Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Mystery of Dancing Horses

by Julia Buckley
Someone sent me an e-mail with a link to this dancing horse. I was entranced. What a remarkable feat! I had never heard of horses being able to do this. Or had I?

Then I remembered the wonderful Mary Stewart novel called Airs Above the Ground, a title which describes the way that the world-famous Lippizaner Stallions seem to "fly" in the course of their show, and how they are trained to perform these airs above the ground as a part of their breeding. The horses are majestic, powerful, beautiful.

In the mystery, a woman goes to Austria pursuing something else, but ends up embroiled in a suspense story involving these stallions, her missing husband, and a seventeen-year-old boy named Timothy, who has unexpectedly accompanied her on the journey.

It's one of Stewart's later novels, and one of my favorites. Here's a description from Stewart's biographer, Lenemaja Freedman:

"Mary Stewart seems to love animals, and she obviously knows a great deal about horses and riding. This talent is apparent in The Ivy Tree in Annabel's ability to handle horses and is even more apparent in Stewart's choice of Austria and the Lippizan Stallions as the background for Airs Above the Ground (1965). Her visits to Vienna and to the Spanish Riding School were the inspiration for the plot . . . . Its protagonist is Vanessa March, a young veterinarian who has treated horses . . . ."

If you haven't tried Mary Stewart, you should read Airs, especially if you like horses. If you've read her, this is a great book to rediscover on a summer evening.

And how about that dancing horse!



Anonymous said...

I love Mary Stewart's works. Unfortunately I haven't read her in years. Time for a trip to the library!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I loved Mary Stewart's books too. The Ivy Tree was one of my favorites. Thanks for the link to the video, Julia. I'd always wondered what the Lipizzaners looked like in performance. I confess it was a lot less like ballet and a lot more like tap dancing than I imagined. ;)

Julia Buckley said...

Actually, Liz, that's not a Lippizan Stallion. That horse is a mare, and she's just in a horse show. I only linked her to the stallions because they reminded me of those books. I think the Stallion show is very different.

Yeah, Lonnie, it will be worth the trip. :)

Joan Noble said...


My great-grandfather was a soldier in the Austian Lippazaner Army about 140 or so years ago. He rode one of those Percheron beauties.

Joan Noble