USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Horses’
Festival

Thunder Over Louisville

Main Text:

JE: “Thunder Over Louisville is a 30 minute firework show that takes place over the Ohio river in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the biggest firework show on this side of the planet and the cool thing about is that all the money from the fireworks and that is raised for Thunder Over Lousiville is donated to Kosair Children Hospital. The main reason for the firework show is that it acts as a kick-off to all of the festivities that go on before the Kentucky Derby. It is always exactly a month before the derby at 9:30 to 10:00pm and they also theme the fireworks to music. Like this year it was Disney and then it went to some Dubstep bullshit.”

Collector: “So who goes to this firework show”

JE: ” Well the location in Louisville that this firework show takes place is called Kentuckyanna which is basically the divide between Kentucky and Louisiana marked by the Ohio River division. So the two main states that know the most about this is Kentucky and Louisianna and it is pretty big in both of these places.”

Context: 

JE lives in Mount Washington, Kentucky which is located about 20 minutes from where this firework show takes place in Lousiville. When I asked Jordan why he remembers the show and why it keeps going on every year he said that a lot of people remember this show because it is such a massive firework show and there is nothing else like it in the United States. He also said that

Analysis:

The analysis of this regional lore is going to focus on the area it takes place in and how this piece then functions in response to being preserved over time. The first thing I would like to analyze is why this firework show continues to be put on and I will do this by describing regional and economical demands for it.

Regionally this firework show continues to strive and be put on because people in Kentucky and Luisiana have such a high demand for it. This demand stems from the shared culture amongst those who attend. This shared culture not only acts as a unifying force between two different states but it also allows for people to reminisce at all of the good feelings and times that they have shared together at this place. Thunder Over Louisville also serves as a sort of identity marker for Kentuckians and Louisianians because almost everyone in those states knows about the show, even if they do not attend it. If someone were to go to Kentucky when these festivities for the derby were happening and not know what “Thunder over Lousiville” is, then those people from Kentucky and Louisiana will be able to identify them as an “outsider” or “other” ( which also aids in unification between the people of those states). The music that the fireworks get set off to also can act as a unifying source among individuals at the show who know the music and can share this experience of reminiscing on their childhood and past memories with each other. For example, almost everyone knows at least one Disney song, so putting the fireworks to the melody and beats of Disney songs allows for people in the audience to experience the show in a different way with each other. These unifying forces between this regional group of individuals and their ability to share moments that would not have otherwise been shared leads to such a high demand for the show that it keeps being put on year after year. The people have adopted it and made it their own so that they could enjoy it in only a way that Kentuckians and Louisianans could.

Because the Kentucky Derby is so expensive to go and see, the only people who can really experience the Derby themselves are wealthy, mostly white people, most of whom happen to be in the horse business. By aiming the show to a certain selected subgroup of people, this discriminates against middle and lower class people of all races which causes a huge divide between the amount of Kentuckians and Louisianians who are able to attend because of there large lower class and black population. In response to the expense of the show and that most common people of Louisiana and Kentucky can not attend then the firework show for them serves as a stand in to the Kentucky Derby. This firework show is where people know that they can congregate and celebrate their region with each other and the derby itself, even though they are not at the derby.

To summarize, the unification that Thunder Over Louisville provides for those who attend the show (more specifically to those from Louisiana and from Kentucky) coupled with the “common” people’s only opportunity to experience the excitement of the Derby without attending it in person keeps this regional show surviving and thriving year after year.

Legends
Narrative

“Silver Spring Barn” Ghost Story

Main Piece: “So at this barn where I would always go to ride horses, there was one corner of the ring…where shit hit the fan every time. There was nothing different about this corner than any of the other corners, but every time I would ride my horse around the ring the horse would either tense up, or the horse couldn’t go near the corner of the ring. So one day after a ride I was complaining to the barn owner about how the horse was acting, and I mentioned the fact that it kept happening in one very specific corner of the ring. The barn owner said that she was very familiar with that issue, and it wasn’t just me that was experiencing problems with it. Practically every horse, regardless of who the rider was, would have a really visceral reaction to that corner of the ring. So the barn owner told me one that she went to a psychic as a family. They told the psychic about some other things that were happening, and without being told about the corner of the ring and without ever seeing the property… The psychic said that there is one place that everyone gets scared of, and that it is causing problems for animals and the people. The barn owner said she was shocked that she knew about this, and then the psychic after doing a couple other rituals came to the conclusion that…. the recently deceased grandma was spending her days sitting in that corner of the ring watching the horses and the trainers riding them. The barn owner told me that the grandma rode horses as well and so the barn owner accepted it just tried to avoid that corner whenever she rode so as not to disturb her grandmother or spook the horses.”

 

Background: GR spent so much of her time at this barn training horses and riding them in events that this story really stuck with her and made her a little uneasy at first. GR said the idea of having the ghost of the grandma watching her was a bit unsettling, but at the same time she got used to the idea since there was never any threatening actions that were being made against her or the horses. GR talked about how the whole family that owned the barn all rode horses, so this idea of the grandma spending her time sitting in the corner of the ring and watching the horses made a lot of sense to her. Because horse riding is such a huge part of that family and the community, it was seen by the barn owner and GR as almost a beautiful way for the grandma to spend her time in the afterlife watching the thing that she loved so much while she was alive.

 

Context of the Performance: GR told me this custom, while we were talking about the things we would do in our free time, and what types of hobbies we like to do. Since GR is from an area where horse riding is far more popular than in California, GR had a lot of stories to tell about the barn that she used to ride at. And when we were talking about some of the ghost stories from around the world, she mentioned that she had one from her barn.

 

Analysis: Ghost stories are always fascinating to dissect as they generally have so many elements working throughout them, that may not be readily apparent. In the case of this particular ghost story, I think that this one is functioning as a way to help ease the pain for the family that owns the barn after the passing of the grandmother. Losing a family member is always hard, and after the loss it is incredibly difficult to cope with that pain. I really liked hearing this story, and it was told so well that I honestly got goosebumps when hearing the reveal that the grandmother was expected to be the reason for the horses getting spooked. I also find this to be a rather beautiful way to memorialize their grandma as white the pain of losing a loved one cannot be erased, knowing that she is happy and spending her days watching the thing that used to bring her so much joy is rather heartwarming in a way.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“If your horse isn’t cool, don’t be a fool… leave your helmet on.” Horse Riding Proverb

Main Piece:If your horse isn’t cool, don’t be a fool… leave your helmet on.

 

Background: GR grew up with a long history of horse riding, and that is one of her most favorite things to do when she has the free time and is able to make it to the barn. GR says that this proverb is incredibly important in terms of rider safety, especially when she was younger, the rhyming nature of it helped her to remember it very vividly. Essentially, GR says that this means that you are never supposed to take care of yourself and start getting ready to finish unless your horse is okay. Sometimes if its the end of a ride and you are getting ready to leave and pack things up, there are times when the horse may either be spooked or acting strange, and its important to never take off your gear and helmet before the horse is okay. GR said not only is it a respect thing for the horse, to make sure that the animal is okay and that you help to calm them down if something is wrong, but it is also a safety concern for the rider. If the horse does something out of character or unexpected, and it hits you or knocks you off and you are not wearing a helmet, you could get seriously injured. GR also said that its important to look out for the horse first too because throughout the event or the training you are asking a lot of the horse, and if you are not listening to it and ignoring its needs, it may also be less responsive the next time you go to ride the horse.

 

Context of the Performance: GR told me this custom, while we were talking about the things we would do in our free time, and what types of hobbies we like to do. Since GR is from an area where horse riding is far more popular than in California, GR was able to inform me about some of the expectancies that come with riding horses.

 

Analysis: Seeing as how it would appear that horse riding is something that people in this community generally tend to learn from a young age, it makes total sense that this proverb would exist as a way to help remind people of the dangers of working with these animals. Horses are incredibly powerful creatures, and the ramifications of being unsafe while riding them could be very severe and I believe that this serves to function as a cautionary reminder to these riders. Additionally, it seems that another main part of this is the respect factor that is involved with the horses. GR mentioned that a huge part of this saying is to serve as a reminder to respect your horse, and make sure that they are okay.The horse riding community puts a huge emphasis on respecting your animal, and it is interesting to see this as I feel generally in American culture there is certainly less of an importance placed on the well being of animals. We generally tend to see them as less important, and so in parts of the country that do not usually interact with animals besides house pets, there is far less importance placed on their well being.

Folk speech

“Over, Under, Through” Horse Riding Proverbial Phrase

Main Piece:Over, Under, Through.

 

Background: GR is a horse rider, and spends a large portion of her time riding horses on a ranch and training them for upcoming events. Additionally, she also trains horses so that other people can buy them, and use them for themselves in high end events. GR is from just outside of Washington DC., and would spend her time at a barn in silver spring Maryland. Because GR’s family all rode horses, and the people at the barn spent so much time riding horses, this proverb was super important to her. GR said that this proverb originated from a woman named Coleen Rutledge who was the first American eventer to ever run all three four-stars in America in one year. The type of riding that GR does is similar to Rutledge, and the events consisted of lots of jumps and “hits.” So GR said that this proverb was a way to get riders to focus and not doubt themselves, because any kind of apprehension on the event or in the country will screw you over. GR said that this proverb helped her to focus and when it came time for the jumps in the events she would think to herself, “We are going over this jump, under the next, and through the other.”

 

Context of the Performance: GR told me this proverb, while we were talking about the things we would do in our free time, and what types of hobbies we like to do. Since GR is from an area where horse riding is far more popular than in California, GR was very excited to share this proverb and some of the other horse related folklore that is somewhat new to me.

 

Analysis: I had never heard this type of proverb before, as I am rather ignorant when it comes to the folklore of the rural countries and especially as it relates to horses. But this seems to be a very important proverb especially in the horse event riding world, especially given how much GR knew about its inception and how seriously GR takes this proverb. As someone who isn’t very familiar with horse riding, this proverb seems like it certainly seeks to push riders into trusting their instincts and not get too much in their own head when riding the horses. GR said that the type of riding she does is very dangerous, and so this proverb makes even more sense in that context as if you are a rider who does not make a snap decision, and you second guess yourself instead of simply deciding to go “Over, under, and through,” you could not only get seriously injured but you could also seriously injure your horse.

Proverbs

“Heard it from the horse’s mouth”

I was talking with my friend and I said that I needed to hear a fact straight from the person who said it, and then she said something like, “yeah, you have to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” I inquired what she meant by this, where she had heard it from, etc. This is what she told me.

Informant: “My mom says, ‘I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth’ and that means that you heard it from the person who said it, so it’s authentic.”

Collector: “Do you know why it’s specifically a horse?”

Informant: “I don’t know, but she did grow up around a lot of horses. She grew up on a cattle ranch. And they all rode horses around.”

Collector: “So do you think this is specific to farmer culture or rancher people, rather than city folk?”

Informant: “I think so because you tend to… your language is dependent on your surroundings. You use analogies based on where you live, or on the things that you know”

The informant didn’t know much more about the origins of the proverb, but after some basic online search, I found that thefreedictionary.com offers the following explanation: “this expression alludes to examining a horse’s teeth todetermine its age and hence its worth. [1920s]” As my informant mentioned, this expression probably originated from a culture that was accustomed to being around horses, so its relevance in the future might be questionable. 

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kentucky Derby Party

This informant is an old classmate of mine, who has know moved on to working in Los Angeles.  I started off asking this informant if he had any folk stories or family traditions that were interesting and he told me about the annual Kentucky Derby Party that his Grandpa throws.  At first I was hesitant that it really qualified as a custom or holiday/festival but it turned out to be deeply rooted in his family’s history.

Informant: I have to first start by telling you about Papa [this is what he called his grandpa.]  His family grew up in Kentucky but moved to Arcadia when he was born. His father was a horse trainer, and Papa spent a large portion of his childhood at Santa Anita Park.  So fast-forward to when Papa was applying to college.  He was training alongside his dad at this point and won a huge race that ultimately gave him the means to attend USC and the ROTC program.  So the horse races have been super important in his life and many generations before him.  Now every single year he takes all his grandkids to opening day at Santa Anita and every single Kentucky Derby he has a big bash at his house that has been an annual thing since before I was born.

Me: Sounds cool, tell me more about the actual party.

Informant: The party is super traditional to Kentucky, like its set up like Churchill Downs.  Mint Juleps are always served at the door, which is like this minty whiskey drink that Papa takes a lot of pride in even though the ingredients are really simple.  Everyone dresses really nice and there is always someone taking bets.

Me: What about when the actual race goes on?

Informant: Its weird that the big race is only like two minutes, but the party goes on all day.  Everyone just stands around the TV and cheers, most people don’t know anything about the horses but Papa always has some very strong opinions, based on tips from his trainer friends.

Me: Haha ya, never got the hype behind horse racing because of how short the races are.  Would you say this family tradition has rubbed off on you in any way?

Informant: Oh 100%.  I used to take our yearly trips to the races for granted but now I love them.  It gives me some quality time with Papa and I have grown to love the sport, especially picking winning horses when the walk around the paddock before the race.

The horse races, and more specifically the Kentucky Derby, have clearly become very meaningful for my informant and his family.  What probably started as a way to earn a living or a hobby generations ago has now materialized into an annual gathering of friends and family.  The family custom, not only displays their love for horses and competition, but also their dedication to family.  The informant said most attendants had no idea which horse to root for or bet on but still came because it gave them a chance to honor something important to their elder and reconnect with family members.

Folk Beliefs

Farrier Lore: If a horse has a glass eye, he will always kick on that side

Interview

Informant: “Here’s one for a fact. You know how some horses have a blue eye or a glass eye, if that horse is gonna kick, he’ll kick with the side that has a glass eye. That doesn’t mean the other side won’t kick, but if you’re gonna get kicked it’ll be on the side that has that glass eye”

 

Collector: “Why is that? Do you think it is because they do not see as well on that side?”

 

Informant: “I don’t know, I don’t know but if you hit one of em with a whip haha he’s gonna kick. He’ll hit with that one.”

 

The informant is a sweet, older, “cowboy” who has been working with horses and farm animals for his entire life. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier (the highest level of certification by the American Farrier’s Association) and is very well respected in the farrier and greater equine community. He was born in Wichita, Kansas to a family that has been farmers for generations. In fact, the informant said that some of his family is still farming in “places like Oklahoma.” He learned of this lore as a child when he was about ten years old from his father and grandfather while working on the family farm, which included horses and mules. He shod his first horse when he was 13, and has been shoeing horses for about 51 years. * To “shoe” or shod a horse is to put horse shoes on the horse’s hooves. Horses need to be shod about once every six weeks, so quality farriers are highly sought after in the equine community. A farrier is a very specialized and difficult profession because if a horse is shod improperly the horse could become crippled.*

Sometimes a horse has an eye that is a clear, light colored, or blue-ish colored eye. The coloring of the eye does not physically mean anything as far as the informant knows; the coloring of the eye is similar to other animals like malamutes who have eyes of different colors. This piece of occupational lore is especially important for farriers because they work with horses’ feet and can get kicked. A horse kick is definitely something to be avoided because it is very painful and can even break bones. In fact, when asked how he felt about the lore, the informant said “I do know that one about the glass eye, that ones true. Let me tell ya.”  “I’ve been kicked.” Therefore, being aware that a horse has a “blue or glass” eye and a propensity to kick on a particular side would be helpful to avoid injury, especially for someone who has previously been kicked by a horse.

It is interesting that the reason the horse will kick on a particular side is unknown. I wonder if it does have to do with the horse’s ability to see out of a particular eye. Personally, my mother owns a horse and I sometimes work around horses, so I will definitely remember this information and probably pass it on if I ever see a horse with a blue or glass eye. Apparently “Pinto horses,” horses with big spots, are more likely to have blue or glass eyes.

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Farrier Lore: White hooves v. Black Hooves

Informant: “There is an old saying about horses with white feet that a white footed horse is not as good as a black footed horse. They only come in two colors – black and white. But its only pigment so it doesn’t really matter what the color of the foot is. But the saying goes that… uh … if you have a horse with one white foot buy a horse, two white feet try a horse, three white feet look well about him, four white feet do without him.”

* When talking about foot color the informant is referring to the color of the horses hoof. A horse can have a lighter colored hoof which is more of a cream color (like a human fingernail), but the hoof is considered white. A black hoof is true to its name and basically black in color.*

 

The informant is a sweet, older, “cowboy” who has been working with horses and farm animals for his entire life. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier (the highest level of certification by the American Farrier’s Association) and is very well respected in the Farrier community. He was born in Wichita, Kansas to a family that has been farmers for generations. In fact, the informant said that some of his family is still farming in “places like Oklahoma.” He learned of this lore as a child when he was about ten years old from his father and grandfather while working on the family farm, which included horses and mules. He shod his first horse when he was 13, and has been shoeing horses for about 51 years. *To “shoe” or to shod a horse is to put horse shoes on the horse’s hooves. Horses need to be shod about once every six weeks, so quality farriers are highly sought after in the equine community. A Farrier is a very specialized and difficult profession because if a horse is shod improperly the horse could become crippled.*

In regards to this saying, the white horse was assumed to be tenderfooted, which means the horse would not be able to walk on rough terrain. So, the saying implies that when buying a horse if a horse had one white hoof then the horse should be fine and the person interested in buying should go ahead. If the horse had two white hooves then the potential buyer should “try” the horse, meaning that they should ride the horse and see how the horse moves. If the horse had three white hooves than the buyer should be very cautious and thoroughly check to see how the horse’s legs were shaped, the way the horse lands, etc; factors which could affect how prone the horse would be to injury. If the horse had four white hooves, then the buyer should “do without him” and not purchase the horse.

The informant remembers this tale in particular because he found it to be completely ridiculous and untrue. The informant stated, “No, no its not true at all. The color of the foot is simply pigment. It it has nothing to do with the quality of the foot. In other words, you can find horses with white feet running out there across the lava rock out there in the desert and black footed horses that can’t even begin to move out there.”

The informant told me this tale while he was shodding one of the horses in a horse barn. According to the informant, this tale was spread through ignorance and lack of information of horse anatomy. I feel that such an appraisal from a man with this much experience probably indicates that this belief may be false.

general
Legends
Narrative

Stealing Trujillo’s Horse: Family Legend

A family legend as told verbatim by informant:

“My stepfather is Puerto Rican and when he was a young boy his family moved to the Dominican republic in the time of the dictator Trujillo who ran the country for many years and Trujillo imported beautiful Spanish horses to the Dominican Republic and he had an incredible stable of incredible horse flesh that was worth a lot a lot of money. And my stepfather, was very good friends with the dictator Trujillo’s brother and he was young like in his, maybe 18 or 20, and there was a woman, the woman from his town he was infatuated with and she left the town to go somewhere else and he decided he wanted to see her again. And so he had no way of getting to her and so he decided that Trujillo had a stable full of beautiful horses—and my stepdad was an incredible rider, he could ride beautifully, horses. He decided to grab one of Trujillo’s horses cuz ‘what would he care’ and he would go visit this woman that he was infatuated with and in fact he did. But while he was gone, Trujillo found out through his stable hands that my stepfather had stolen, had taken one of his horses and there was a hunt for him. And he came back not knowing this and they brought him in and he said to me, ‘I knew that that frivolous act was going to be the death of me because Trujillo was ruthless’ and he knew he loved his horses. And as it turned out, in the end he was thrown into like a cell and he was worried like ‘Oh my gosh what’s gonna happen to me’ because he realized what he had done was just a stupid thing that a young man who’s in love does, and he got out only because his brother, Trujillo’s brother, BEGGED for mercy because he was one of my stepfather’s best friends. And my stepfather was bit of a Troubadour he was a poet and he sang and he was just a charming man and somehow by the grace of god and a lot of good luck they let him off the hook. But Trujillo has killed, had killed people for less that that. So that’s the story, the true story of his encounter with Trujillo.

I tell this story when I want to tell about my stepdad in his youth and how adventurous and kind of free he was and just really the incredible life he led because he was a young boy there his mother died when he was young and he had an older brother that he adored and that’s the reason he was in the Dominican Republic and not Puerto Rico, his older brother brought him there so he could be close to him and uh he lived this really this like rapacious, I mean he was just a rascal he was charming and a kind of bon vivant and uh just lived this crazy incredible life um as a young man. He had a lot of women and he had a lot of experiences and… he was just uh like a wild child, but wonderful he’d give his shirt off his back for you, but that was just one of the stories of his life. And it’s just like, I don’t know many people that could walk away from a dictator, one of the most ruthless dictators in history and just, you know, just kind of get away with that. Because he was a very lucky man and I like to tell that story because my stepfather’s a very charming and very interesting man who’s lived a very long life. So I like to tell that story.”

A lot of family legends follow some incredible story from the very distant implausible past, but the fact that this story is about a living man is a really interesting place to hear it from. I think that the story is true, given not only the sincerity in the way it was told but the compassion and love my informant had when she spoke about her stepfather. She told me that he is one of few men that truly lives life to the fullest, and thus is full of stories and wisdom because of it. She says she always tells stories about him and does so because she in many ways admires how he’s lived his life the way most people wish they could, with radiance and curiosity and adventure and risk.

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