certainly all genders. The horse has been setting humankind free for 6000 years. Join us for this pictorial journey into the special contribution that this amazing animal has made to making English society a better place, by helping set women free.
Rupert is an author, ex-professional horse trainer and founder of The Horse Boy Foundation, which helps to make horses and nature available to all children, autistic or not, all over the world. The Horse Boy was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller.
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