There’s something about horses, for me. I wouldn’t say I’m especially good around them, but I love them all the same. Sometimes it feels like I’m fatefully drawn to them–as though they have lessons to teach me that I’m taking a very long time to learn, like a subconscious pull to a very important type of catalyst.
That’s not an unfamiliar type. The horse has been a symbol of change and empowerment for centuries. It was on the back of horses that civilizations rose and fell. It was horses that plowed fields, carried men in to battle, and pulled carriages. For hundreds of years they helped spur the development of humanity.
But for me the influence of horses is more personal than historical. Their social structure is based on herd dynamics involving respect, leadership, and physical space. In my desire to be around horses I’ve had to try to learn their language which is nearly opposite to my natural proclivities. Whereas I’m more inclined to fade into the scenery and observe, horses respond to someone with presence, boundaries, and direction. The surest way to learn how to project confidence, self-assurance, and purposefulness is from a horse. They demand it.
Fitting, then, that this project incorporates two parts of a horse that are “coming of age” signifiers: baby teeth, and trimmings from bridle paths.
From a physical stand point loosing baby teeth denotes a corporeal maturity of the horse. From a symbolic stand point clipping the bridle path readies the horse to wear tack for riding–a milestone in the human and horse relationship.
There are several kinds of rocks used in this piece. Most of them are small polished river stones, hand selected for their dark color. There are also several larger black polished river stones that are used to support the horse teeth. Also included in the mix are pieces of chipped amethyst and aubergine glass. One stone stands apart: a piece of granite taken from the 5 acres of land where my pony is kept near Ellicott City, Maryland. The land rests over what must be a vein of the stuff, the paddocks are nearly bursting with quartz and granite.
These teeth belonged to my first horse, Cinder. I came across these teeth as I was cleaning out her paddock–a stroke of luck! These “caps” are essentially the baby (or sometimes called “milk”) teeth of a horse. As a horse’s permanent teeth grow in they push these baby teeth up and out. The pretty gradient of white and cream and taupe are created by the tooth’s enamel, dentin and cementum. Baby teeth are lost when the horse is about three years old–also around the time that many horses are trained to be ridden.
There are two locks of hair included in this piece, one lock comes from Cinder and the other comes from my current pony, Barafundle. They both come from a section from a horse’s mane called the bridle path. The bridle path starts about an inch back from the base of a horse’s ear and extends back about three inches or so. By trimming this part of the mane away a bridle can lay neatly against the horse’s neck.
Apothecary jars are beautiful on their own: shapely, cool, and transparent. But for pieces like this that include soft parts (especially the horse hair) it also performs the important function of keeping dust out. The shape of this apothecary jar is spacious for all the individual elements of the piece, but horizontal and a bit short–like a horse’s hoof, or an open landscape a herd might run across.
First thing is first: the clean apothecary jar.
Then the rocks. The first layer was the smaller, dark river stones. Then nestled in the larger black stones near the back and center, to provide the foundation for the horse teeth. Next came the granite stone–I don’t know why by I seem to like orient asymmetrically to the left. And finally, the amethyst and aubergine shiny bits sprinkled throughout.
Next came the placement of the horse teeth. These I fussed over quite a bit. They’re all slightly different shapes–some quite rectangular, others more triangular. I had an even number of them, so arranging them in a way that had some movement was a bit tricky–but thanks to those triangular shaped teeth I was able to pull off a sort of flow.
Finally, the locks of hair. Each was secured with a black band. Cinder’s bridle path was all black and a bit shorter. Barafundle’s bridle path was quite long, mostly black save for some dark brown strands and a shock of highlight–an almost ghostly indication of his black dun coloration. These I circled around the perimeter of the apothecary jar, evenly occupying the space as much as possible. They created a sort of continuous circle–though their ends were bound to themselves, the strands of hair couldn’t help but become involved with each other.
The finished piece!