All the Great Horses: Artwork by Marti Adrian Gregory for the trilogy

Photo of Marti Adrian Gregory with painting

A new page has been created to display all the bookcover artwork! The artwork series offers a journey through history.

Marti Adrian Gregory is the trilogy’s artist and creator of all the original historical figures from the story … each of the Great Horses can be seen together, now that the work is complete.

“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 Pegasii

The flying horse Pegasus is one of Western culture’s most popular and durable myths. What may be surprising to many is that the idea of a winged horse is not isolated to Greek mythology, but is a universal notion in ancient religion.

The theme of my new trilogy, The Legend of the Great Horse, is the depth of man’s partnership with horses and the animal’s foundational importance to civilization. When discussing the influence of horses it is almost impossible to throw too wide a net, and the legend of a winged horse is an example.


Early Christianity was combined with the Sun-worshipping belief that the Emperor departed earth upon his death in a chariot pulled by winged immortal horses, and various beliefs herald the Second Coming of Christ upon the winged horse Avatar. Islam records the gift to Adam of the winged horse Mamoun. Hindus honored Vivasvat, the Seven-Headed Sun Horse that symbolized the workings of the Seven Chakras. Buddha was said to have flown across the heavens as a white horse, and both Norse and Celtic religions had a stableful of supernatural mounts.

In modern times, mythology is remembered as a group of fantasy stories involving the gods of Olympus and exotic animals like the Chimera, Basilisk, Hydra, along with soaring Pegasus. But in the time of their practice, the “mythology” of the Greeks was their religion: a complex, inter-woven, often conflicting world enmeshed with the natural. The gods lived upon Mt. Olympus: their home could be seen by Greek villagers carrying on their daily lives.

Today’s popular conception of mythology is a pale summary of the original. We may have learned that Pegasus was a gift from the gods, or that the flying horse was the mount of Zeus with hoofbeats which caused thunder. But it is less remembered that the first gift of a horse was rejected by the people of Athens in favor of Athena’s offering of an olive tree, one of antiquity’s great examples of the wisdom of choosing butter (olive oil) instead of guns (cavalry). It is forgotten in popular imagination that that Pegasus sired a race of immortal winged horses, the Pegasii; or that Pegasus had a brother named Celeris, the mount of one of the Geminii twins (Castor, “The Horseman”) who were honored as a cult by the legions of Rome, and given placement, as was Pegasus, in his own constellation: The Colt.

The immortal Pegasii were of many colors, not only white, and they had varying powers of transport and appearance and purpose. The Pegasii were associated with dreams and inspiration, and all were benefactors of mankind or agents of the natural world.

The “legend” of Eclipsed by Shadow and the rest of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy concerns the strangely universal idea that horses were gifted to man by the Creator. The “Great Horses” of history are descended from this first horse. Promise, the Great Horse belonging to the book’s main character, Meagan, shares the essential characteristics of the Pegasii.

Horse Illustrated

In researching Eclipsed by Shadow and the other books of the Great Horse trilogy, it became clear there is a universal equestrian literary tradition. From the ancient Greek General Xenophon’s Anabasis, one of the earliest surviving works of journalism, through chivalric literature to Romantic novels to pulp westerns and up through today, horses have been popular subjects in countless works. 

da Vinci's "Rearing Horse"
Leonardo da Vinci's "Rearing Horse"

Authors from Saki to Mark Twain have written stories about horses, a tradition continued in contemporary works such as Farley’s “The Black Stallion” and Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit.”

It is difficult to find expressive terms to describe how close and longstanding is mankind’s partnership with the horse: We can talk of horses in very bold terms. The depth and universality of man’s relationship with horses is illustrated through one of our oldest creative impulses: Art.  And it seems horses inhabit all the arts.

Besides mankind itself, no living creature is so celebrated in art as our ancient partner. Horses have adorned virtually every medium of artistic conception, which makes horsemanship one of the most well-documented historical activities of mankind.

The idea that horses are a source of human inspiration is a theme running through history. The Muses of Greek mythology–a sisterhood of divine beings who inspired creative art–were entrusted with the care of Pegasus and held the winged horse sacred. The history of the world moves to the sound of hoof beats … and art records it.