Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gentlemen & Horses & the TNHG

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Susan reports:

While the memory of Loretta’s footmen and their brawny thighs still glows warmly in our Dear Readers’ hearts, we’d like to add a little confession, and give you all something else to look at, too.

First, the confession: after our now-legendary visit to Colonial Williamsburg, we have developed a major, uh, interest in 18th century gentlemen on horseback.

These guys were completely at ease on their mounts, one fluid movement of man and horse with a healthy serving of swaggering confidence, too. It’s that whole centaur thing. They’re everywhere in CW, those elegant gentlemen riding slowly through the town, or acting as dragoons drilling on the green –– which adds gorgeous uniforms and flashing swords to the mix. And breeches, and boots, and cocked hats low across their brows, and the way the skirts of their coats fall over the backs of the saddles.

In other words, Fantasyland for the TNHG.

Here are a couple of our pictures. See what we mean?

27 comments:

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

It’s that whole centaur thing.

Never thought of it quite that way!

But, oh, that's why I bow before you, NHG. Thank you, thank you for thoughtfully providing these photos. Now, I mean this in a very complimentary way, but I think of TNHGs as the nerdy girl's Howard Stern. In that you are smart and funny, can find something sexy in just about anything, love to expose/educate about/poke fun @ pop culture (historical, in this sense) and always speak your truth in an off-beat way. And you know exactly what nerdy girls want. That you occasionally work some stockinette into it, makes it all the more fun!

But Susan, i'm really curious about the CW experience -- where we'd planned to take the kids next summer, but I'm now realizing while there Mumma needs to score a little side-trip on the solo. I'll bet there's a whole CW groupie thing for the enactors. Do they train extensively for the roles? Or is it mostly college help? Or maybe it's a very competitive endeavor... I'll bet there's a whole CW groupie thing for the enactors.

Monica Burns said...

GAWD, I LOVE a man on a horse when he's wearing breeches and a hat. It's enough to make me melt. *sigh*

Loretta Chase said...

Susan, I love that photo. It totally captures them: the confidence and grace and yes, manliness.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Howard Stern, Michelle? Can't we at least be Jonathan Swift?? Clearly there was far too much emboldening yesterday....

Anyway, about CW. Yes, you can pack the rest of the family off to Busch Gardens if you wish, then head to CW yourself, though if your kids don't totally flame out about history, they might have fun there, too. Lots of programs aimed at families; since most of it is a re-creation, you're encouraged to try things and touch.

No, no, Michelle, not like that!

As for the staff -- some of the lower-level folks who tend the shops and take tix are students from William and Mary, down the road. But the full-time interpreters are extremely knowledgable, and extremely dedicated. This isn't just a job, but a life-long commitment to the past. Most have been studying their "trades" for years -- these are genuine master craftspeople -- and continue to keep up in new research and techniques. Many also have advanced degrees in history. In addition to the recreated town, the CW foundation is a major research group in 18th c. studies, and the interpreters are encouraged to make use of the extensive collections and libraries there. Those guys on horseback aren't just props for tourist-cameras; they're people who've been riding all their lives, many competively -- which, FWIW, would be exactly the same way experience of our long-ago heroes.

The CW people really, really know there *stuff*, which is why the TNHG were giddy with history-delight. We spoke the same obscure, nerdish language.

As for the groupies -- I have to admit I have no idea. I'll leave that for you to discover, Michelle, and perhaps do a bit of research to share with the rest of us. Just give the footmen (those would be the strapping young W&M students) in the taverns fair warning, ok?

Vanessa Kelly said...

There are few things sexier than a man on a horse - talk about power, and so beautifully restrained and under control. Sigh. What's not to love? Thanks for the pix, TNHG!

Michelle, Williamsburg is one of my fav places on the planet - it just engages the senses on every level. My dad and step-mother were married in Williamsburg in one of the old inns. Talk about romantic! When the piper came over this little hill (OK, it was from the golf course) as the sun was setting, everyone got goosebumps.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Monica and Vanessa, I totally agree -- there's just something about the combination of gentlemen in historic dress and horses. ::sigh::

And yes, Vanessa, Williamsburg is incredibly romantic! My brother graduated from W&M, and he was married in the Wren Chapel. I'm kind of surprised that with the popularity of "destination weddings", more brides don't choose CW.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

"Confidence and manliness": ooh, Loretta, that captures it exactly!

Margaret Evans Porter said...

Very nice pics!

I grew up on a horse and was at a lot of horse shows so always knew the attraction of good looking guys in nice coats and tight pants on horseback. (My dad was a show jumper, competitively, for a while.) But the 18th C horsemen are far yummier.

I've been visiting CW since I was a tot. I'm never sure whether it turned me into a history nerd, or whether I was one to begin with and that's why it enchanted me. I consider it an excellent place for today's youth to experience our nation's past. But it's also just plain fun!

The first time I ever ate snails was at a tavern in Williamsburg. I wasn only a kid.

Susan, how wonderful to attend a wedding at Wren Chapel! My spouse almost went to W&M...and I would've liked to as well. Good thing neither of us did, or we never would have met.

News From the Holmestead said...

Back in the days when horses were the main means of transportation, men valued their mounts. Those who could afford quality horseflesh paid attention to bloodlines and conformation and temperament. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them were the equivalent of our modern young guys with their muscle cars. *g* No wonder many a young lady sighed over a handsome gentleman strutting down the street on his flashy stallion.

Susan, your first picture fascinates me. Those two men just look so confident and at home on their mounts. (Love the quizzing glass on the officer's chest!) The man on the right has a positive smirk on his face. But what really drew me in--the horses. Gorgeous! They were impeccably groomed, right down to their polished hooves with toe-clips on their shoes. The horses look historically correct, too. They are stylish and elegant, but sturdy, the kind of horse that could carry a man all day, or pull a plow at home. I wonder if they're Morgans? They look like it. "Figure," the original Morgan horse and foundation sire, is legendary: http://www.morganmuseum.org/html/history.html

Thanks so much for sharing these photos, Susan. It makes me wish fervently that horses were still our main mode of transportation! ~Sherrie Holmes

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Susan, Howard is a genius, the King of All Media! It's the highest form of compliment, really.

But I'm wondering...In the Regency, for example, we read lots about Tats and knowing one's horseflesh, and riding beautifully. But was competitive racing, jumping, etc., -- as opposed to riding hell for leather or to the hounds -- not too much of an occupation?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

btw, you've all got me so excited about visiting CW. My son's a little history nerdling and it's a little too soon to tell w/my daughter. But she'll be happy if there's fun stuff to eat. Susan and nessa, what romantic stories! Oh, and here's another question before you ask me to stop visiting: when a gentleman's described as smelling, for instance of leather and horse, is the horse smell a particularly bad thing? If he were just riding across town for a visit, would he be concerned about how much he smelled of horse? Or was horse smell just part of the olfactory sensibility, I guess you might say, of the time?

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Margaret, I've been most fortunate to have plenty of "excuses" (as if I needed them!) to visit CW repeatedly over the years. Like you, my parents took me there several times as a child. Later, my brother went to W&M, and my father worked at the college. My parents live there still. Yet as many times as I've visited, I always find something new.

I'm glad to hear that Fate conspired in the college choices of you and your husband. Where would MEP be without the Chap? *g*

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Sherrie, I was hoping you'd see this post! You're a bona fide "horse person", while I'm afraid to me they're lovely to look at, but pretty scary. *g* I'm sure that CW would choose the historically proper horses; they're very conscientious about that, and pride themselves on their various rare breed livestock. I'm sure you'd be able be able to pick up all sorts of nifty historical details about the saddles and harness that eluded Loretta and me.

And yes, I do think that horses must have been the fancy cars of their day. Where I live in PA isn't far from Amish country, and the same thing's evident there. The Amish believe in living plain and simple lives, but when the buggies come out on Sunday, boy, those are some beautiful horses pulling them!

Loretta Chase said...

Ooh, ooh! Can I raise my hand and horn in here? Sherrie, among other things, Susan & I learned that the horses used with CW's carriages came from Amish country, where they were extensively trained before put in harness at CW. I hadn't thought of this but pulling a carriage in a tourist destination can be very challenging.

Michelle, I didn't sniff the horses at CW, but the horse experts I talk to, like Sherrie & my friend Myretta, tell me that horses smell good, not stinky. This, I'm told, has to do with their being vegetarians--but I'd better let the experts respond to that one.

Flyawaynan said...

Oh, swoon, what wonderful pictures. 'Gentlemen and horses' describes them to a tee! I love the officer's quizzing glass also, quite the dandy, combined with his sword. I hope you'll be more of your photographs if they're like these, hint, hint.

Margaret Evans Porter said...

Susan,
Actually, we met in grad school (he was taking a class I taught and thus technically my "student" despite being 7 years older--but I wouldn't date him till the class had ended.) Still, had we made different undergrad school choices we'd never have met in grad school.
And strangely, or not, we both studied in Britain, though several years apart.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Michelle, since Loretta has addressed the eau-du-equine question, I'll move on to the question of whether gentlemen actually raced horses. I can't answer for the Regency, but I sure can for the Restoration.

In the 1660s, horse racing truly was the sport of kings, because the king was the one doing the racing. Charles II loved to ride, the faster the better, and participated in the annual meetings at Epsom and just about anywhere else he could. He rode hard, too, up against professional jockeys and athletic noblemen like the Earl of Rochester; no one hung back to let the king win.

This was anything-goes racing, too, across an open field course, and long before helmets or any other protective gear. Hard to imagine a world leader doing anything so high-risk today! Charles continued to ride in races into his forties, and in the later years, he raced against his own sons, also fanatical horsemen. And won. What a guy.

Susan Holloway Scott said...
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Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Thanks for the horse scents info, Loretta. I felt totally inadequate having to ask cause I've spent about 3 hours around horses. But I do think they're gorgeous. I know what you're going to say, but we took our son to Medieval Times for his birthday -- to play on your sympathies so you don't skewer me about hist accuracy, we'd just moved to town and he didn't have any friends yet so we though he'd like this! Anyway, lots of beautiful, strong young men riding and 'jousting," and I'm going, "gawd, look at the horses!" Yes. I.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Susan, that is romantic in the 'other' sense. Those Rest guys especially, so manly and vigorous, and you kinda bring it alive. Thanks for the answer.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Michelle, all bets are off when it comes to kids' birthday parties. Whatever makes them happy, and the knights sound like they did the trick.

As for those "Rest guys" -- they had their moments. They weren't perfect, of course, but "manly and vigorous" they were. And thank YOU for all your commentos today. :)

Flyawaynan -- Yes, there are PLENTY more pix where these have come from! Stay tuned over the coming months. We have some especially cool pix of various carriages....

Susan Holloway Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Holloway Scott said...

Dear, dear Readers -- please be assured I'm not censoring posts, or that the TNHG are being walloped with unsavory spam. Those "deleted by the author" notes are there because I, ahem, got impatient and double clicked, and repeated my own posts. Well. duh!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

We have some especially cool pix of various carriages... You tease! There are several historical romance fans I know who will be particularly interested in those.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Why, yes, Michelle, we aim to tease! *g*

The coach/carriage info is very cool, because we made friends with an EXTREMELY knowledgeable coachman (who happened to be a woman, so while she knew all the horse-and-history stuff, she also understood our more girly questions, like how were you supposed to climb up on that teensy step with zillions of petticoats?)

Stay tuned!

Sewicked said...

Ohhhhh, the pictures. I love CW. If I lived closer I'd go there year-round.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Sewicked, I agree. Williamsburg's a special place, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have gone there as often as I have. There's always something new (or is that old?). Loretta and I have LOTS more pix, so stay tuned....

 
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