chapter  2
18 Pages

Man and Horse in Harmony: Elisabeth Leguin

It is only within the last century-very suddenly and very recently, given their long career-that horses are no longer intrinsic to the basic operations of Western society; few of us any longer rely on them for anything we consider indispensable. Horsemanship is still tightly woven into our speaking and our thinking, however, in countless figures that make up a kind of thoroughgoing metaphorical fabric. We speak ofbeing back (or tall) in the saddle; being spurred to do something; reining in someone or something. We transpose equine experience into human terms with concepts like "keeping pace:' "hitting one's stride:' "getting offon the wrong foot:' "kicking up one's heels:' "feeling one's oats." Such metaphors are used regularly by people who have never come near a horse, to address matters ofintention, control, and enactment, and they show remarkably few signs of being supplanted by automotive imagery. Given the readiness with which language adapts to social and technological change, it seems unlikely that the persistence ofhorsemanship metaphors in modern English is merely an odd pocket of resistance. I would instead suggest that it has to do with the intricate ways in which horses have represented human embodiment in Western culture.