Horses as Inspiration

Horses as Inspiration

Last weekend, I attended a dinner party at a close friends home located on a magnificent thoroughbred breeding farm in the heart of Dutchess County. We were all gathered to honor the current Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, but naturally the conversation turned to horses.

Seated to my left was an accomplished composer and pianist who claimed that although he enjoyed watching horses run at the Saratoga Racetrack in the summer, he was terrified of them.. He explained that he had an irrational fear of being kicked in spite of the fact that he has never been close enough to touch a horse.

However, he admitted to admiring their beauty from afar and pointed out the similarities between horses and music—illustrated by many compositions inspired by horses, such as Copeland who featured the rhythms of galloping hoof beats throughout his music.

Seated to my right was Ted Kooser, who said that although he did not specifically write about horses, he often found them permeating his poems. To illustrate this, he recited Old Lilacs from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poetry:

Through early April cold,
These thin grey horses
Have come near the house
As to a fence, and lean there
Hungry for summer,
Nodding their heads with a nickering of twigs

Their long legs are dusty
From standing for months
In winter’s stall, and their eyes
Are like a cloudy sky
Seen through bare branches.

They are waiting for May
To come up from the barn
With her overalls pockets stuffed with the fodder
Of green. In a month
They will be slow and heavy,
Their little snorts so sweet
You’ll want to stand
Among them, breathing.

Ted also mentioned the one and only time he ever sat on a horse. He was thirteen when his best friend invited him to ride tandem bareback on her pony, he said this was a remarkable experience. Although this early encounter with horses did not motivate him to continue riding, he said this was a special moment he will never forget on many levels.

As evidenced by our conversation that evening, the horse inspires great music and poetry. I agree with Winston Churchill who once said, “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man”.