equestrian history · Uncategorized

San Francisco, 1906

I fell down a bit of an internet rabbit hole and got totally sucked into this article on Jane Stanford (co-founder of Stanford University) and her mysterious death.

In the article, SF Gate linked to this astonishing video of a street in San Francisco in 1906. (Presumably before the earthquake & fire.)

I was struck, of course, by the horses. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. How normal they looked on the street. The one boy, early in the video, who runs right in front of the horses – and how neither he nor the team even blink. The nonchalance of all of it.

I also thought a lot about the historical socioeconomic divide between riding horses and driving them. It’s so recent in human history that we think of sitting astride as more common than driving. Sitting on a horse was for the wealthy. The kinds of horses that go well under saddle are usually not the kind that can also plow your fields. How tie up this all is with class – foxhunting, horse showing, military officers, ladies riding in the park.

Video can drive that home in a way that photographs and paintings almost never do. I couldn’t look away from this.

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