Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Adventures in London part 1- Sunday

So much for beating jet lag Sunday night.  I fell asleep at about 6:30 with no blog post.  Then yesterday my phone didn't want to co-operate with my computer and none of the photos would go onto my computer.  So, without further ado, I'll detail my trip.  To borrow a phrase from Jen at Braymere Custom Saddlery, I spent most of the trip looking for horse-shaped objects.  (Jen is an awesome model horse tackmaker, and whenever she goes on a museum type outing, she documents every horse-related thing she can find, so I borrowed her idea this last week when I was on my trip)

Bright and early Sunday morning (and I do mean early, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning pretty much unable to get back to sleep.  Thanks again jet lag), the family and I got up to go to the Tower of London.

There was this beautiful art piece with thousands and thousands of ceramic poppies, one for each of the soldiers from the British Commonwealth killed in WWI.

Here's a travel tip if any of you ever happen to go to London and want to see the crown jewels: go at opening time for the Tower and make a beeline for the crown jewels.  That's what we did and there was no line (the rest of the day there's about a 45 minute to an hour line), and it was practically empty inside, much more enjoyable than once it gets busy and it's packed.  After the crown jewels, we went on a guided tour lead by a yeoman warder (beefeater), and then just wandered around from place to place. 

 My favourite was the beasts exhibit.  It talked about the animals that used to be on display at the tower, including an ostrich, some snakes, a polar bear, a zebra, and a few others that escape me.  There were all kinds of funny stories about the animals, like the snakes being kept warm wrapped in a blanket on top of a stove, or the zebra who was fond of ale and would steal it from people (I'm not kidding).  My favourite, though, was the ostrich. The poor thing died from eating a nail that lodged itself in it's throat because tourists had believed ostriches could digest iron and threw it nails for a snack.  But alas, besides the naughty zebra, not an equine was to be found.

That is, not until we went into the White Tower.  The white tower served as the home for the royal family for hundreds of years, and it was not short on the equestrian.  One of the first things I saw was this display of the remnants of what once was called the Line of Kings.  It used to stand at the White Tower and show off the suits of armor of the kings, mounted fashionably on wooden horses. 

Why yes, I have considered a career in professional photography. 
Look at that bit! I dunno, that horse looks a little wild.  Might wanna try something with leverage. 
This one, besides the weird breastplate had some sort of muzzle.
Close up of the muzzle. 

I took a photograph of the documentation for this one, so I'll add the description. "These wooden horses were originally made as decorative mounts for the Line of Kings.  Swathed in armor and fabric, they gave their royal 'riders' added presence.  Standing between 14 and 15 hands tall, only the one at the back is smaller.  So far it has proved impossible to match the surviving horses with the six carvers who made them.  From 1883 the horses were displayed in the White Tower, parading around the top floor. Gradually they were spread throughout the galleries until the 1960's, when fewer were shown.  Today we celebrate them as important sculptures in their own right, not mere props."  At the bottom it listed the wooden horse statues circa 1685-90.  

"Here Be Dragons

This 'ancient German saddle' was displayed in the western vestibule of the New Horse Armoury in the mid-19th century.  Its bone plaques are decorated with dragons, and ite was possibly a gift from the Emperor Sigismund to King Henry on his joining the Hungarian Dragon order in 1416."
A pretty cool looking saddle, though I'm not so sure about how comfortable it would have been.  

Not horse-related but just look at those broadswords! They're significantly taller than I am.  
"These two bearing swords may have been associated with Henry IV or his son Henry V and would have been carried ceremonially, blades upwards, symbolising the monarch's power.  The slightly shorter sword is 2.3 m (89.25 in) long and each weighs over 6 kg (about 14 lb)."

I don't think I have words about this contraption.  Wow.  

"Horse Bit

Probably from the armoury of Henry VIII this horse bit has etched and gilt decoration.  Although no royal badges are included in its decoration these might have appeared on its bosses which are now missing." 

This was far and away my favourite tack item I saw my entire trip (and there are some VERY COOL tack items coming up in my post series).


Tail Piece by Kunz Lochner
This sculptural fragment originally came from a horse armour.  Modelled as a dragon's head, it is designed to fit at the rear of the horse, providing the illusion that the tail is streaming from the dragon's mouth.  The crupper for which it was originally made is in the Castle Museum at Malbark in Poland"

HOW AWESOME IS THAT? I seriously want one.  It would look so sweet with Jazz's fiery red (okay it's mostly brown.  She does love the mud) tail streaming out of it.  I want about seven of these.  SO COOL.

This was the second fanciest stirrup I saw on my trip.  

Presentation Stirrup (Abumi)  
This is made in the form of a traditional Japanese stirrup (abumi)...."
(The rest of the description was really boring so I didn't bother copying it here)

This was a weird-looking helmet which I accidentally photographed the wrong description for, so enjoy it's prominent nose and moustache with no explanation whatsoever.  

This seemed to be the same type of muzzle as the one I saw in the Line of Kings display.  
"Horse Muzzle

The fashion for horse muzzles was short-lived; many are dated between 1552 and 1621.  The majority came from South and East Germany, and very little is known about their use.  Equestrian equipment was often acquired by armour collectors.  

THIS was the fanciest stirrup I saw all week.  Not really, I'm just kidding. That's coming up later.  
"Over a thousand years old and of a type that the Vikings would have recognized, this iron stirrup has inlaid brass scroll decoration on its outer surfaces.  Said to have been found in the River Thames."  

That was a lot more work than I expected! I have a newfound respect for the dedicated bloggers who have tons of beautiful photos on every post.  It was a serious struggle to get mine uploaded and accessible.  I would always love to hear your thoughts too, so feel free to share! 

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