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Monday, 30 June 2008

At Museum of Natural History

The author, right
Photo: Andrew Hamilton

Horse 'Show' Kicks Off in New York
By Richard Carreño
New York:-- If you've never been aboard a horse, this is the exhibit for you. It's called simply 'The Horse,' and the show runs to 4 January at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Judging from the crowd, dominated by girls with sisters and mothers, when I attended the exhibit recently, it seems many attendees fit into the arm-chair horsemen category. And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with that!

It always surprises me that any Americans (especially Yank men) -- other than those almost invisible few that actually live the horsey life around Philadelphia, around Middleburg, Virginia, and the like -- have any conciousness about horses, much less willing to shell out $13 to $22 to attend an exhibit that's all horse. Of course, there's something magical and compelling about the horse (especially the thoroughbred hunter) that's magnetic once you get up close and personal.
No doubt that this, in part, is what is attracting the vast hordes to the Museum, located on Central Park West.

As the for show itself, it's beautifully mounted. Colourful. Wonderful exhibits. Great details of the sweeping landscape of the horse world. There's all about evolution, domestication, horses in daily life (the olden days) and something called 'an enduring bond.' In other words -- at least regarding this last point --good and bad. For the novice, it's a bit overwhelming -- and surprising! 'I didn't realise there were so many breeds,' said Andrew Hamilton, a Californian who was with me the day of my visit.
For those more expert, the show is a once-over-lightly review. Interesting. But -- beyond the flash of lights -- a bit ho-hum. More detail, more specificity would have been required. For instance, I'm interested in polo and hunting. That's two shows in themselves. And, yes, granted, somewhat conceptually different. Anyway, it took me about an hour and half to tour the exhibit, often having to dodge the bumper-car effect of colliding bodies in the crush of humans. (And this is, in fact, a timed exhibit!)

What's really surprising, at least, for me, is that there's actually no live horse in the show. I would have thought one could be trotted in from time to time. Oh, well.

'The Horse' was organised by the Museum, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage; the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, Ottawa; The Field Museum, Chicago; and the San Diego Natural History Museum. I don't know what Abu Dhabi (the home of some of the world's richest flat-track racing enthusiasts) plans to get out of this. As for the other museums, I expect the 'The Horse' will eventually wind up at these other venues, as well.

Depsite the show's weaknesses, the more 'horsein' around,' the better!