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!