Sunday, December 12, 2010
getting to know your pony
Another few hours excavation - I mean, tidying - in the basement produced a number of forgotten objects - unsurprisingly, when one considers that four of the bags that I unpacked hadn't been explored since I moved them from Oxford in 2001. These weren't huge bags - two of them, indeed, were vintage Biba black plastic bags - and largely they contained school exercise books and old letters. They certainly bore witness to eight or so years of preoccupation with horses, from Ponies - a Little Crown Picture Book that I remember buying at a jumble sale (for 2d, in July 1964 - I helpfully wrote my name in the inside cover). It was published in 1957 (no date in the publication - but I sleuthed on-line - and I see that a 2nd hand copy today is going for 19.99 GBP, so evidently this was more of an investment than I thought), and has lots of colour pictures of very cheerful and uncomplicated 10 year olds and their ponies), and contains plenty of useful advice, like this first page: "As ponies are very easily frightened, speak to them quietly before you go up to or touch them. Ask Mummy if you can have a few lumps of sugar or an apple to give to the ponies. Remember to hold your hand out flat with the titbit in the middle of it. There is then no fear of your fingers getting nipped." And then, there's a very useful, if basic, diagram of the Points of the Horse.
Six years later, it was still the Points of the Horse - this time as part of a summer term project (a Dalton Week project, to be exact - this was a week in which we had to produce three completely independently researched and written up projects on topics that interested us, and very good training it was, too). This project was on "Greek Horses" (the two others that I did that year were on the representation of Unicorns, and on the ecology of peat bogs in mid-Wales, which oddly enough offered up a pretty sound spread of my intellectual concerns at that time). Most of the project seems taken from Xenophon's The Art of Horsemanship, plus a visit to the British Museum to look at the Parthenon frieze, a little bit of Aristophanes, a little bit of Strabo, and a good deal of time spent with a classical Greek dictionary - hence the labelling not just of all these limbs and bumps of the horse, but diagrams (also labelled in classical Greek) of a bridle, drawings of bits, and other fascinating pieces of information that I'd completely forgotten that I'd ever once known.