“On the Rocks” | Horses in Cave Art

This post begins a timeline to discuss the various eras traveled in “Eclipsed by Shadow,” and the rest of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. The first era is Pre-History.

Man’s long, colorful relationship with the horse is revealed in one of humanity’s oldest creative impulses: Art.  The equine image has adorned virtually every medium of artistic conception throughout history, from prehistoric caves and pottery to paintings, sculpture, music, and literature. Even in our modern automated age, horses have made the successful leap to electronic “new media” of teevee, film and video games.

From a historical perspective, it is fascinating to realize how much retained knowledge of our past is owed to art. The consciousness of a culture is embedded in the art it leaves behind, and artwork is painstakingly preserved for posterity. Horses have stirred human imagination since before recorded history, so art tells the story of horsemanship—and civilization—in a comprehensive visual thread.

The earliest art is the cave painting, and horses are a predominate theme. These prehistoric images give bright glimpses into the shadows of humankind’s veiled beginnings—surviving samples date back over 30,000 years. “Rock art” is famous for depictions of horses and other animals central to the world of primitive man, and some of the prehistoric images reveal genuine artistic quality. The purpose for these drawings is unknown, but various possibilities include the recording or transmission of information, religious ceremonies or superstitious “magical” rites. Whatever the explanation, cave art represent first rays of creative light peering out before the dawn of civilization.

Most cave paintings are crude, but there exist works that rise above mundane scratchings. The most sophisticated and “sublime” cave paintings transcend time, revealing an artistic spirit already intact in pre-historic man. It is as if art truly does touch upon some indefinable and ageless spark of the cosmos. As Pablo Picasso himself said upon viewing the famous Lascaux caves, “We have discovered nothing.”

Copyright © 2008 John Allen Royce, Jr.

The Paradox of Horses in War

One thing you notice when researching historical fiction like “Eclipsed by Shadow” is how much human history is owed to the horse. Civilization advanced through adapting to the horse’s outlook.

Horsemanship is a civilized encounter with an alien mind. Horses are a “prey” species whose code is: “he who quickly runs away, lives to run another day.” The horse is perpetually alert, suspicious and ready to flee, and 6000 years of domestication have not changed this basic instinct.

The horse is an unlikely creature to ride into the chaos of battle, yet no animal so conjures the image of war. Horsemanship is one of mankind’s oldest and most perfected technologies, and the battlefield was its testing ground for thousands of years. It would seem an impossible feat to ask a timid, flighty animal to carry men into a smoking, stinking cacophony of fire and noise—yet that is exactly the result needed, and produced.

The Book of Job in Bible has a passage which relates this paradox.

“Hast thou given the horse strength?
Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper?”

Of course the horse is only an instrument; war is an invention of man. Strangely, the speed and physical strength of the animal made him a formidable weapon, but the great challenge of horsemanship through the ages was how to get this four-legged weapon onto the battlefield at all. Anyone who has seen a horse “shy” or bolt in terror from a blowing leaf will understand the achievement of enlisting cooperation from what is essentially a saddled rabbit.

Skittishness in horses varies between individuals and isn’t completely explainable, as with Saki’s famous “Brogue,” a horse so named “in recognition of the fact that, once acquired, it was extremely difficult to get rid of.” According to the author’s description: “Motors and cycles he treated with tolerant disregard, but pigs, wheelbarrows, piles of stones by the roadside, perambulators in a village street, gates painted too aggressively white, and sometimes, but not always, the newer kind of beehives, turned him aside from his tracks in vivid imitation of the zigzag course of forked lightning.”

The secret of man’s partnership with the horse is trust. A wild band of equines operates through friendships and roles, and with proper instruction the trained horse learns to place his rider in the leadership position. This trust must be earned through the process of schooling, and can easily be lost, but it is one of the miracles of riding that only through an exchange of trust can the incredible potential of a horse’s ability be unlocked.

Show Jumping has a story to tell

I recently watched the live video feeds from two major international jumping events, The Syracuse Invitational and the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. The horses look great, the riders are skilled, the competition level is high and humane. Both are well-run by innovative management.

The only lack was in the Announcing. Show jumping is like a storybook with pictures: it must be narrated. The story needs to be told.

Those who already love the sport will forgive transgressions against their spectator interests, but that is no reason for complacency. The key to creating new fans is engaging them.

Entertaining spectators at a horse show is as easy as talking to them about horses. This is not “easy” at all, in reality, as it requires talent combined with professionalism and love for horses and the sport. However, it would be pay great dividends for the sport to develop just such talent.

Amazon Top 50 Reviewer: “Captives on a Carousel of Time”

This sweeping historical fantasy should have an impact on its reader that penetrates far beyond the boundaries of the usual Young Adult novel. It teaches lessons about history and horsemanship, and what it really means to be ‘civilized.’—E.A. Lovitt, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer

The following is a review of Eclipsed by Shadow by Top Amazon Reviewer E.A. Lovitt (Starmoth)

E. A. Lovitt “Starmoth”
HALL OF FAME • TOP 500 REVIEWER

This sweeping historical fantasy should have an impact on its reader that penetrates far beyond the boundaries of the usual YA (Young Adult) novel. It teaches lessons about history and horsemanship, and what it really means to be ‘civilized.’

Eclipsed by Shadow reminds me of “The Carousel,” a ballad by Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Flying horses they are just/ Little girls who wish too much…” Teenage equestrienne, Meagan Roberts gets the filly of her dreams, born on the summer solstice of the new millennium. Unfortunately, the foal’s mother dies and the little palomino filly comes with an ancient warning:

“…So born of loss and mother’s grief, the Great Horse takes a mighty leap. Eclipsed by shadow, the golden spark/ Shall wing her rider into the dark.”

When Meagan takes that first ride on her filly, she is swept backward into Time and is forced to experience the dark side of the relationship between horse and human.

The overall vision of Eclipsed by Shadow is difficult to comprehend, because this is only Book I of a projected trilogy. The narrative ends abruptly and reads more like a series of short stories as Meagan occupies brief periods of prehistory and history. Each segment vividly describes our evolving relationship with the horse: slaughter and eat; sacrifice to the gods; kill for pleasure (I wish Meagan could have visited Xenophon’s Greece instead of Trajan’s Rome).

Bad guys are painted with a broad brush, but good guys are delineated with respect and care. I wanted to stay in Rome with Horace, the poet/gladiator. I hated to cut my visit short with Chouchou, the laid-back medieval warhorse. The author’s portrait of Meagan and her equine friends is especially sensitive, illuminated with the touch, scent, and emotion that only a true horseman could know and understand.

Knight chesspiece

Eclipsed by Shadow is the first book of the new fiction trilogy, The Legend of the Great Horse, arriving this Summer with a fresh and original look at the colorful role of horses in civilization. The story follows the time-travel adventure of a modern horsewoman lost in history.

Further information about this unique and imaginative novel can be found at TheGreatHorse.com.

Historical Novel Society: “A Vivid Historical Tale through the Ages”

The first in a trilogy, ECLIPSED BY SHADOW tells the tale of a horse-crazy teenager traveling through time on a horse. This unusual-sounding summary had me skeptical at first, but the story is surprisingly page turning, and it left me yearning for the next installment.—Rebecca Roberts, Historical Novel Society

The following is a new review of Eclipsed by Shadow by Rebecca Roberts of the Historical Novel Society.

Historical Novel Society | Rebecca Roberts

The first in a trilogy, Eclipsed by Shadow tells the tale of a horse-crazy teenager traveling through time on a horse. This unusual-sounding summary had me skeptical at first, but the story is surprisingly page turning, and it left me yearning for the next installment.

On June 21, 2001, when a unique colt is born, Meagan Robert’s life is suddenly and irrevocably changed. This special palomino, Promise, is rumored to be the next “Great Horse,” and when thieves attempt to steal her horse, Meagan leaps on Promise and rides her for the first time. But instead of galloping across the field, Promise takes to the air and flies through time and history. Meagan’s quest to find home takes her from 20,000 B.C. North America to 100 A.D. Rome and then to 1240 Central Asia. Meagan’s only defense in these places is her 21st century equine insight as she is thrust into slavery, mistaken for a Tartar, and accused of being a witch.

The adventures Meagan experiences and the people she meets along the way create a vivid historical tale through the ages when horses were used for work, war, sport, and exhibition. This well-informed tale has great plot and character development, wonderful descriptions of equine history, and a tension-ridden cliffhanging ending that will leave you gnawing at the bit for more.

» See original citation

Knight chesspiece

Eclipsed by Shadow is the first book of the new fiction trilogy, The Legend of the Great Horse, arriving this Summer with a fresh and original look at the colorful role of horses in civilization. The story follows the time-travel adventure of a modern horsewoman lost in history.

Further information about this unique and imaginative ‘creative non-fiction’ novel can be found at TheGreatHorse.com.

Targa the Mongolian Warpony

Eclipsed by Shadow, is the first volume of the new trilogy adventure, “The Legend of the Great Horse,” which begins a journey that traces the history of horsemanship. In the story, the heroine, Meagan Roberts, is taken back through time by her horse, Promise. Meagan must survive humanity’s brutal past armed only with her knowledge of advanced horsemanship of the 21st century.

One of the interesting things about our relationship with horses is how slowly it developed. For many millennia mankind struggled with “conquering” the horse, when in reality simple humane treatment and empathy was the path to tapping into the equine potential. Today’s sensibly schooled horses could literally canter circles around primitive man’s poorly “broken” and brutalized mounts.

In the story, Meagan is dropped off in various time periods and must fend for herself. One such era is during Europe’s Dark or Middle Ages, when the enlightened horsemanship of Greek antiquity has been forgotten and brutality was again the norm of the day.

"Mongolian Steppe" by David Edwards | National Geographic
“Mongolian Steppe” by David Edwards | National Geographic

It was in this era that Mongolian nomads burst from their ancestral homes on the Asian plains to pillage and ransack from Russia to Poland, throughout India and the Middle East. Meagan lands amidst the united armies of Genghis Khan and is given a Mongolian warhorse mare she names Targa.

The mare is typical of her breed: stocky, short-legged and pony-sized. Meagan succeeds through empathizing with the mare and employing modern riding techniques that provide strong yet humane guidance. Their association grows into a real horse-rider partnership.

Targa illustrates how unchanged the horse’s nature is after many millennia of human “domestication.” Horses are simply too old a species to have become more than superficially adapted to mankind’s demands. Targa responds to Meagan’s enlightened empathy as horses do today; horses of primitive man would have done the same if given the opportunity.

The rampaging Mongolians cherished their horses, and their horses responded. This responsive cooperation with their riders led to wiping out alien societies, but there was no malice in the Mongolian warponies. Despite talk of the military “genius” of Genghis Khan, had Western society remembered their enlightened horsemanship instead of traveling down the path of war and brutality, they likely would not have been overrun by the superior skill of their Asian raiders.

There are many lessons in history, but one of the foremost is how spectacular are the results of empathy and harmony.

How Horsemanship Drove the Progress of Civilization

Our relationship with the horse predates literacy, but both tomb relics and modern records agree that most of history’s leading societies possessed the highest skill in horsemanship. Clearly there is more to a horse than meets the eye.

Equestrian skill was important for prowess in battle, and advantage could be attained by advances in horse care, riding, training, breeding, equipment, etc. The horse represented potential for producing enormous gains in productivity, and societies best at tapping that potential were the most successful.

The Spanish Conquistador Cortez

One of the earliest civilizations, the Hittites, were a society known for their ability in building and using chariots, and grew to dominance in the 18th Century BC. Hittites were bested by Egyptians who used a new, lighter chariot design in the Battle of Kadesh in 1274, which was an epic Ancient World clash involving an estimated 5,000 chariots.

The Egyptians were eclipsed by the Greeks, and a superior philosophy of horsemanship may well have played a role. The Greek general Xenophon wrote On Horsemanship, the earliest surviving work on empathetic riding we now call dressage, which explains the humane method of schooling which produced their victorious cavalry.

Horsemanship fell to brutality in the Dark Ages, a symptom of a weakness the equine-centered Mongolian tribes under Genghis Khan were able to exploit as they overran Europe, India and the Middle East in the 13th century with huge armies of light horses.

Xenophon’s “On Horsemanship” was re-discovered in the 1400’s and helped ignite an interest in Classical thought which led to the Renaissance. 15th century Spaniards romanticized riding and treated it as an art form—a revolution of ideas from the brute servitude of Middle Age mounts—and their superior horsemanship was marked with triumph in the age of Conquistadors.

The 16th century Riding Master Pluvinel helped France take the lead in the equestrian arts with the development of the Haute Ecole, or High School of dressage, and the famous Airs Above the Ground. Today the contest continues in the form of international equestrian sport, where success still serves as a metaphor for a nation’s predominance.

Anyone who loves horses or who loves history will love “Eclipsed by Shadow”

Throughout, the book successfully blends fiction, character and plot with history and more than solely the history of horses. I am not interested in horses, but historical fiction, but I did come to appreciate the history of horses without ever being overly bored by the book containing too many details.—Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author

The following is a new 5-Star review of Eclipsed by Shadow.

stars-5HISTORY IS A TALE OF HORSES

Anyone who loves horses or who loves history will love “Eclipsed by Shadow”

by Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of “The Marquette Trilogy”

“Eclipsed by Shadow” is an epic history of horses, complete with time travel, and educational material, but best of all, it is strong historical fiction.

The plot is pretty simple. Meagan learns from an eccentric neighbor lady that her newborn horse may well be “The Great Horse” of legend that has reappeared over the centuries. The Great Horse first originated as a horse meant to help Adam and Eve when they left the Garden of Eden.

I knew from what I had already heard about the book that it would include time travel and Meagan would experience how horses were used throughout the centuries by mankind.

When I started, I was a bit disappointed to see the first section went on for so long. I wanted to get right into the time travel, but once I started reading, I was thoroughly captivated by the plot and how well the author, John Royce, built up suspense in the first section. I actually think this was my favorite part of the book as Meagan learned about the legend of the Great Horse and also avoided having her horse stolen.

As for the time travel sections, the scene in prehistoric North America was brief and not quite as interesting as the later ones because after all it was prehistoric history, but I thought both the Rome and the medieval section were well done. Even though the book reads like a collection of short stories because of the different time periods that the characters do not cross over into, Royce successfully created some believable characters in each section.

Throughout, the book successfully blends fiction, character and plot with history and more than solely the history of horses. I am not interested in horses, but historical fiction, but I did come to appreciate the history of horses without ever being overly bored by the book containing too many details.

Anyone who loves horses or who loves history will love “Eclipsed by Shadow,” and readers will be impatient to read the next two volumes in this trilogy about the Great Horse.

– Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of “The Marquette Trilogy”

__________

Eclipsed by Shadow is the first book of the new fiction trilogy, The Legend of the Great Horse, arriving this Summer with a fresh and original look at the colorful role of horses in civilization. The story follows the time-travel adventure of a modern horsewoman lost in history.

Further information about this unique and imaginative ‘creative non-fiction’ novel can be found at TheGreatHorse.com.