Four-beat Follow-up, Part III: Muybridge Myths

horse-race-19th-century (1)     Way back in 1878 Eadweard Muybridge disproved the idea that that a horse gallops with its front and hind legs in pairs, stretched out. Or so the story goes. That is the version most tossed around barns, and occasionally makes it into academic circles. In 2012, one of Muybridge’s series was the subject of a Google Doodle, and he briefly re-entered the spotlight. Since then, the version that has become common is that he sought to prove that there was a moment of suspension in the gallop. Stanford University calls this their “first research project,” because Muybridge used Leland Stanford’s racehorses as his models, allegedly to assist Stanford in winning a bet on the topic.

     But, wait, let’s talk about this “racehorse” term that gets bandied about. Muybridge’s first “horse in motion” photos were, indeed, of one of Stanford’s “racehorses.”

“In 1876, the experimental photographer Eadweard Muybridge captured on film Leland Stanford’s prized horse, Abe Edgington, at full gallop in an attempt to prove Stanford’s theory of “unsupported transit”, the idea that all four hooves of a horse at speed leave the ground. The plate itself was fuzzy and unsuitable for publication, so it was left to a little-known painter of horses to strengthen the image. Thomas Kirby Van Zandt reproduced the image twice, first as drawing of “crayon and ink wash” dated September 16, 1876, and again as the finished canvas, Abe Edgington (Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University), dated February 1877 (1).” Cooley Gallery, emphasis mine.

Stanford University’s account of the “first research project” concurs that this test was conducted at a gallop, and provides this picture:

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 2.44.54 PM

     There’s one problem. The photo series above, “Sallie Gardner,” was taken in 1878. The original photo series, from 1876, was of Abe Edgington, MorganAbe Edgington did race, but in harness at a trot. Whether or not Stanford had made a bet about the results, the first trial was at a trot, and he used the results to adjust the training of his harness horses.

abe

     Now that’s what I call a road horse! While there was some discussion as to whether or not all four feet left left the ground in the gallop, it was generally accepted that they did; the question was when. 

canterdefNote: what they call canter, we would consider a collected canter or park canter.
Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia, 1871, pg 89
Courtesy of the NSLM

See also Pantologia: A New Cabinet Cyclopaedia, 1819, pg 133:

gallopdef
   But, that question of timing was not Muybridge & Stanford’s original inquest. Stanford, being more owner than rider, may not have been aware of the consensus. Or, just as likely, he was, and that is why his first efforts focused on the trot. He was aware of Prof. Marey‘s work, but commented on his depiction of the walk, not the idea of suspension in the gallop.*  It was photos of the trot suspension that were submitted to newspapers as proof, and even by 1881, after Sallie Gardner was photographed at the gallop, the trot continued to receive the greatest amount of column space. Finally, Muybridge’s own Animals in Motion, finished in 1885, made much of the trot suspension, and little of that in the gallop.

animalsmuy

No such dispute was mentioned for the gallop. To the contrary, some surprise was expressed at maintaining a slow enough canter (what we might call a lope, though far more upheaded) to remove the moment of suspension.

*See the 1881 article.

This in an update on a prior series from Oct. ’16 on four beat gaits.

Read:

Four beat canters & lopes

Four-beat follow-up, Part I: The Break 

Four-beat follow-up, Part II: Non-standard canters & gallops

 

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Zombie Horses, Oh My!

Wow, it’s been a long month.

   Among the multitude of other graduate student-ly things I’ve been up to, I’ve startedblogblog writing for the Sport in American History blog. Last month, they put out a call for contributors. Noticing that they didn’t have adequate equestrian coverage, I thought: “why not?” U.S. history isn’t technically my field, but I am fairly well versed in the equine aspects, and I am certainly involved in horse sports. I didn’t consider how very different sports history, and writing about sports history, is. It has been a wonderful opportunity, and has made me re-think the way I look at certain sources and events.

  Anyway. My first post was set to go live today (Halloween), so I searched for something suitably festive to write about. Originally, I wanted to write about Frank Hayes, and his posthumous win on Sweet Kiss. What could be more halloween than a jockey who won while dead? But, there are already a number of articles floating around about his unique win. A number of them leave out the impressive fact that  it was a steeplechase, but in all plenty of good reading. This one is my favorite.

   So, that was out. I decided to dig in to the potentially grisly tradition of burying the head and hooves (and sometimes heart) of racehorses separately. Some notable horses are buried whole, and some have even been carefully exhumed and moved. With one of these major exceptions being Secretariat, I planned to organize my discussion around him. He is a very accessible figure, being fairly well known even outside of racing circles. zombieIn my initial research, I discovered that Secretariat’s burial stood out even from other racehorses who have been buried whole (you’ll have to read the post for more!) One of my advance readers was rather disappointed that I didn’t go with the dismemberment topic, because clearly the practice was to prevent zombie horses. And that means: Zombie Secretariat is possible! It is worth noting that the American horse who’s passing was observed most similarly to Secretariat’s was Man o’ War. Read the Sport in American History post to see why.

By Kat Boniface With the Thoroughbred Makeover wrapping up at the Kentucky Horse Park, and the Breeder’s Cup coming up this weekend, now is a great time to consider the place of thoroughbreds in our history. Racehorses have not just been seen as animal athletes. Many have become public figures. This month marks the anniversary […]

via Death of a Hero: Observing Secretariat’s Passing — Sport in American History

Triple Crown, Triple Stud

     Many years ago I was keeping an eye on a young “good looking” son of Unbridled. He lost to Funny Cide, who he had previously beaten, in the Derby; his connections opted out of the Preakness. When Funny Cide won in Maryland, I was shocked (and lost a strange bet). I had been sure it would be on his home turf in NY that Funny Cide would shine. Of course, maybe things would have been different if the Derby runner up was there. In the Belmont, that runnerup had bittersweet redemption, denying Funny CideEmpireMakerBelmontS2003RS the Triple Crown and ensuring the drought went on. Now, Empire Maker is returning to the states to stand within miles of his son and his grandson, who finally ended that drought. I’m really not sure standing them ALL in KY is best, but I’m sure plenty of owners will be willing to ship good mares.