At Tate Britain

The painting in the top photo is John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral.

Here’s snap of the painting itself that I took with my phone. I sat and looked at the painting for a while, noticing that the white of the clouds at the top right balance the dark of the trees at bottom left.

And that the trees at bottom left are not just a dark mass: There is a little tower, a folly perhaps, to lighten the corner and give the eye something to look at there.

When I look at the horses in the water I can feel the wetness.

Constable painted around the countryside in which he grew up. He didn’t travel and he just kept at it, painting the countryside he knew. There is a lovely quote from him in which he said “painting is but another word for feeling”.

One of his most famous painting is Wivenhoe Park, which was the park in which my university was set.

It was there that I met a fellow student, Jon, who took me out to see a robin’s nest. I stretched up and saw little robins in a bundle staring up at me with tiny black eyes. For me, brought up in a city and having almost no sense of nature, I was hooked in one second flat.

It was the start of a long affair with the countryside. It was also the start of a terrible unhappiness brought on by my growing awareness of the destruction of the environment.

Horse Goes Into The Trees

New Forest pony walking between Silver Birch trees
New Forest pony walking between Silver Birch trees - closeup

This is a follow-up to the post Why Does The Horse Hold Its Head Out Like That, about horses that hold their heads down and horses that hold their heads up. I found another photo of the horse in my stack of photos, and here it is. First there is the full frame of the horse going into the trees and then a close-up of the horse.

For those who followed my earlier post, you can clearly see the reflective neck band in the close-up photo here.

What is the angle of the head and neck of this horse relative to its body?

I would like to go back to the New Forest and spend time looking at the horses, noticing whether they generally hold their heads forward rather than up.

This thing of looking closely, paying attention, and noticing things – I have found this to be one of the big enjoyments in life.

To get back to my original question, did I observe an actual ‘feature’ about head angle between different breeds of horses?

Or was it just the way I happened to photograph the horses?

I asked on a forum and got some replies:

The term for this in the horse world is “head carriage” or “headset.” There are a lot of things that affect what position a horse’s head will be in at any given point in time: there certainly are breed tendencies in conformation to be “high headed” (e.g., Arabians, Friesians, or standardbreds) or “low headed” (quarterhorses, some draft horses, many pony breeds) and they are selectively bred for those traits. Breeds also vary in terms of their neck length, which can affect how high the head seems to be carried, even if the angle is the same. Training and exercise can either enhance or attempt to counteract the horse’s natural tendency. Finally, whatever the horse is doing or thinking in the moment someone captures an image will affect where their head is.  (Kathryn Litherland, a horse rider from Knoxville, MD)

I also learned about cresty neck, a deposit of fat around the neck that may be indicative of an underlying disease, or may simply be that the horse is overweight.

Broken-Down Fence

You may have noticed a broken-down fence in the first photograph. I said in the previous post that the New Forest is unfenced (except where is meets major roads), and that is true. There are however also Commoners’ houses dotted about in the New Forest. That may be what the fence belongs to, I didn’t look in that direction at the time.

Or it may be that a particularly dense part of the forest has been fenced off because it is a danger to animals. Maybe next time when Tamara and I go, we will get a chance to look.

It’s called the New Forest, but there are big stretches of open ground as well, like here:

White pony on open ground in the New Forest