‘Horse’ on Display in San Diego

By August 1, 2012
Lipizzaner horse performing a capriole - jumping in the air and kicking out with its hind legs.

Lipizzaner performing a capriole.

The Horse, an exhibit that explores the bond between man and horse,  is on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum through January 20.

Using artifacts and art pieces from all over the world, the display explores early interactions between horses and humans and shows how horses have, over time, influenced civilization in areas including warfare, trade, transportation, agriculture, sports, and many other facets of human life. Access to the exhibition, which has never before been seen on the West Coast, is included with all general admission museum tickets.

“The horse, we should all remember, is how we got here,” Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO, president and general manager Joe Harper said, noting that the arrival of this exhibit on the West Coast is “very special.” The exhibit opened in June and runs through Jan. 20, 2013.

Included on display are spectacular fossils, models, dioramas and cultural objects from around the world. The first things visitors see on entering the exhibition is a high-definition video projection of a beautiful Thoroughbred moving across a giant screen. A large-scale digital display allows visitors to peek interactively inside a life-size, moving horse to learn about its anatomy and biology.

Horse skeletons on display.

The Horse exhibit explores equines from the inside-out.

Other dramatic offerings include a 220-square-foot diorama depicting some of the horse species that existed ten million years ago in what is now Nebraska. There are also traditional art representations of the horse in art from the Paleolithic to the present. The exhibition also examines exciting new archaeological discoveries concerning the domestication of the horse and looks at the role of horses in sport, from medieval times on.

The Horse allows visitors to partake in tests that measure their strength in horsepower and allows them to look inside a horse with computer kiosks and a life-size, interactive video screen. Visitors can examine different gaits of a horse by looking through a zoetrope—a precursor to the modern movie projector—at the revolutionary series of photographs taken by the famous photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will be asked to identify objects such as a Roman horseshoe, a stirrup, a harness ornament, and a whip used in buzkashi, a polo-like sport played in Central Asia.

White horse.

Pegasus, by Robert Vavra.

In San Diego, the exhibition is sponsored by the Del Mar Racetrack, Blenheim EquiSports, the Del Mar National Horse Show, the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation, WWW Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. The Horse is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, where it ran from May 2008 to Jan. 2009. It was made possible through collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage; the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau-Ottawa; The Field Museum, Chicago; and the San Diego Natural History Museum.

On display in conjunction with The Horse, is Vavra’s Vision: The Equine Images of Robert Vavra. Robert Vavra is universally recognized as one of the world’s premier photographer of equines. This exhibition showcases the vivid, fresh, and very personal way that Vavra photographs horses. It delves into the world that Vavra had created through his lens for the past 60 years while circling the globe. In photographs, in film and in print, Vavra’s images capture the strength, beauty and wisdom of the horse. The Robert Vavra collection is made possible by the International Institute of Photographic Arts.

Pony Express stamp from the U.S. Post Office

The Pony Express commemorated by the Post Office.

The San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution in California and the third oldest west of the Mississippi. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum’s mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of Southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico; and to inspire in all people respect for the environment.

For a detailed outline of the exhibit, visit www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/horse

For an educator’s guide, click here.

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