In January I decided to finally take some images at the Stanford Equestrian Center in my hometown of Palo Alto. Since childhood, I always knew it was where Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Standford had chosen to settle the great debate. What was that great debate? Stanford wanted to prove an ongoing debate at the time as to whether or not a horse has all four feet off the ground at one time while trotting. Leland believed in the "unsupported transit" theory, but wanted scientific proof. So, in 1872, Stanford hired the British publisher agent/bookseller/photographer and acquitted murderer to prove him right. Muybridge set up a series of cameras along a track (well before the "Matrix" craze), and tripped the cameras via a series of strings. Sure enough, as the hooves regrouped under the horse, Standardbred trotting horse Occident was completely off the ground. As a photographer (and former film student), it was this story that finally brought me to this historical site.
This first image is a statue of Occident, the horse used in Muybridge's film study of equine locomotion.
A statue of the horse, Sherwood, juxtaposed against an oblivious live horse.
While randomly photographing around the stables, an imposing bald man leaning in a doorway called out to me. "Hey, you want to see something cool?" Relieved that he was not the horse police, I agreed, and he led me behind the big Red Barn, and explained to me that he was the official farrier at the equestrian center. He invited me to photograph himself and his crew of two as they reshoed a stable of horses. I was given a demonstration on removing old shoes, and attaching the new ones. While it looks painful for the horse, I was assured that there are no nerves in the hooves, and that if done properly, the horse feels nothing. I was unable to confirm this with any horse involved. I was even allowed to hold a spliced hoof, showing the inside of a horse's foot. Still, I'm glad I slip my shoes on by myself.
In this image, our fearless farrier was removing the nails which hold the old shoe in place. You can see the nail holes in the front right hoof.
Here, the farrier is hotshoeing the horse. With a very hot shoe, he is sealing the now cleaned hoof from moisture and anything else that might cause infections. The smell is intoxicating.
After watching several horses try on shoes, it was time for my group shot, and to head out. It was a pleansant, and very unexpected adventure. Thank you to farriers across the world. You are the unsung heroes.
To view more of my work, please visit www.slangerphotography.com. Thank you.