Sunday, December 18, 2011


December 18, 2011

Ever since fall turned green fields to gold I had been haunted by how much they reminded me of a herd of buckskin horses.  As time went on I realized it was not the taller, silky maned buckskins I perceived but more like the tough little Mongolian horses I had seen in movies about Genghis Khan.

Fall's muted grays and tawny browns, punctuated only by fringes of black bushes and trees, are more horse-like than the greens of summer.  The feeble, intermittent dusting of snow accents their curves this year.

While I am driving to and fro this horse/field image pounds in my head like hoof beats.  At home I find myself distracted by descriptors - tawny, golden, bristling, rolling, undulating, muscular, pounding, thundering, tossing, -  and wondering how I could paint this trompe l'oeil I see so clearly in my mind's eye.

Some research revealed that the horses I sought could be the only direct descendant of primitive horses; the Takhi.  They were forerunners of the Mongolian horse and before that often depicted in cave drawings.

If you care to know more I have included a link on how the last nine were discovered and the efforts made to bring them back from the the brink of extinction. Not all efforts were easy to understand. There was one really weird experiment where these endangered animals were put out to pasture near Chernobyl AFTER the disaster.  I guess there is a skewed sort of logic at work here; if they didn't survive we wouldn't either so they would not be missed.  I believe they survived though what future defects will be found I do not know.

Today I began to think perhaps I was looking in the wrong hay stack. What if it is the ghostly presence I felt was that of our own original horse?

Wikipedia has this to say: "Indigenous modern horses died out in the New World at the end of the Pleistocene, about 12 000 years ago, and thus were absent until the Spanish brought domestic horses from Europe, beginning in 1493. Escaped horses quickly established large wild herds." These escapees formed the herds of wild mustangs still found in Colorado and Wyoming today.

Another source states : "North America was the original home of the horse species. They evolved here, and thrived here for over 57 million years. The plant and animal communities of North American ecology evolved with horses playing an integral role. About 8,000 - 10,000 years ago, for reasons not yet fully understood (meteors, climate change, pandemic, and human hunting pressures are among the possibilities), horses are believed to have become extinct in the land of their origin. Luckily by that time they had migrated to Asia, where they spread into Europe and North Africa."

So my research has taken me full circle!  James Mitchener explains it eloquently: "Why did this animal that had prospered so in the Colorado desert leave his amiable homeland for Siberia? There is no answer. We know that when the horse negotiated the land bridge... he found on the other end an opportunity for varied development that is one of the bright aspects of animal history. He wandered into France and became the mighty Percheron, and into Arabia, where he developed into a lovely poem of a horse, and into Africa where he became the brilliant zebra, and into Scotland, where he bred selectively to form the massive Clydesdale. He would also journey into Spain, where his very name would become the designation for gentleman, a caballero, a man of the horse. There he would flourish mightily and serve the armies that would conquer much of the known world."  - James Michener

At the risk of sounding a little Woo Woo....(those of you who know me will be used to this) I can't help but wonder if somehow the Takhi are calling out to me and I am supposed to get involved with endeavours to save them?

But wait! Not so Woo Woo after all.  My research has led me to an article on the planned culling of the wild mustangs of Colorado. It brought forth a buried memory. See the link below.

And so the sad story repeats itself.  All that is beautiful and free must be felled by the bloody ax of what is profitable and convenient.

I know this tiny effort won't change anything but let me start here and maybe you will lend your voice too.

The following prose poem was carved out roughly and then underwent scrutiny and suggestions from an editor friend. Thanks Joanie for helping me arrive at this:

Frozen Fields
Undulate to the horizon

Like a galloping herd of Mongolian ponies.

Flanks the color of dried grasses

Necks fringed with bare black bushes

Wild and free

For now

Dedicated to the few, true wild ones 

And here is a stab at depicting this visually.  This is the progression from a photo on the net of two of these lovely animals.

I then transferred the photo to Corel Draw and using Wacom Bamboo Fun Tablet I began to add in other shapes to suggest a herd.

Added  the brushy manes that so remind me of bare trees, sprayed the green hills brown  

Still not happy.  Back to the drawing board.  I am going to crop out the bottom of the foreground.

The necks could have a gentler curve. And I could sharpen up some the of the foreground details but not today. I seem to want to put in one horse somewhere with an uplifted head, nostrils flaring.  You may see a further version of this.  For the moment it is as close as I can come to conveying what the fields have been whinnying to me as I pass.

Here are the links I mentioned above as my sources.'s_Horse

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