Horsing Around

Happy New Year!

Given the number of Penny posts here, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if I said our Holidays “went to the dogs”, but you might be surprised to hear that you might more accurately say that it “went to the horses”.

You see, like many American girls, the Beloved was (and still is, I suppose) entranced with horses. So, during the run-up to the holidays, I noticed an ad for a traveling show that was making a stop in San Diego — Cavalia — which seemed like a Cirque du Soleil sort of show, but with horses. Really. I suggested that we might go while the Beloved’s mom was in town for the holidays and everyone thought it was a bang up idea and we went on the Saturday before Christmas.

The horses didn't really run over the people



Personally, I thought the show was great. A really fascinating combination of human acrobatics, live music, lights and imagery, and, well, horses. I shouldn’t put the horses last though, because they and their riders/trainers were really what made this experience so different. Dressage vignettes, jumping, drill-team, and rodeo-like trick riding were each integrated into different production numbers.

Acrobats and horses

Acrobats and horses

I haven’t ridden a horse in years and years, and I’ve seen a number of Cirque du Soleil shows, but I enjoyed this show very much. So if it sounds interesting to you, keep an eye out as for whether it might come close to your town.

Along with our tickets, we also received a flyer for an exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum entitled “The Horse”, so last Saturday we decided to head down and check it out. The Beloved was surprised (and perhaps a little appalled) to find out that I’d never been to “The NAT”, so it was doubly fun for me.

Thousands of years...The exhibit covered the biology and evolution of horses over the last tens of millions of years. Something I didn’t know — horses originated in North America and spread over to Eurasia, but were then driven to extinction in the Americas and ended up having to be reintroduced here. Huh.

Relative sizes

Relative sizes

The exhibit also covered the history of the domestication of horses by early human cultures (including a reproduction of the cave paintings at Pech Merle, which was the one thing we wanted to see in France last year, but was closed to the public while we were there) and their impact on society as a mode of transportation, engine of war, and aid to agriculture. Fascinating stuff.

Reproduction of Pech Merle

Reproduction of Pech Merle

The exhibit also did a good job of showing how horses have been integrated into nearly every culture around the globe, and how in the modern world their day-to-day impact has been diminished due to technology.

Terra cotta horse from India

Terra cotta horse from India

At the end, the exhibit highlighted the horse’s place in local San Diego culture, especially at the Del Mar Racetrack. The Beloved even got to pose with (a portrait of) one of our most famous equine Californians — Zenyatta.

Zenyatta and Beloved

Zenyatta and Beloved

We actually finished the day off with a movie — and if it was last year at this time, we surely would have seen War Horse — but we traded horses for Eagles and saw Silver Linings Playbook.

All in all, a pretty great day.


25 thoughts on “Horsing Around

  1. I have a great deal of respect for horses, but there’s no way I’d ever ride one again. I fell off a horse when I was a kid. Well, technically, I fell off of the stirrup whilst trying to get on the beast. Nonetheless, it became clear The Good Lord wanted no further interaction twixt me and horses, short of driving the Budweiser wagon with a team of Clydesdales. ;-)

    I always look at westerns, and I think it would be cool to ride like Wyatt Earp chasing down Ike Clanton. That show sounds very cool as well.

    • Tom — isn’t the old saying that if you fall down, you just have to get back up again? Of course, when we fall down by ourselves we’re not usually falling from six feet or next to an animal that could stomp us.

  2. I saw Cavalia the last time it was in San Diego a few years ago. For me, as a “horse person”, it was amazing and I am glad to hear you enjoyed it as well from a different perspective. It sounds like I should head down to the Nat and check out their exhibit as well. I don’t think I have been down there since the kid outgrew the dinosaur and bugs exhibits.

    • Jaimie — I think you would like the horse exhibit. I thought it was pretty cool and learned a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know. And who ever outgrows dinosaurs and bugs?? :)

  3. As you know I grew up on a working ranch and am one of the few females who were less-than-enarmoured. I did like our cantankerous mules (beasts of burden as we didn’t use tractors but what I didn’t even know was considered even THEN as ‘antique implements’). I’ve had a couple of sweet experiences with horses but mostly bad, I’m afraid. I always say, ‘I never met a horse that didn’t buck me off.’

    Your day looked amazing! I love museums!

    • MT — there are “Mule Days” up near Mammoth Lakes around Memorial Day that I think sound like a lot of fun. I like mules and burros/donkeys. I’ve always been wary of horses, but I think that’s because I grew up a city kid.

  4. I’m one of those girls who loved horses. I still hold out hope that I will have one in the future. A 43yr old neighbor of mine recently got her first horse a year ago. She inspires me to keep the hope alive. Glad you all enjoyed the day. I just checked out the trailer to the movie. Looks good.

    • LD — it doesn’t surprise me at all that your dog-friendliness can be expanded to horse-friendliness. The Beloved’s best friend’s daughters ride and LOVE horses. I know that if we had both more space and and more time and more $$ (hah!), the Beloved would be angling for a horse. Heck, she angles for one already!

  5. I’d love to see Cavalia someday. As it turns out the Desjarlais family was at a guest ranch (Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch) in Arizona riding horses for four days after Christmas. This was our second ranch outing in two years and we generally love it (although too much trotting has left me with some very sore parts).

    • TBoy — I had no idea you guys were dude-ranchers. Having grown up in the city, it was pretty inconceivable to me, but now that I’ve been gentrified it appeals more to me. Except for the sore part. I can only imagine.

      On the website, I thought I saw a second show (different focus/vignettes) that’s going to Burbank in the Spring. You should check it out!

  6. I attented a similar show in the UK called Spirit of the Horse. Brilliant. I used to ride many years ago, even when I was pregnant with my son, I adore horses and hold great respect for them. The museum exhibition looked amazing, too. Glad you had a great time. :)

    • Sarah — i think “respect” for the horse is a great description of how this show was done — it was really a showcase for their grace and athleticism and not at all hokey, I thought.

  7. Beautiful photos, Steve. I missed Cavalia when it opened in San Jose this past summer due to my mother’s illness. Never did I regret not being able to go to a show more! The horses always appear to enjoy their work, and there seems to be an exceptionally close bond between them and their human colleagues.

    I did see the exhibit on horses at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago. I was impressed by the way it combined science with the cultural and artistic admiration of the animal. It was missing a real, living horse, however—its one major drawback! Even the loveliest images are no substitute for being near an intelligent, well-bred horse.

    • HG — that’s too bad, I bet you really would have enjoyed it! I’ve been more exposed to horses recently — it would be great to envision a life where they could be part of your day-to-day activities.

  8. Ooohhh! What a horse-heavy day! While I do consider myself an animal person, I’m not particularly fond of horses. Nevertheless, they still fascinate me as sensitive and emphatic creatures. I read somewhere that they’re smart, but that might be an understatement based on the Cavalia pictures that you’ve posted.


    [P.S. I’ve moved blogs. I’m not in the Velociwritetor anymore; I’m at Kraken’s Ink, and hopefully, it wraps its tentacles around me so that I’ll stay there for good.]

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