by MiRan Powell

I had to know. Who was this woman that had conjured up one of my favorite actresses, plays, and performing experiences? Her grit, her wit – what would cause her in 1943 to enlist in the department of chemical warfare during World War II, go on to earn an advanced degree in biochemistry and physiology from Cornell University,[1] choose to take a “common farm horse to glory”[2] instead of raising her own brood, then proceed to write about her adventures in a ticklishly funny manual on horse breeding titled Losing Less Money Raising Horses: The Big Authoritative Little Book That Smiles and Smiles... – all while mentoring countless young women in “Girl Scouts, the 4-H, and the Pony Club”?[3]  Courage? Coltishness? Chutzpah? By the age of 21, beyond civic duty, Margaret “Peggy” Gardiner had whatever it took to defy the powerful societal norms narrowly defining her sex and author her own destiny.

Margaret Gardiner with Kennebec Star, the first foal she raised, in 1950. Source: Losing Less Money Raising Horses, frontispiece

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 11, 1922 to Margaret Thomas and William Tudor Gardiner, she was the daughter of a two-term Maine Governor privileged to live at The Blaine House mansion, one of Maine’s most notable homes.[4] Of her mother typically little seems to be written. There is a painting, however, called The Thomas Sisters. Painted in 1901 by George de Forest Brush, it depicts 12-year-old Margaret Thomas and her sister Helen elegantly attired in long riding habits, their beauty and daring already shimmering.

The Thomas Sisters by George de Forest Brush, 1901. Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

Dive deep enough into a family’s history and family tragedy isn’t hard to find. For Margaret, or Peggy as she liked to be called, fate made no exception. Her youngest brother by two years, Sylvester, was a classics scholar and varsity athlete at Harvard University, their father’s alma mater. After his return from serving in the Ski Troops, he drowned while ice skating during his fourth year of school.[5] Six years later, Peggy’s father, also heeding the call to serve, reenlisted in the Army and survived a secret mission behind enemy lines only to die in another catastrophic accident. His plane exploded mid-air following attendance at a military reunion.[6]

Always an avid horsewoman, I wonder if Peggy would say that horses saved her from a devastating grief. She used her background in science to refine the Morgan breed and invested in the research of “equine neurological defects”.[7] The results speak for themselves in numerous awards and accolades. The May 2010 issue of The Morgan Horse honors Peggy as one of “The Women in Our Industry Honor Roll,” with the following tribute titled “Margaret Gardiner: Harnessing A Vision”:

Margaret Gardiner’s singular gift to the Morgan breed—outfitting and competing internationally with her homebred Morgan pair trained by Larry Poulin—has been historic. Like Batell and other Morgan founders, she not only had vision, but she backed it up with persistence and personal resources. That the Morgan enjoys its place today in the world of combined driving is in no small part the result of her important effort….Her careful and well researched breeding program has produced horses that are as well known for their soundness and good temperament as they are for their versatility and athletic ability.

She enhanced the Kennebec Morgan reputation and that of the Morgan horse when a pair of her Morgans, Kennebec Count and Kennebec Russell, took the international driving world by storm finishing first in dressage and 6th overall at the 1985 World Combined Driving Competition in England….They also won the National Pairs Championships three times. The quintessential versatile horse, Kennebec Morgans have won national acclaim for carriage driving, dressage, eventing, working western, endurance riding and open showing. She has possessed a vision not only of how Morgans should be bred, but also how they should be utilized.

On worthpoint.com, a search for ‘Breyer Horse Kennebec Count’ reveals multiple versions of Model #599. Forever immortalized a champion, he remains an enduring symbol of an ideal that was achieved through Peggy’s lifelong dedication.

Now for the funny part, and what drew me into Margaret Gardiner’s unexpected gem of a book on a day in need of some sparkle. She begins: “There are basically three kinds of horses, The Swamp Horse, The Forest Pony, and the Desert Pony.”[8] She depicts the Swamp Horse as such: “Ordinarily he has three gaits: trudge, shamble, and lurch. [What?] The Swamp Horse is the horse for you if you weigh a lot or prefer to ride very slowly or, of course, if you live in a swamp.”[9] [snort] She describes the Forest Pony’s disposition as ‘at once obstinate and treacherous…the ideal mount for children as he soon puts the little horrors in their place and teaches them to be careful around animals.”[10] [hee hee] It gets better in her explanation of the ‘3-Person Training System’:

It is intended for people who don’t have very much money or experience and who weren’t going to make the Olympic Team anyway. All you need is two (2) strong friends, the fatter the better. This is so that, if the horse should fall down, he would have something soft to land on and not hurt himself.[11]

I can’t stop snickering. Her illustrations are equally entertaining:

Filled with amusing asides and informative details for the professional breeder or horse breeding voyeur, this smiling little book is at once useful and divine. At least one other person agrees with me. “Erudite, belly-quivering! Fine help for the deluded” states Peter Neilson, an Amazon reviewer and quite possibly, one of Miss G’s friends. Another friend and fan, former Maine politician Pam Cahill further attests to her unique humor, sharing an anecdote in Peggy’s obituary about the time she picked her up for a fundraiser and Miss G was wearing “a new outfit and a necklace of chestnuts”:

She talked in that Julia Child voice, which was always so comical…She said, ‘How do I look?’ And she did a pirouette in the middle of the kitchen. And she says ‘I look so good I had to wear these homemade beads…because if you look too good, all they do is ask you for money.[12]

I wish Margaret Gardiner could have been my friend. She reminds me of another Margaret, the beloved British actress Margaret Rutherford in the 1945 film version of the zany Noel Coward play, Blithe Spirit. Rutherford plays the local medium Madame Arcati, an eccentric who is somewhat successful in her endeavors to send back the unwanted ghosts of Elvira and Ruth, Charles’s first and second wives:

MADAME ARCATI: …Are they still here?

CHARLES: Yes.

MADAME ARCATI: How disappointing.

CHARLES: Have you any suggestions?

MADAME ARCATI: We mustn’t give up hope. Chin up–never give in—that’s my motto.

RUTH: This schoolgirl phraseology’s driving me mad.

MADAME ARCATI: Now then…

CHARLES: Now then what?

MADAME ARCATI: What do you say we have another séance and really put our shoulders to the wheel? Make it a real rouser?

ELIVRA: For God’s sake not another séance!

MADAME ARCATI: I might be able to materialize a trumpet if I tried hard enough—better than nothing, you know. I feel as fit as a fiddle after my rest.[13]

Image Source: IMDb

Born to a father who went mad and a mother who killed herself, one would never have suspected that Rutherford likewise suffered her own losses; her characters are infused with the same lifeforce Margaret Gardiner had – to not just go on, but go on with style.[14] I imagine them traipsing through horse fields, snagging their pantaloons on aluminum electric wired fencing (recommended, by the way, for peevish young colts), not caring a whit about the bright shock that might send them tumbling, old girl scouts – daffy and punk – giggling as they brush clover from their white heads. In the way that good friends do, she picked me up when I was feeling low and reminded me that on any given day, you can cry or you can laugh, and laughing is so much pleasanter. Her gilded parentage and glittering family firmament may have put Margaret Gardiner on the coveted path to success, but it was Peggy, or Miss G, that determined it was there she would stay. We would do well to apply her secret formula for breeding horses to our own sometimes tragic lives – “resign yourself to not making money, and…learn to dress funny and live on oatmeal.”[15]  It is a fay warrior’s design for living, but something more. Underneath the layers of one-liners and quips lies a supreme belief in her very own unique gifts and the supreme confidence to honor them. “To thine own self be true,” said an equally puckish playwright.[16] I’ll try, Margaret. I’ll try.                           

Image Source: The Portland Press Herald

MiRan Powell is a professional actress in the DC/MD/VA area. She has appeared at The Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, 1st STAGE, and Spooky Action Theater among others. Stage highlights include originating the roles of Mina in the world premiere of Neil LaBute’s adaptation of Dracula and Hideko in the world premiere of Gretty Good Time at the Kennedy Center. Other favorites include Elvira in Blithe Spirit, Agave in The Bacchae, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Helen Sutherland in The Pitmen Painters. Her work in local film still runs for the DMV, the Department of Homeland Security, the AARN, and House of Cards. MiRan attended Smith College and received her B.A. in Theatre Arts from BYU Provo. She resides in Upperville, Virginia with her family, and is happily engaged in her new role as Visitor Services Associate at NSLM.

Photo: MiRan as Elvira in Blithe Spirit, photo by Jim Poston

[1] Susan Johns, “Miss G: Woolwich’s Margaret Gardiner,” Wiscasset Newspaper, February 25, 2020,

https://www.wiscassetnewspaper.com/article/miss-g-remembering-woolwich-s-margaret-gardiner/130769.

[2] “A Love for Morgans Spurs a Trainer,” New York Times, July 19, 1987, https://www.nytimes.com > 1987/07/19 > a-love-for-morgans-spurs-a-trainer.html.

[3] “Obituary: Miss G,” Portland Press Herald, February 20, 2020, https://www.pressherald.com/2020/02/21/obituarymargaret-gardiner-3/.

[4] “Blaine House – Maine’s Governor’s Mansion,” https://www.blainehouse.org.

[5] “Sylvester Gardiner (1924-1947),” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/91103106/sylvester-gardiner.

[6]Former Gov. W. T. Gardiner, State Senator Chase and E.S. Burt Die in Plane Crash,” Lewiston Evening Journal, August 3, 1953, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1913&dat=19530803&id=yONKAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mvMMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5309,2866916.

[7] “Obituary: Miss G.”

[8] Margaret Gardiner, Losing Less Money Raising Horses: The Big Authoritative Little Book That Smiles and Smiles (Margaret Gardiner, Second Printing,1969), 7.

[9] Gardiner, Losing Less, 8.

[10] Gardiner, Losing Less, 9.

[11] Gardiner, Losing Less,11.

[12] Johns, “Miss G.”

[13] Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit (New York: Samuel French, 1968), 77.

[14] “Rutherford, Margaret (1892-1972), “ https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rutherford-margaret-1892-1972

[15] Gardiner, Losing Less, 71.

[16] William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, ed. Philip Edwards (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 110.

Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough to spend more time in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room for tour research. One of my favorite pieces to show on tour is a commemorative hunting book called La Venaria Reale, Palazzo Di Piacere, e di Caccia, Ideato Dall’ Altezza Reale di Carlo Emanvel II Duca di Sauoia, Re di Cipro Disgnato, e descritto dal Conte Amedeo di Castellamononte L’Anno 1672. The title translates to “The Royal Venaria, Palace of Pleasure and Hunting Conceived by the Royal Carlo Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy and King of Cyprus, Drawn and Described by Court Architect Amedeo di Castellmonte in the Year 1672.”

Title page in – Amedeo, di Castellamonte (1674). La venaria reale palazzo di piacere, et di caccia, ideato dall’ Altezza Reale di Carlo Emanvel Ii, Duca di Savoia, Re di Cipro . Per Bartolomeo Zapatta. From the Vladimir S. Littauer Collection in the National Sporting Library & Museum.

The title is entirely too long and my Italian is poor, so we typically just call this treasure La Venaria Reale. The engraved title page above gives the viewer a clue about its contents – a stag hunt. In reality this was no ordinary stag hunt, it was an exclusive, ultra fancy, costumed, affair with royal participants and a bibliophile party favor. Who hosted this hunting party and where, and why is there an entire book printed about it? These were all questions I had when carefully flipping through page after page of ornate engravings and architectural designs.

The who was, of course, Duke Carlo (Charles) Emmanuel II of Savoy and Duchess Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoy-Nemours. The Duke and Duchess where life long equestrians, as you can see below, and left a lasting architectural legacy in Turin, located in the northern piedmont area of Italy.

Throughout artwork, the book, and palace architecture, the Duchess of Savoy embodied Diana, goddess of the hunt and countryside. The frontispiece portrait in the book is of the Duchess of Savoy, pictured below, with striking similarities to the goddess. Look closely at the engraving and you will see symbols of the goddess Diana, most notably the crown on her head, the arrow in her hand, arrow sheaths above her, the hounds, and the woodland background are all reminiscent of the huntress goddess.

The stag hunt took place at La Venaria Reale, one of the homes the Duke and Duchess owned in the region. The Duke commissioned famed court architect Amedeo di Castellamonte to design a base for the family’s hunting expeditions. The palace name, La Venaria Reale, is derived from the Latin phrase venatio regia, meaning “royal hunt.” As you might be able to guess – hunting was a favorite pastime for the royal couple. The final blue print included 80,000 square meters of floor surface in the palace, making it one of the largest residences in the world, a park, hunting grounds, a whole village, decedent stair cases, terraces, fountains, the Hall of Diana, and more. In 1997 the palace was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the finest examples of universal Baroque in the world.

One of the several fold out maps in the book. This details the estate layout and includes the numerous fountains, gardens, and auxiliary buildings. From the map you can see that this was indeed a “palace of pleasure and hunting.”
Detail of the above map. This area depicts the forest used for hunting. Since this was a stag hunt party favor, Amedeo added some hunters in the middle of the hunting grounds.

La Venaria Reale is bound in calf with gold tooling on the cover and spine. Printed privately in 1674 by Bartolomeo Zapatta in Torino it was given as a memento to the guests of a hunting party by the Duke of Savoy in 1672. The book is rare with only 19 known original copies in existence. There are 20 full-page plates, 30 double-page plates, and 12 folding plates that detail the guests, the palace, the hunt, the goddess Diana, and the estate. Below are a selection of images from the book depicting the women in attendance as goddesses at the height of a hunt.

La Principessa Ludovica Maria Di Sovia, Francesca Maria Cacherana Contessa di Badnasco
Francesca Di Valoys Duchessa Di Savoia Maria Giovanna Battista Di Savoia Duchess Di Savoy

The plates for the book were done by George Tasniere (1637-1702) and were based off of paintings by Giovanni Francesco Baroncelli (active 1672-1694).

Elisbetta Maria Francesa di Savoia Regina di Portugallo

Two years after the grand hunting party in 1672, the book, full of text commemorating their experience and over 60 engravings of the guests and palace, was printed and given to the attendees. One year after its completion, in 1675 the Duke of Savoy died and the Duchess of Savoy became Regent until their son came of age.

The palace was under continual construction and growth until 1699 and enjoyed many hundreds of years in what it was commissioned for: pleasure and hunting. The palace has weathered multiple wars and much of the original gardens were destroyed by Napoleon during his residency and the artwork removed, but the architecture and the legacy remained. The palace underwent an extensive restoration project that set out to restore the palace, original gardens, locate belongings, and revive the ancient Village and Park of La Mandria. Today you can visit the magnificent grounds for yourself!

It is amazing to me that out of 19 known original copies, we have one right here in Middleburg. Not only has this hunting favor been a favorite on tour, it has proven vital for many scholars. The NSLM has had several researchers, as part of the John H. Daniels Fellowship, study this book for information on women and riding, stag hunting in Italy, Italian culture, architectural design, and women in hunting sports. You can learn more about our John H. Daniels Fellowship and how to support it here.

Want to schedule a tour to see La Venaria Reale and more? Visit our website for tour information!

Valerie completed her MA in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester in England and earned her BA in History with a Minor in Professional Education from the University of West Florida. She previously worked as the Programs Assistant at the Gaston County Museum of Art and History and as Curator of Education at the Pensacola Museum of Art.

When not working, Valerie enjoys spending her free time reading, hiking, or exploring new places and museums.

Valerie can be reached at VPeacock@NationalSporting.org

A series of letters in the NSLM’s John H. Daniels Rare Book Collection detail a fascinating tale filled with mystery and intrigue about a series of suspiciously easy tiger hunts near Navapur in the state of Maharashtra, India, in early 1923.

W. E. Copleston first wrote on March 4, 1923, to a man named Jacob, personal assistant to the Inspector General of Police. Copleston requested information from the Deputy Superintendent of Police about the “Nawapur Tiger Mystery.” He was acting on behalf of “His Excellency,” an unnamed official who plays a part in the story.

Apparently, earlier in the year, in an effort to curry favor and be issued a “shikar” or hunting license, the “Tadya Patel of Viserwadi,” Mahomad Abrahim Gashi, had promised the District Collector that he could shoot a tiger. The “Patelship” was a local office whose holder, the “Patel,” was effectively the head of a town or village.

On the Collector’s first day of hunting, he was unable to capture a tiger. On January 5 the Patel sent for him, saying a tiger had been spotted and was ready to be shot. The Collector and the Excise Inspector, Gersohn, arrived to see a tiger laying asleep in the open, next to two trees which were ideal to shoot from. The Collector ordered the Inspector to shoot the tiger, and then climbed down himself to inspect the prize. The tiger evidently had not been killed and moved to attack the Inspector, who had also descended from the tree, so the Collector fired from his own shotgun, fatally shooting the tiger and saving the Inspector’s life.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the tiger sleeps tonight…

Image source: H. A. L “the Old Shekarry.” Sport in Many Lands. Chapman and Hall, London, 1877. John H. Daniels Rare Book Collection

Later, around February 16, “His Excellency” visited the region and shot his own tiger on an excursion organized by the same District Collector, Excise Inspector, and Patel. Copleston noted that the Divisional Forest Officer was excluded from the hunt, which seemed suspicious as he would have been responsible for overseeing any hunting activity in his region. The tiger was similarly unmoving and well-placed for a shot. He suspected the tigers were being drugged with “Mankodra” via a poisoned arrow.

Capt. Thomas Williamson writes about tigers being hunted with poisoned arrows in 1807. However, he notes this practice takes place mainly in the eastern regions of India, specifically Bengal.

Image source: “A tiger killed by a poison arrow,” plate XXII. Williamson, Thomas. Oriental Field Sports. Illus. Samuel Howitt. Originally published 1807 by Edward Orme. Special edition #14/350 printed 1984 by Anthony Atha Publishers, Ltd. John H. Daniels Rare Book Collection.

Jacob replied on March 12 and included an account by J. A. Coghlan, written March 10, which provided more details about the supposed poison and the tiger shot by His Excellency. The latter’s tiger had been tracked via a trail of vomit, proving it had been poisoned. Coghlan likened the effects of Mankodra (or “Kodra”) as more of an intoxication than a poisoning and observed that tigers given the substance can recover. He went on to remark:

“As to who actually did the poisoning, I am afraid that it is impossible to discover. I do not think the Collector was cognizant of it… Kodra was the stuff used, not a poison but an intoxicant, and the responsible person was Tadya Patel. Of course nothing can be proved.”

Jacob wrote in his cover letter that Coghlan probably felt he was “on delicate ground,” which may explain why he stopped just short of fully assigning blame for the poisonings.

Finally, a handwritten note dated March 16 from Copleston to someone named Adam asserted that there was “no doubt that both tigers were doped.”

Kodra is a wild grain in India which is actually an important food staple in some areas. It is not the grain that causes the drunken effect described in these letters, but an ergot fungus that infects the plant. Seeds can be cleaned to remove the fungal spores, making them safe to consume.

Tiger hunting was a sport greatly enjoyed throughout the British Raj by colonial aristocrats, such as the Collector and His Excellency. Hunters would climb trees above a tiger’s kill and wait for the animal to return to feed or would chase the tiger on elephant-back accompanied by “beaters,” forming a mounted group that would chase the tiger to exhaustion. This pastime led to the decimation of the wild population of tigers in the early 20th century.

George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, and his wife with a tiger, 1903.
Image Source: Public Domain

This collection of letters provides a fascinating glimpse at the political machinations that went on behind the scenes of such pastimes, and exemplifies how sport has far-reaching effects on society and culture.

BHUKYA, BHANGYA. “The Subordination of the Sovereigns: Colonialism and the Gond Rajas in Central India, 1818–1948.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 47, no. 1, 2013, pp. 288–317., doi:10.1017/S0026749X12000728.

Heuzé V., Tran G., Giger-Reverdin S., 2015. Scrobic (Paspalum scrobiculatum) forage and grain. Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/401 Last updated on October 6, 2015.

Rätsch, Christian. “Claviceps Paspali” The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications, Park Street Press, Rochester, VT, 2005.

Cynthia Kurtz received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is responsible for marketing, social media, and graphic design to support the entire NSLM. When not working, she enjoys trail riding in the woods of Loudoun County.

She can be reached at ckurtz@nationalsporting.org.

There is not an equestrian on the east coast who has not heard of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, a known test of champions and the place to see the next generation of jumpers, hunters, and coaching horses on their way to Grand Prix, 5*, and Olympic fame. Since 1896 horsemen and -women have gathered nearly every spring in Devon, PA for competition and camaraderie.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Devon Horse Show grounds serve as a testing place for emerging stars of other disciplines as well; each fall since 1975 dressage riders and horse breeders gather for “Dressage at Devon.” This is a week full of exhibitions, performance competition at the highest levels of the sport, and breed divisions, where young stock are evaluated for their future potential in the arena. In fact, DaD is now the largest open breed show in the world. Like its hunt-seat predecessor, DaD has evolved to include a Fall Festival, with good food, excellent shopping, and a celebration of the rural life that allows the beloved sport to continue despite the threat of urbanization.

I have had the privilege of attending DaD for several years now, supporting my friend Mellissa Perrin-Keithly as she competes in breed divisions with her horses. It is a tradition I look forward to eagerly every year. It is hard not to be inspired as you walk through the barns that have stood for almost a century, housing untold numbers of remarkable horses. When I stand and groom my charge in the aisle, it is easy to get lost pondering who has been there before me, and who will walk there next. Walking into Dixon Oval with a colt dancing on the end of his lead is a feeling like no other in the world.

Like any horse show, a day at DaD starts early. As a groom, I was there before sunrise, cleaning stalls and brushing shavings out of manes. Early morning schooling in the warm-up arenas has typically started by 6 am, and classes begin in the competition arenas by 8. Apart from a lunch break, judging will continue into the night. The weather is its own competitor; during the inevitable rainfall, riders and grooms often pass each other in the driveway exchanging exasperated sighs as they quip, “it’s not Devon if it doesn’t rain!” but the show goes on, pausing only for thunder or lightning.

“It’s not Devon if it doesn’t rain!”

Breed show classes come in a variety of forms; in some, several breeds of the same age and sex will compete against one another, while in others all the horses will be the same breed but different ages, sexes, and at different stages of training (known as an Individual Breed Class, or IBC). Materiale classes judge fillies and colts of the same age against one another under saddle, but more similarly to a pleasure class than a dressage test; all horses enter the ring together and follow the judge’s commands. Oldenburgs, Rhinelanders, Hanoverians, Friesians, and even Appaloosas strut their stuff in the Wheeler Ring and Dixon Oval, judged for their movement, way of going, and conformation.

This year Mellissa brought her 3-year-old Oldenburg (GOV) filly Zoulshine (Sternlicht, out of Zarya by Lintas). “Soul” is a wonderful filly I have had the privilege of watching grow up since the day she was born. The pair faced a large class in both IBC: Oldenburg (GOV)* and in Three Year Old Fillies. Many competitors opt to hire a handler to present their horse in the arena, but Mellissa handles Soul herself, accompanied by a whipsman who follows behind and encourages the horse to move forward. Both are difficult tasks, as you want the horse to trot forward with big, flashy movement, but not get so hyped up that they leave their handler in the dust, or worse, run over the judge (yes, it’s happened). My job as helpful friend is to follow behind with a hard brush and hoof polish for last minute touch-ups before they head into the ring, or to run to the show office to check times after another lightning delay.

*Oldenburg (GOV) is not to be confused with Oldenburg (ISR/NA). The former stands for German Oldenburg Verband and is associated with the original Oldenburg studbook in Germany, which traces lineages back to the 1600s. Oldenburg (ISR/NA), or the Oldenburg Registry of North America and International Sport Horse Registry, branched off in the 1990s and maintains its own studbooks in North America. Since they are different registries, they are technically different breeds and therefore have their own breed classes.

Mellissa and Zoulshine performing in front of the grandstand in the Dixon Oval
Baby Soul with her dam, Zarya, at a week old

The atmosphere a couple of hours before a class fluctuates from patiently idling to frantic bursts of activity, playing a game of waiting as long as possible before bridling the horse without having to dash to the arena and risk being late for an impatient judge. There is no breath of relief so profound as that let out when your turn is over, and horse and human leave the ring. There is a brief reprieve to catch up with old friends, admire stallions, watch the competition, and window shop among the beautiful custom saddleries and shadbellies. Devon has a reputation for some of the finest fair food in the country, and DaD is no exception! Before long the next class comes up, and it’s time to do it all over again; the last minute coat polishing, braid straightening, bridling, and buckling of helmets. But I can tell you, no rider, assistant, or groom would have it any other way!

It’s become our tradition to take a photograph with the iconic DaD banner outside the arena after a class… too bad Soul is too big to see it!

Cynthia Kurtz received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is responsible for marketing, social media, and graphic design to support the entire NSLM. When not working, she enjoys trail riding in the woods of Loudoun County.

She can be reached at ckurtz@nationalsporting.org.

If you visit the Museum in the next few days, you’ll notice that we’re in a state of fluctuation that is pretty typical for this time of year.

Tucker Smith on its way out in the middle of Field Notes | Walter Matia

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature closed on August 22 and was one of the largest exhibitions held here, taking up six galleries. The next exhibition, 2020 Hindsight: 40 Years of the American Academy of Equine Art, is scheduled to open November 12. What do we do for those two months between large exhibitions? We create smaller pop-up exhibitions. This time around features a little museum “behind the scenes.”

In Gallery 1 will be Oversized featuring five of the largest works in the NSLM’s collections: Middle Neck Farm, Sands Point, New York by George Ford Morris and Louis Ferdinand Malespina (63 x 111 ½ inches); A Hare Hunting Scene by a follower of James Ross (39 ½ x 60 ¼ inches); The Start of the Derby by John Frederick Herring, Sr. (33 ¼ x 53 inches), Tally Ho! by Samuel Alken, Jr. (44 x 55 ¾ inches); and The Hunt in Belvoir Vale by John Ferneley, Sr. (55 x 140 inches).

George Ford Morris (American, 1873–1960) and Louis Ferdinand Malespina (French, 1874–1940), Middle Neck Farm, Sands Point, New York, c. 1925, oil on canvas, 63 x 111 ½ inches framed, On loan from a Private Collection

Visitors can see how artists utilize such large canvases with expansive skies and sprawling landscapes, and galloping horses and hounds. It also gives the public an idea of what Curators and Collections Managers deal with when it comes to logistics: how to hang something of this size on the gallery walls or in storage.

Our permanent and long-term loan collections are primarily hung in the historic side of the Museum which, having been a house (known as Vine Hill) in a previous life, offers few spaces for the biggest works. When not on display, they reside in storage in a specially designated oversized area. Next time you visit a museum (our museum?), think about the logistics: how works are moved around, what wall space is available, and how they’re stored when not on display. Part of my job as Collections Manager is to keep the art safe, even when not on display.

One of the larger paintings in the collection which could be part of Oversized is A Winner at Epsom by Sir Alfred J. Munnings.

Alfred J. Munnings (British, 1878–1959) A Winner at Epsom, c. 1948, oil on canvas,
39 x 47 1/2 inches, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2020

Instead of being in Gallery 1, it will be in one of the Vine Hill galleries along with a display of the other seven works in the collection by Munnings. Simply, and aptly, titled Munnings, it is a mix of both paintings and prints. I’ve made my feelings on prints known and so am particularly excited about the latter. As we were writing the panels, we realized how much Munnings has been part of the NSLM’s history. The accession number for Warren Hill, Newmarket is B2008.40.44 which means it has been around for a while, “B[efore] 2008,” before the Museum even existed. Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich and Percherons and Farm Hands in a Barn Interior were part of the Felicia Warburg Rogan Art Initiative which is the foundation for the museum’s collections. A Winner at Epsom was included in Munnings: Out in the Open, as was a similar version of Under Starter’s Orders, Newmarket.

Also upstairs in one of the Vine Hill galleries will be an ode to angling with several works featuring fishing scenes.

George Nelson Cass (American, 1831-1882), Ice Fishing in New England, 1875, oil on canvas, 14 x 22 inches,
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Greenan, 2011

Rounding out these pop-up exhibitions is a little shake-up in the permanent collection galleries. We said “see you soon” to Diana Reuter-Twining’s sculptures to make way for other recent acquisitions. Not to worry, Equipoise and Maestro will be back in the spring! As The Hunt in Belvoir Vale moved from Gallery 3 to Gallery 1, we were able to fill that space with more paintings currently in storage.

Lastly, a new donation by Nina Reeves will be hung in the New Acquisitions hallway, a painting by her father renowned sporting artist Richard Stone Reeves of Secretariat. Two legends in one painting!

Richard Stone Reeves (American, 1919–2005), Secretariat, 1973, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 ¾ inches,
Gift of Nina S. Reeves, 2021

Oversized and Munnings are only up until the beginning of November, be sure to see them! Also on exhibition is the indoor/outdoor sculpture exhibition Field Notes | Walter Matia, open until January 9, 2022. NSLM is open Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm and, for these few weeks, admission is free.

Lauren Kraut is the Sr. Collections Manager & Registrar at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Franklin Brooke Voss counted among his patrons a “Who’s Who” of some of the most successful and affluent people in the United States in the early-to mid-20th century, including the likes of John Hay Whitney, J. Watson Webb, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Alfred Vanderbilt, Walter Jeffords, F. Ambrose Clark, and Emily T. duPont. These patrons, however, had something other than wealth in common. They were all equestrians in a golden age of turf and field sports, and just as importantly, they were supporters of the arts.

Voss was born in New York City in 1880. He began drawing equine subjects while still in school and studied with George Bridgman at the Art Students League of New York in New York City for seven years at the turn of the century. Upon completing his education, Voss began painting by commission. One of his early works, Polo Player, 1909, is believed to be a portrait of one of the members of the Big Four, the indomitable team from the Meadow Brook Polo Club on Long Island that won the Westchester International Cup three times in a row in 1909, 1911, and 1913.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), Polo Player, 1909, oil on canvas 24 x 18 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Dr. Betsee Parker, 2011

Voss was commissioned to paint many of the leading steeplechase and flat racehorses of the day. He also painted foxhunting, polo, and coaching compositions; many works featured the portraits of prominent horse owners, trainers, and riders. Voss completed over 500 works, and he undoubtedly became a successful equine portraitist to discerning members of the turf and field because he shared their passion for and knowledge of horses, equine sports, and art.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), Tom Allison, Huntsman of Meadow Brook Hounds, 1934, 12 x 16 1/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Katrina Hickox Becker, 2020

Voss came from a family of equestrians and grew up on Long Island in the midst of what was then prime foxhunting country. His father was a founder of the Rockaway Hunt Club on Long Island, and his uncle formed the Elkridge Hounds in Monkton, MD, so it is not surprising that Voss was himself a polo player in his youth and an avid foxhunter and horseman. Several members of the Meadow Brook Hounds, the leading pack on Long Island, with whom Voss also subscribed, became his patrons and repeatedly commissioned works from him. Portrait of Mrs. William C. Langley Riding Aside on Sandown, 1921; Sandown, 1927; and Oh Girl, 1928 were all painted for Elida B. and William C. Langley, both members of the Meadow Brook.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), (above) Portrait of Mrs. William C. Langley, Aside on Sandown, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Eleanor Langley Fletcher, 1962; (below) Oh Girl, 1928, oil on canvas, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Eleanor Langley Fletcher, 1983; Sandown, 1927, oil on canvas, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Eleanor Langley Fletcher, 1983

Many of Voss’s works were also reproduced as illustrations, including Mr. Thomas’ Foxhounds in Piedmont Country, 1919, also known as Gone Away Across the Blue Grass in Full Cry. The painting was one of a pair commissioned by the author Joseph B. Thomas and was the frontispiece for Thomas’s 1937 book Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), (above) Mr. Thomas’ Foxhounds Leaving Huntland Kennels, November, 1919, oil on canvas, 16 x 24 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Dr. Betsee Parker, 2011; (below) Mr. Thomas’ Foxhounds in the Piedmont Country, 1919, oil on canvas, 16 x 24 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Dr. Betsee Parker, 2011

Voss painted and hunted in much of the Mid-Atlantic and in England throughout his life, but he continued to have strong ties to and complete many works around Long Island and Maryland. Alligator, 1929, the portrait of the winning steeplechaser remembered for going on to win both the 1929 Maryland Hunt Cup and the 1930 International Gold Cup after falling and being remounted in each race, was painted at the Meadow Brook course for owner Maud K. Stevenson of Long Island. She married S. Bryce Wing, a famous Maryland horseman, foxhunter, and longtime friend and patron of the painter.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), Alligator, 1929, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the children of Peter Winants, Sr. (July 31, 2009)

It is fitting that in the end, Voss, a life-long equestrian and artist, would die of a heart attack on a day out with the Elkridge-Harford pack surrounded by his friends and supporters while foxhunting in Monkton, MD in 1953.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

I am, what could be called, “indoorsy.” I am most content curling up with a book, writing away, or trying out new recipes. So when Marketing & Communications Manager Cynthia Kurtz offered to take me riding, I paused. A very slight pause because, since working at NSLM, I have been eager to try the sporting activities that are encompassed within our mission.

Quick note: Cynthia is a riding instructor so this wasn’t just a friend and co-worker letting me ride her horse. No, this was a real lesson and as a teacher myself, I was all for it.

The first and last time I rode a horse Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush for the presidency, Hurricane Andrew ripped through Florida, and Disney’s Aladdin was in theaters. It’s been a while. Cynthia is an avid rider and her horse, Saint, is used to newbies and is an overall good boy. The perfect pair for my first time out since Bush 41 left office.

Having worn an elastic waistband and Birkenstocks for the last year or so, I was disappointed to learn that I needed to wear jeans and shoes with a heel. But I did and off we went.

We saw Saint as we pulled up. He’s allergic to a lot outside so he wears a fly sheet, mask, and boots that cover him completely. They’re quite darling, really.

There’s a horse under there?

Saint is very well behaved. I was even more impressed when Cynthia told me his background. He was a feral horse for the first five years of his life. When he came to Cynthia as a six-year-old, he was broke in a loose sense of the word. She trained him with hand signals, key phrases, and clicks of the tongue. For instance, Saint did not need to be secured in the cross-ties. She simply said “Stand” and he did.

Cynthia started me off with the basics: how to brush a horse. She showed me the different types of brushes and when to use them. I started with the curry comb, getting the large clumps off him, followed by the softer brushes.

I then got a lesson cleaning hooves. I learned that not all their hooves need shoes – Saint’s back legs don’t need them since he moves fine without them. But his shoes did need to be cleaned. Cynthia did the first one, pointing out the different parts of the hoof and how to get in there with the hoof pick. Then it was my turn. I ran my hand down his leg so he wouldn’t be surprised and picked up his hoof. See my hand position below?

I had forgotten to take my allergy medicine (as I, like Saint, am also allergic to everything outside) so my mask was also helpful for that.

It was incorrect and resulted in a bruised toe on my right foot. I was nervous that the pick would hit a sensitive spot, and having just had a hoof to the toe, I wasn’t eager for another, so I didn’t dig in there the way Cynthia told me. But she encouraged me and eventually got him all cleaned up.

It was almost time! Cynthia showed me how to position the saddle blanket and then “gently” warned me not to drop the 40-pound saddle on her horse’s back. Gotcha. Next was tying all the straps – it took me a couple tries but I eventually secured the cinch underneath and tied the latigo.

Saint only rides in style

Helmet in hand, we led Saint to the mounting block in the ring. Up I went! What a weird feeling. I wanted my feet to go further in the stirrups so that they would be closer to my heels, but Cynthia explained why this is a bad idea – if I fall, they won’t be able to slip out and could cause further injury. I initially held the reins in a death grip and very high up. Cynthia told me to pretend I was holding a glass of champagne – I don’t want to hold it too tight that I break the glass and not too feebly that the drink pours out. I ended up staring at my hands half the time to ensure that they were in the correct position.

Me verifying my hand positions, but more importantly, Saint laughing at me. I know he’s yawning, but it’s fitting, really.

Cynthia led me around the ring, showing me how the slightest turn of my body guided Saint. A constant refrain was “heels down!” And my constant response, “they are!” Cynthia would walk over and somehow pull my heels lower.

There were only a couple other people in the ring. As I was reveling in my small victories of guiding Saint in a turn, I was treated to a heated debate between Cynthia and another instructor of Thoroughbred vs. Quarter Horse. They may as well have been talking Greek.

At one point, we did a little jogging which was pretty uncomfortable. Eventually Cynthia dropped her lead and I continued on with Saint. We then went for a little walk outside where Saint, being the typical eight-year-old, stopped to smell and investigate every branch, pile, and fence.


Note to self: pack different glasses. Cat eyes are not conducive to horseback riding.

Dismounting – turns out, we don’t use the mounting block. No. “Lean forward, kick your leg over, and slide down.” My legs and feet were like jelly at that point. There was no way I was going to get my leg over the cantle and land safely on two feet. No, they were going to collapse right under me, and I was going to end up in a heap like a literal sack of potatoes. I made her wait a few minutes as I worked the feeling back into them and then, three tries later, I was down.

Wow. How about that? Again, what a weird feeling.

Thighs. Burning.

We led Saint back to the barn for his last bit of grooming and to put all his gear back on.

Friends forever

And then it was time to literally walk into the sunset.

Cynthia and Saint, Dynamic Duo

It was a great crash course in Horse 101. I had a lot of fun learning terminology and actually doing some of the work and, of course, taking Saint for a spin. Thank you to Saint for trusting me and to Cynthia for taking the time and energy to teach a new student. I’m sure I’ll be back out there one of these days, once my toe stops tingling…

Success!

Lauren Kraut is the Sr. Collections Manager & Registrar at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

When one thinks of the circus, one’s mind immediately goes to thoughts of clowns and oddities, cheap tricks, and lavish sets. It may be odd, then, to think of the circus as a center of elite horsemanship and a historically essential venue for the development of modern dressage. Indeed, the horses and other equines of late-19th– and early-20th-century circuses were highly trained and expected to perform at a level on par with the Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School and warmbloods competing at the highest levels of Grand Prix.

An exhaustive manual of circus-horse training was published in 1949 by Dutch trainer and circus-man Henrik Jan Lijsen: De Hooge School, or “High School,” referring to the series of movements classified as the most difficult in Dressage and frequent attractions at the circus. The book provided step-by-step instructions to train horses to perform various tricks and movements, such as the pesade, piaffe, and rearing, both under saddle and at liberty, as well as detailed diagrams on tack, training methods, and care of the horse. Other chapters taught vaulting, trick-riding, and group performances such as the quadrille, pas de deux, and carousels. There are even tips for composing good sets and calming your nerves at your first performance! Lijsen dedicated his life to studying equitation and referred in his book to anatomy, psychology, and husbandry of the horse in support of his methods.

De Hooge School
Charts for carousel performances in De Hooge School

De Hooge School was translated in 1956 by Antony Hippisley-Coxe and released as four manuals: Training Horses at Liberty, Quadrilles and Carrousels, High School Riding, and Trick-Riding and Voltige. This brought Lijsen’s techniques to the English-speaking world, where they are still studied by trainers and amateur hobbyists alike. Lijsen’s approaches are unique in their emphasis on patience and kindness: the horse is never forced into any position for which he is not ready. The author has a simple way of explaining even the most difficult tricks in such a way that even the average horse owner can at least attempt them.

The four volumes translated by Hippisley-Coxe

The training of a circus horse is unique from that of a competitive horse in several key aspects. While they may both be learning the same movement, the horse destined for competition must be precise and measured in his performance. The circus horse, however, must entertain a crowd who likely knows nothing about horses and their abilities. The emphasis then is less on the technical correctness of the movement and more on the flashiness and showmanship which please the crowd. This freedom and artistic license make the foundation of High School Dressage infinitely more accessible to the common crowd merely seeking entertainment but admiring the ability of a finely trained animal; similarly today, the musical freestyle Dressage test remains one of the more popular forms of competition among non-equestrians.

Images of Lijsen working with his horses as published in De Hooge School

This style of training is partly responsible for the ability of modern hobbyists to attempt the high school movements and other tricks with their own horses. They may never reach the Olympics, nor may they even want to, but given the many benefits of Dressage training in all disciplines of riding it is fortunate to see them being pursued to this day outside of competition.

The relative freedom from conformity in circus performances has also inspired artists. As circus work was a celebration of the natural beauty of the horse, especially liberty work which emphasized his free will and bond with mankind, it is no wonder that Degas, Seurat, Haseltine, Winans, Chegall, and others have all at one time or another found their inspiration in the dancing horses. Even contemporary artist Diana Reuter-Twining seems to channel the spirit of the circus horse in her piece, Equipoise.

The use of animals has fallen out of style in today’s circuses—and rightfully so—but the skills and values taught by the circus masters of yesteryear still have a place in modern equitation. In fact, it is doubtful that so many hobbyists today would entertain the notion of practicing higher-level Dressage movements were it not for its prevalence in circuses, accessible to those who may not have otherwise engaged with the sport in traditional European fashion.

Referenced works:
Lijsen, H. J. De Hooge School, c. 1943, La Rivière & Voorhoeve
Lijsen, H. J. and Antony Hippisley Coxe High School Riding, c. 1957, J. A. Allen
Lijsen, H. J. and Antony Hippisley Coxe Quadrilles & Carrousels, c. 1957, J. A. Allen
Lijsen, H. J. and Antony Hippisley Coxe Training Horses at Liberty, c. 1957, J. A. Allen
Lijsen, H. J. and Antony Hippisley Coxe Trick Riding and Voltige, c. 1957, J. A. Allen

Cynthia Kurtz received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is responsible for marketing, social media, and graphic design to support the entire NSLM. When not working, she enjoys trail riding in the woods of Loudoun County.

She can be reached at ckurtz@nationalsporting.org.

The 19th century was the golden age of horsewomanship. Progress made on roads and carriages had turned horseback-riding into a leisure rather than a necessity. The lighter all-leather sidesaddle with two horns, invented in England around the middle of the 18th century and derived from the novelty hunting saddle, had become very fashionable with ladies. Around 1830, the addition of the leaping head revolutionized riding aside by allowing high jumps and greater safety in the saddle. 

Women’s equestrian portraits closely followed this fashion, and mirrored the rapid spread of sidesaddle riding: there seems to be no portrait of a lady sitting astride painted during the 19th century. 

Lady Alexandrina Octavia Maria Vane, Countess of Portarlington, Charles Hancock, 1845, Mount Stewart.
Source

Members of royal households still commissioned traditional portraits in pairs, such as Queen Victoria did when she asked Sir Francis Grant in 1845 to paint a pair of her and Prince Albert. Interestingly, these official portraits show the queen active on her horse, in the levade— reminiscent of the powerful statement made by the 17th-century kings’ portraits by Diego Velzáquez —whereas Albert is standing next to his horse. Queen Victoria shows herself, without any ambiguity, as the sole ruler, the one holding the reins. 

Victoria was probably the first queen to have ever been represented on equestrian statues—a genre so exclusively male it has to be noted. She was also the first to use photographs as models for an equestrian portrait she commissioned to Edwin Landseer in 1861, painted to illustrate the dark and painful times of her widowhood. 

Queen Victoria at Osborne, Edwin Landseer, 1865-67, Royal Collection. Source
Queen Victoria and John Brown at Osborne, Royal Collection. Source

Painted equestrian portraits were hugely popular among the elites of the 19th century as they were still an expression of high social status. In 1864, the Countess of Yarborough was given her equestrian portrait as a gift from the gentlemen of the Brocklesby Hunt. This gracious gift, honoring the Countess as a member of her social class and her keen interest in the hunt, was seen as “a gratifying testimonial of public and private respect.” The Illustrated London News reported that “the portrait is of life size, the picture measuring 10 ft. by 6 ft. The Countess is represented on her favorite hunter Brilliant, with two favorite hounds, named Gambler and Charity, at its feet. It is a striking and pleasing likeness, and was executed by F. Grant, Esq., at a cost of five hundred guineas.”

Presentation to the Countess of Yarborough of her equestrian portrait, Illustrated London News, January 9 1864. Source
Equestrian portrait of the Countess of Yarborough, print by William Henry Simmons after the painting by Sir Francis Grant, British Museum. Source

Equestrian portraits held the same prestige for families of the nobility, as they had for two centuries, but were also a way for the new upper class coming out of commerce or industry to anchor themselves in the aristocratic tradition of painted portraits. When photography came along, it also became a way to differentiate themselves from a growing middle class that had easier access to this more affordable medium. Equestrian photography portraits were very popular among ladies from the 1860s to the 1890s, with some photographers like the Deltons in Paris even making it their specialty and setting up a large studio capable of accomodating horses and carriages. 

When the work of Eadweard Muybridge, experimenting on motion with photography in Palo Alto at the very end of the 1870s, showed the world how a horse actually placed his legs while at a canter, painters seem to have lost interest in representing fast gaits in their equestrian portraits. Photography was better at catching the intricacies of movements, but there were two things it could not do very well yet: capture color—even later autochromes—and especially mood. Painters like Alfred Munnings became masters at creating vibrant and luminous equestrian portraits, in which ladies showcased the perfection to which side-saddle riding had risen at the beginning of the 20th century. These women did not sit awkwardly or twisted anymore on the side of their horse, but had visually achieved what men had already acquired centuries ago: a correct position in the saddle depicting them as skillful and distinctive horsewomen.

In the 1920s and 1930s, women sometimes appeared astride, but it was short-lived. The genre of equestrian portrait barely survived the Second World War, swept away with the ruins of an era.

Portrait of Mrs. William C. Langley, aside on Sandown, Franklin Brooke Voss, 1921, National Sporting Library & Museum. Source
Ethel Mary, Countess of Lauderdale, Lucy Lockwood, 1928, Thirlestane Castle. Source

Through the 1920s and 1930s, women’s equestrian portraits were mostly painted with the horse standing still or at a walk, and almost always from the side. One could say the circle was complete, women’s portraits on horseback having started with seals where they would also appear in a profile. In both cases, centuries apart, they held the same message: women could be powerful queens or gracious socialites. They were mesmerizing, unique models for any equestrian art.

Anita Ready for a Ride, Alice Pike Barney, c. 1896, Smithsonian. Source

Adélaïde de Savray graduated from Sorbonne-Nouvelle University and the Institut d’Études Supérieures des Arts in Paris. She focuses her research on the history of female equitation from the Middle-Ages to the 18th century, with a strong interest in sidesaddle and women’s equestrian portraits.

www.savray.comadesavray@gmail.com

You may have noticed seven new large sculptures by Walter T. Matia (American, born 1953) installed along the pathway and in front of the Museum building last month. The striking animal bronzes are the outdoor portion of the exhibition, Field Notes | Walter Matia, and will be on view through January 9, 2022.

We speculate they may have been responsible for a vehicular hit and run which took out about 6 feet of our stone wall on The Plains Road. You read that right. Someone missed completing the turn from W. Federal Street. I’ve never understood people who are able to flee from something like that without taking responsibility, but that’s a conversation for another blog.

Where was I? I’m not going to lie. Installation was an absolute spectacle for me. It was, however, another day at the office for Walter and his right-hand Leeann Krautwurst, albeit a stressful and long one for them. I got a call from Leeann in the morning on June 1st that they would be 45 minutes late. They had everything planned to a tee, but the load turned out to be too heavy: a second truck needed to be arranged that morning. I was thankful because our tractor/forklift order had fallen through, and Facilities and Grounds Manager Nick Greenwell was able to procure a local one. (Apologies to all who got stuck behind us as we crawled along Zulla Road.)

The two trucks arrived at 10:45 am on the dot with Tennessee stone bases, pavers, and bronzes. A lot of heavy lifting and a bit of digging ensued to create level bases. We started with the sculptures that did not require a forklift. International Harvester, the English pointer in a corn field, was the first to be mounted.

International Harvester, 2016, bronze, 38 x 47 x 14 inches, Collection of the artist; left to right: Leeann Krautwurst, Walter Matia, Nick Greenwell and Facilities Assistants Alex Orfila, Jacob Lewis, and Gary Stout

Cry Havoc, the swooping Peregrine Falcon, was not made as a mate to Crossing to Safety, the Greenwing Teals, but Walter had the vision to install them together as a pair. It makes for a dramatic introduction from the rear parking lot.

Crossing to Safety, 2017, bronze, 68 x 18 x 12 inches, Collection of the artist; Cry Havoc, 2019, bronze, 88 x 30 x 18 inches, Collection of the artist

We had selected and marked the installation locations in April. You may have spotted the spray-painted numbers on the ground and wondered what they were for.

Then the nail biting started for me, but we were in good hands. For each of the next sculptures, Nick carefully approached the palettes with precision…

The Finalist, 2020, bronze, 42 x 26 x 29 inches, Collection of Mr. Paul Tudor Jones

…lifted them out of the truck…

Rewards of First Light, 2012, bronze, 46 x 56 x 17 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Mullin

…lowered them, and drove them to their places.

Whooping Crane, 1992, bronze, 59 x 48 x 27 inches, Collection of the American Bird Conservancy

Mounting the sculptures to the stone bases required more elbow grease and heavy lifting. Astoundingly, within four hours all the bronzes were safely and securely in place, thanks to everyone’s cooperation and a lot of hard work. Afterwards we added labels and a QR code that points to an online description of the pieces and a campus map to orient visitors.

Custom google map of Field Notes | Walter Matia outdoor installation

The night before the opening celebrations, I called Walter with some bad news. The elderberries had ripened, and a mockingbird was desecrating the sculptures and bases with deep purple scat. He burst out laughing and said, “Well, there’s the sh*t you can control and the sh*t you can’t.” Nature will have its way. We discussed again the pros and cons of outdoor installations.

The artist’s vision for these animal sculptures is to experience them outdoors, much in the same way he interacts with the living creatures that inspire him. You see, this is why we can have and enjoy nice things. We just need to clean them regularly.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org