Free Rein: Still Water

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Equestrian Museum Honors Nic Fiddian-Green’s “Still Water”

By Daphne Cates

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Did you know that there is a museum devoted to equestrian arts? The National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Virginia is dedicated to preserving, sharing and promoting the literature, art and culture of equestrian, angling and field sports.  Located in the heart of Virginia’s horse country, its existence is a testament to the people who love all things equine. Founded in 1954, the institution has over 26,000-books dating from the 16th-21st centuries and is surprisingly well funded by  elite equestrian enthusiasts from across the country. The Museum, a newly renovated and expanded historic building on the Library campus, houses exhibits of American and European animal and sporting fine art.

still water

 When entering the museum, one is greeted by a dramatic ten-foot tall horse head sculpture.  The hammered lead horse head appears in repose drinking water from what is up to the viewer’s imagination.    The sculpture, by Nic Fiddian-Green and entitled “Still Water” is massive in size and yet appears to be weightless.  Nic Fiddian-Green (born 1963) is a British sculptor, who specializes is making lifelike models of horse heads, but scaled to large sizes.

Personally, when I view the sculpture, I imagine the horse in a verdant rural setting standing quietly in a shallow pond with large overhanging leafy trees casting dappled shadows on the water’s surface.  It is the end of a summer day, and in the background you can hear the buzzing of insects and the soft switch of the horse’s tail.

This sculpture is poignantly touching in its familiar and common day pose of a horse drinking from a pond.  It deeply resonates with any horse lover for the beauty and healing powers that horses bring to our modern lives.  How many times have I found myself at the end of the day leaning on the stable door and watching my horse? There is no greater contentment than being in his presence, my senses soothed by his peaceful expression and hearing his gentle rustling as he grazes.

Nic Fiddian-Green was inspired by the classical ideals as represented from the Greek 5th Century equestrian art that surrounded the Parthenon. Although the dynamic and animated horse fragments from the Greek Parthenon influenced Nic Fiddian-Green, the mood of his “Still Water” sculpture is in sharp contrast to the animated parade horses as depicted in the famous Elgin Marbles.  He has idealized the every day, commonplace attitude of equine art, and in so doing so, he has created a balance of form that evokes tranquility.

For more information, visit  – http://nsl.org/museum

Oracle's Cantering web

Daphne Cates began riding English Equitation at the age of six.  In junior high, she began riding Western and trained a 3 year old quarter horse filly to compete in gymkhanas – she especially liked barrel racing.  As an adult, Daphne has owned Milo, a racing Quarter horse; Patrick, an American Sport Horse and Pricilla, a Premarin Draft and currently Oracle, a young Dutch Warmblood.  She has schooled young horses, shown in hunter jumper shows, competed in cross-country events, fox hunted in Virginia, and taken international horse riding vacations.  Her most adventuresome vacation was riding in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana.  Now in her ‘60’s, Daphne continues to develop her dressage skills with Oracle. 
 She considers riding the elixir of life and says that it keeps her blissfully happy.

Counter-Canter Culture: A 35 ft version of “Still Water” is a permanent installation at London’s Marble Arch. The video below by Marie-Claire gives some idea of its formidable presence.

 

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