Horse Girl in the Big City
I conquered The Big Apple and found lots to love about the city that never sleeps.
I scheduled our trip to New York City with nervous trepidation. I’m a country girl at heart and descriptions of my dream vacations tend to sound more like, “Remote hermit’s cabin. Bring own medical supplies.” But my theater-loving daughter really wanted to see a play on Broadway, so for Christmas we packed our bags and headed to the city. Here’s the full report.
First up was Grand Central Terminal. It’s one of the only landmarks I really wanted to see, which might sound weird, but it’s the setting for so many television shows and movies, like Winter’s Tale, and I really wanted to take a look at Pegasus on the ceiling.
Check out my ‘Friday Flicks’ review of Winter’s Tale from 2014.
Next we went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is chock full of equestrian goodies. My new favorite place is the Arms and Armor Court.
To say that I fangirled out about this horse armor is an understatement. I took ten thousand photos. I posed for two thousand. In the words of my teen daughter, “This is getting weird.”
I can’t really explain why I was so enamored, but finally seeing things that you’ve only read about in books is an experience. The details and craftsmanship of this armor is simply astounding.
For more detailed photos, go to The Met’s “Armor for Man and Horse,” and check out my article ‘Equus Obscurus: Horse Armor’ from 2022.
Next was what I dubbed the “tack room,” because the walls were filled to the brim with bits, bridles, saddles, and more. I have to admit, most of the bits made me cringe. Either riders back then had the most well-trained hands ever created, or horses suffered some serious mouth damage. Still, most of them are works of art in their own right.
I also fell deeply in love with the samurai exhibit.
Dragged by force from the armory, I assumed my visit to The Met would be all downhill from there, but there was so much more to see. Like these ancient Egyptian reliefs from 1353-1336 B.C.
For more detailed photos (top to bottom): 1, 2, 3.
And then there were the paintings. It’s no surprise to me that most of the major artists of history seem incalculably inspired by horses. Like Rosa Bonheur with their painting, The Horse Fair (1853). For 18 months, Bonheur dressed as a man to discourage attention while sketching the horse markets held in Paris at Boulevard de l’Hôpital that inspired the iconic piece.
Or Degas’ Race Horses (1858-88) which is noted as “unusual” for its medium — pastel on a plain, unvarnished panel.
My favorite, though, has to be The Chariot of Aurora (1760s) by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. An easy keeper turned chonk that may or may not have burst his girth, now enshrined in history forever. Look at that six-pack chest!
The Met was the gift that just kept on giving; although there was so much to look at, I failed to note the exact origins of every item. Like this super cool horse car combo thingamabob.
Or this amazing musical whatzit.
Or this massive tapestry by whozit.
I highly encourage everyone to scroll through The Met’s archives for more information.
Next we ventured across Central Park to the American Museum of Natural History. This spot was a little light on horse-centered exhibits — I guess people want to learn about whales and dodos, like, whatever — but the Hall of Pacific Peoples did showcase beautiful Native American artifacts.
After the museum, we had to hustle to the New Amsterdam Theatre to watch Aladdin — which is superb! — but I did manage to snap a picture of these gorgeous vintage earrings on our walk.
My birthday is in April if anybody is looking for gift ideas … wink, wink.
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @uechironan.
ONE LAST NOTE: I feel like the elephant in the article is me not mentioning the NYC carriage horses, which are highly controversial. We did not take a carriage ride, but I can report that we only spotted them in Central Park. Most of the horses appeared fat, healthy and — if not happy — drowsily content. One that was a bit thin did appear to be an older fella, and even though his top line was a little sparse, his coat was shiny. He was well groomed and his hooves were in good condition. On colder mornings, all were blanketed.
My main concern was that the horses were standing and waiting on a road with a gradient. With such a big space in Central Park — and so many green areas dedicated to dog parks — I guess I don’t understand why New York hasn’t set aside a small, flat area with natural footing for the horses. My other note was that some of the dog owners were acting incredibly irresponsibly. Despite signs every 10 feet that stated, “Dogs Must Be On A Leash,” many were running free. One particularly careless owner threw her Golden Retriever’s toy straight down the sidewalk; it bounced, and the toy and dog proceeded to ram a bystander in the knees. I know there have been several notable incidents with loose dogs and carriage horses, and now I’m wondering if dog owners should be heavily criticized instead of just carriage drivers.