Posing Horses


Kentucky, from the state illustrationsFor this Kentucky Illustration, I needed a galloping horse. As I worked in the sketching phase, I quickly discovered that when the pose of a horse is frozen it can lose much of its sense of speed, and some of the leg positions can look downright awkward. I wonder if the awkwardness is partially because many of these poses are practically invisible to the naked eye when the horse runs. As a result, there is a history of depicting the legs extended, a pose that indicates movement but is actually impossible. John Frederick Herring’s horse here looks like it’s about ready to do a belly flop. Come to think of it, the dogs are doing it too:

The illustration used on the Caldecott Medal itself is another great example of the pose.

Muybridge set the story straight with his groudbreaking stop-motion photography. When I look at these in sequence, I see the speed of the gallop, but individually it’s more difficult to determine. Which frame says “speed” the most to you?

 Frederic Remington was truly a master of horses in action, and he got the legs right to boot. Look at how much movement and action is in this painting, titled “Stampede.” You can really feel the panic, despite the position of the legs being the absolute opposite of the John Frederick Herring horse.

Granted, in my Kentucky state illustration a panicked mood was the last thing the design team wanted so we went with something a little less frantic, but it would be fun to try an illustration with more emotion and action next time!

Illustration References:

  1. Horse racing photo by Softeis, Copyright 2005. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Horse-racing-5.jpg . Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
  2. This illustration was created for Mocavo, inc, which holds all rights to the image and has generously allowed me to post for non-commercial promotional purposes only.
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1 Comment

  1. by Kathleen Reilly on January 28, 2014  3:15 pm Reply

    Actually the horse in Herring's painting looks a lot like Muybridge's 11th photo - except that the second foot that's touching in the photo isn't touching in the painting. As far as action goes I'd vote for photo 3 .

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