Beginning around 1920, the tradition of lavishly decorating vehicles, from rickshaws to garbage trucks, began in Pakistan. University of Karachi professor and artist Durriya Kazi believes that the tradition can be traced to Sufism. Decorating the trucks may be a way to obtain “religious merit,” as one would by embellishing a shrine or religiously significant site.
Decorating a vehicle pays tribute to it. In the process, the spiritual significance of the truck is transformed, and it will reward the owner or driver by not breaking down.
I’m assuming the same idea is at work with the decoration of the horse. As a lameness prevention technique, I can’t necessarily endorse it. But I have to say that I love the exuberance and spirit of this horse and the vehicle it adorns. I wonder if Ken Kesey’s “Further”…
was inspired by a Jingle Truck:
On his blog, William Miklem talks about the importance of what he calls the “fifth leg” for an event horse, who needs to be able to balance in order to stay safe. It’s important for a jockey’s hand to sometimes act as a “fifth leg” in order to support a horse who is running on empty and needs to make it across the finish line. The same is true of a young horse learning to balance downhill across open country.
Ultimately and if possible (which excludes fatigued horses) we want the “fifth leg” to belong exclusively to the horse, although we may use our hands initially as a “fifth leg” crutch to assist the horse in finding its own balance.
All too often, unfortunately, we see the use of the hand as a permanent “fifth leg.” The only job of that “fifth leg” is to support the rider or hold the horse in compression as a substitute for self carriage. Just as a tight flash noseband acts as a poor stand-in for a quiet mouth, “contact” (that popular synonym for pulling on the horse’s mouth) acts as a stand-in for a true, feeling and sensitive connection between the rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth.
Riders who always provide their hands as a fifth leg for the horse end up at some point like poor Laurel and Hardy — the “third leg” — in today’s picture. Carrying all the weight of the horse, when the horse should instead be carrying them. If only their horses were as content as the grey on the piano.
This sculpture portrays the denouement of the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns. Tam is mounted on his grey mare Meg and is being chased by a young witch. We see that the witch has just caught up with Tam and has grabbed his horse from behind…
….Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o’ the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross. [witches and water don’t mix]
Grisaille, noun: decoration in tones of a single color, especially gray, designed to create a three-dimensional effect. First known use in 1848. From the Middle French gris (gray) and grizzle, a gray or roan animal.