Picks and Pans Review: Man and the Horse

updated 04/08/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/08/1985 01:00AM

by Alexander MacKay-Smith, Jean R. Druesedow and Thomas Ryder

"Historians have called the horse the noblest conquest of man, yet horsemen know that man is not the horse's conqueror but a partner in a relationship that has had a profound and far-reaching effect on the history of civilization," writes MacKay-Smith in one of the essays in this picture book, which is subtitled "An Illustrated History of Equestrian Apparel." To horse lovers, however, the clothes are not nearly as interesting as the many ways their favorite animal has been depicted by artists. A sixth-century B.C. steed has his head thrown up and legs arranged to fit the circular design of a vase, and yet the motion, beautifully described in clean lines, seems perfectly natural. The head of Saint George's white horse on a 17th-century Russian icon is elegantly small, the legs as light as those of a leaping cat; a Tang dynasty clay figure is a stocky pony. The mount of a 14th-century knight wears so much armor that it looks like a mythical dragon. MacKay-Smith is former editor of an equestrian weekly, Chronicle of the Horse. Others who contribute essays include Diana Vreeland, who helped put together the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition that inspired the book. The horses themselves are the thing, though. No matter how much elegant finery the riders throughout history may have chosen to wear, it is the horses who always dominate the page. (Simon and Schuster, $19.95)

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