Hart & Soul

15 Feb 2007 1,255 views
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photoblog image The Greatest Show On Earth

The Greatest Show On Earth

When this post publishes at 7p Wednesday night here in Atlanta (for Thursday!), Donica and I will be at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, billed as The Greatest Show On Earth.  We take my grandson, Nicholas (age 6-1/2), every year.  This pic is from last year. 

Sacha Houcke, a sixth-generation circus veteran, is the trainer of this Arabian horse--the oldest purebred in the world and the progenitor of the thoroughbred, legendary for its beauty, elegance and resilient legs.

(For those of you who oppose the circus because of possible cruelty to animals, please click here.)

The Greatest Show On Earth

When this post publishes at 7p Wednesday night here in Atlanta (for Thursday!), Donica and I will be at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, billed as The Greatest Show On Earth.  We take my grandson, Nicholas (age 6-1/2), every year.  This pic is from last year. 

Sacha Houcke, a sixth-generation circus veteran, is the trainer of this Arabian horse--the oldest purebred in the world and the progenitor of the thoroughbred, legendary for its beauty, elegance and resilient legs.

(For those of you who oppose the circus because of possible cruelty to animals, please click here.)

comments (32)

  • Suby
  • Milton Keynes, UK
  • 15 Feb 2007, 00:10
Lovely shot, I do not believe this is animal cruelty, horse look a lot healthy and happy, so because I train my dog to perform some tricks, give him love and show him off to people, does that mean I am cruel???
Ginnie Hart: This is a most interesting discussion, Suby, that I have awakened to today after the circus last night! I'm certainly not too old to learn something important, so my ears are wide open!

Having said that, your parallel to dog tricks was exactly what came to my mind after reading some of the comments. At what point does fun and games stop and "cruelty" begin?

Thanks for stopping by and making a comment.
  • jelb
  • France
  • 15 Feb 2007, 00:19
Stunning shot! Wonderful! Bravo!
Ginnie Hart: Thank you kindly, Jelb.
nice movement, I like how the guy stands firm and the big dog (yeah I know the horse ;-) ) is in movement !
Ginnie Hart: Thanks, Dafredo. The trainer looks like he's conducting an orchestra to me. smile
great action shot ginnie. such a beautiful horse too.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks, Genevieve.
hi ginnie i missed the link for wikipedia on ring bros. as an animal advocate i would have to say that no circus is good for animals. animals just dont deserve to be put on display and made to do silly acts for our enjoyment. ring bros has been noted to be at the bottom of the barrel for humane treatment of their animals. just a friendly tid bit of info for you. any circus using animals in acts is legally banned in Victoria and it should be everywhere else smile
Ginnie Hart: As I mentioned to Suby above, this is a most interesting discussion that I have awakened to today, Genevieve, after the circus last night! I'm certainly not too old to learn something important, so my ears are wide open to what you are saying.

I did not grow up with the circus as a child in Michigan (8 kids from a poor preacher's home). My first circus was in high school. Most of the rest of my experience has been with g'son Nicholas and I'm afraid I haven't done any research to question why the circus is not a fun part of growing up.

I know you are a vegetarian and wonder if the two go hand in hand? That would certainly follow and makes sense to me. I DO have sympathy with what you're saying here and did NOT know about RB and B&B's record. That makes me wonder if that's why their entire show was different last night from other years. A complete mix-up. More people acts and fewer animal acts. Hmmm.

I can say this: when Canada's Cirque du Soleil first came to Atlanta in 1990, it was touted as a circus without animals! Absolutely nothing compares to THAT circus, so maybe that's where our American circus is headed? Last night was much more Cirque du Soleil-ish (tho' nothing will ever truly compare!).

And we'll leave the animals in the zoo?

One more thing: I do believe there are many places out there (hopefully not in Canada) where dogs and cats are treated more inhumanely than any animals at any circus anywhere! And when we read about that cruelty, it breaks all our hearts!
couldn't agree more wit gen, its off the chain.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Atubi. I'll refer you to my response to Genevieve above.
Beautiful shot, Ginnie, but I'm on Genevieve's side...that doesn't take away from the beauty of your photo but it leaves me feeling incredbily sad for any animal having to twist itself around for our pleasure and having to go against it's very nature. We are supposed to be caretakers not users, and this is what this is, plain and simple.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks for expressing yourself, Suzanne. I think it's good when a pic elicits a good conversation. I'll refer you to my response to Genevieve and Suby above, if you wish to read more.

I was interested in your comment about "twisting" because actually this horse was dancing. But the twisting reminded me of all the incredible contortions I have seen humans go through, particulary in the Cirque du Soleil acts, and have often wondered the same thing! I'm guessing they're doing them willingly. Is it ever possible that animals also do "super-natural" acts willingly? I have heard after horse races and dog shows that these animals appear to have their own drive to excel at what they're doing, like they were made for it!
Ginnie, this is a stunning photo! Easily the best I have seen today.
Ginnie Hart: You're a sweetheart, Martin. Thanks.
This photo is wonderful! Hope you had fun at the circus.
Ginnie Hart: We DID have fun at the circus, Karen, even though (as I have said in comments above) it was very different than what we have seen before by the same company. More people acts and less animal acts. Maybe they knew there would be this discussion? smile
Great capture, I have to say that this shot has come out really well. Neat job Ginnie.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks a million, Thomas.
  • nev
  • aus
  • 15 Feb 2007, 04:05
animal arguments aside i think you have captured a wonderful shot here with the static human and the movement of the horse. great shot.
Ginnie Hart: You're very kind, Neal. I have made some lengthy responses to comments before yours, if you are inclined to read them. But suffice it to say to you that this really was like an orchestra to me: the static human was directing the beautiful horse.
Hey Ginnie, this is a very nice photo. The movement of the horse has been captured very well. The exposure is also perfect with the dark surroundings and the horse and human under spotlight.
Your photo brought back memories of my childhood when my dad used to take me to the circus...
Ginnie Hart: Thank you kindly, Kedar. I'm glad this brought back memories from your childhood with your dad. Let's hope and pray there wasn't any cruelty to the animals for your enjoyment!
I've never felt very drawn toward circuses, even when I was a kid. It has nothing to do with cruelty to animals, I am not sure what it is. Personal judgments toward that topic aside, I do like the photo. A little fuzzy, but I understand that probably the light and stillness weren't the best.
I would be very interested in hearing what Nicholas has to say about his experience at the circus...
Ginnie Hart: Without repeating too much of what I've already said, Samira (if you're inclined, you can go back and read it for yourself), this show was totally different from any we have seen from RB and B&B--more people acts and less animal acts. There was a huge puffed up dragon that Nicholas really liked (not human or animal, of course). He also liked the white tigers and the 7 motorcycles in the globe cage.
great timing
Ginnie Hart: Thanks, Chantal.
Excellent work Ginnie
I really like this picture
The movement of the horse is just fab
Ginnie Hart: Thanks a million, Magnus.
Gotta go with Nev for this one and I will not get up on my soap box today !
Ginnie Hart: Keeping the peace, I see, Johnny?! smile Well, feel free to go back and read my responses, if you wish. Regardless, I appreciate your comment.
  • Neil Tandy
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 15 Feb 2007, 10:16
Hiya Gramma Ginn. There are too many activists about, so I will have to stop training the bugs to pose for the camera!! This is a beautiful photo, well worth posting and perfectly captures the grace of the horse and the excitement of the circus - that is what it is all about. Kindest regards to you all. Neil-x-
Ginnie Hart: HA! Activists amongst us??? You're kidding me!

Thanks, Neil, for your kindness, as always.
  • Ruth
  • Michigan, USA
  • 15 Feb 2007, 11:02
That's an amazing, beautiful animal. A very nice photo, well captured.
Ginnie Hart: Thank you kindly, dear sister. There has been quite a conversation this morning, hasn't there! I'm wondering (since you were the youngest of us 8 kids) if YOU have memories of going to the circus growing up? My first circus was when I was in high school!
  • Ruth
  • Michigan, USA
  • 15 Feb 2007, 11:52
I have a very distinct memory of the circus. Dad dropped John and me off (I was quite young) and arranged to pick us up outside, somewhere in Lansing. But his timing was not right, he picked us up before the end, so we missed the most important part: the elephants! It was a bitter disappointment. That's my only circus memory! Sad, eh?
Ginnie Hart: You know, Ruth--the saddest thing about this to me is that Dad didn't go in with you!! It's almost a different kind of "cruelty," but we don't need to go there! He did at least take you! I wonder if it was his idea or yours and John's. Hmmm.
  • chris p
  • the Isle of Wight
  • 15 Feb 2007, 12:30
Its been many years since I visited a circus, hope you have a great time there Ginnie smile
Ginnie Hart: We did have a great time, Chris, even though it was very different from other times. There was a food fight amongst the clowns, for instance, that Nicholas just loved, "especially the dessert!" (the pies). smile
Wow, this is a nice shot. Though I like circus, but i have a soft corner for these animals. Cutting down someones freedom just for entertainment - Naa sad
Ginnie Hart: Others are definitely sympathetic to your view, Sarthak, which I can understand. Thanks for commenting.
  • dotun
  • 15 Feb 2007, 16:31
Oh how sweet, I really wish I could attend one of this shows sometime.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks, Dotun. I'm guessing they make it to your neck of the woods. smile
That's a fantastic shot! Very, very, very well done. It expresses both grace and power.
Ginnie Hart: That's what I thought, Julia. Both trainer and animal!! smile
I like the mix of animal and human, movement and non-movement, colours and "B&W", freedom and a "prisoner", master and servant.... You have definetely brought out some discussions with your pic, and that's a good thing in my opinion... smile
Ginnie Hart: There has definitely been discussion, Aksel. Now I'm trying to assimilate it all! Thanks for your kind comment.
  • mal
  • 15 Feb 2007, 22:37
Wow Ginnie, this is great. Mal
Ginnie Hart: You're back!!! Great to see you again, Mal. Well, this pic sure has stirred up a discussion! Thanks for your comment!
It's a stunning capture visually.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks, Josie. Now I need to figure out the issues it has presented!
  • Mia
  • 16 Feb 2007, 02:04
You... have... no... idea... how this shot reaches out to me and the cruelty and beauty in it wrenches my heart. You've captured a classic shot and the title is perfect.
Ginnie Hart: Thanks for adding your comment, Mia. This pic certainly has elicited quite a discussion!
  • Louis
  • 16 Feb 2007, 09:48
Like everyone said - a great pic and captured the movement in a nice way with focus on the ringmaster.

About cruelty - it all sits in the quality of ownership/curatorship. Even in a circus an animal can perform because it wants to do it for you or it can perform as a routine born of fear. Anyone really close to animals knows that.

Any type of animal ownership/curatorship can be managed with care or careless.

About some of the remarks against circuses etc. No names, no pack drill. I believe that when people want to force their personal feelings, thoughts and emotions on you, then you on the receiving end is in for a rough ride. These emotions know no boundaries. Most 'beautiful' is that some of these people know nothing about animals, just want to speak up for the defenseless. Same people can propagate abortion tomorrow - get rid of some other form a defenseless life. Like I said - no boundaries and to add - no real reason.

This is where people start to force their personal likes on you. The one will force his religion on you and the other forces his anti-religion on you.

Propagate responsible and caring ownership/curatorship. And don't be cruel to animals and people.
Ginnie Hart: It is appropriate to me, Louis, that your voice of reason comes at the end of this stream of consciousness! In the end, I do believe we need to do our own research and make sure we're not part of the problem, if there is one. Once we come to our own conclusion about the matter, we then are responsible to live with our own conscience with integrity.

After all the discussion yesterday, Donica and I asked the question if we plan to take Nicholas to the circus next year. The answer is probably Yes. Everything we saw on Wednesday night was fantastic. Lots of love everywhere. If there was cruelty anywhere, shame on them!
  • Ron S
  • Worcester UK
  • 17 Feb 2007, 16:08
Hi Ginnie,

You have sparked off an interesting discussion and I think Louis has made some very important points. We train animals to do all manner of things. Guide dogs for the blind, sniffer dogs looking for drugs or explosives, search and rescue dogs, elephants working in th jungle or giving rides to tourists, dolphins to patrol submarine bases, donkeys, camels and horses as beasts of burden, oxen to pull ploughs - the list goes on. Then there are the pets that wwe care for, cherish and who become the focus for lour love.
As Louis points out, all these animals can be brought to do our bidding through kindness or through cruelty and it is this latter that we should object to and act against.
There is also another arguement that goes 'Keeping creatures in cages and training them to perform on command for our entertainment is unacceptable because it deprives thee magnificant animals of their freedom and condems them to a life of servitude.' I'm uncomfortable with this arguement. The benefits that animals obtain from a life in benevolent captivity, where there is no fear of predation, little risk of infection, no danger of starvation, protection from the territorial claims of predators and eventually the chance of a death with dignity rather than the risk of being eaten alive seems a reasonable exchange for the loss of freedom. Others may disagree.
Even so, I don't go the circuses with animals and as you point out, there are wonderful alternatives now. The Cirque du Soleil have made to Birmingham UK - wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. We also get a Chinese Circus in Worcester occasionally and they are mind-boggling - like C. du S. you can't believe you saw what you just saw!

Thanks for opening up this discussion Ginnie, I hope everyone feels it's been worthwhile.

On to your photo. Good subject, great action, beautifully exposed. I would have added in the rest of the whip using photoshop just to avoid having an unsupported 'string'. Now the 'but'. It would be so much more powerful if you had caught at least one of their faces, and preferably both. (Henri Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment). That, as I have discovered, is often just a matter of patience.
Ginnie Hart: I am most honored and appreciative, Ron, of your added comment here. As with Louis', I am pleased that your wonderful thoughts are "ending" this discussion. You have articulated many things that I was already feeling but couldn't yet put into words. I'm indebted to you for this!

In regards to getting the faces in, I so much agree with you! However, as so often happens in surround places, you don't always get the option of seeing the faces, as was true in this case. In those cases, is it better to have no shot at all or to get what you get?

Oh yes, I agree with you that I should have added the rest of the whip. Hmmm. I don't think I'm that good with PS yet!
I like this shot, that's all smile smile
Ginnie Hart: HA, Zeb. Easy does it. smile
  • Ellie
  • New Forest, Hampshire, England
  • 24 Feb 2007, 22:39
Oh, aargh! I've just flicked backwards through your blog until I found this picture, which is wonderful by the way, and discovered the huge number of comments.

I have to (need to) add to them, although perhaps not quite as lucidly as some.
For many years I was desperately anti-anything to do with circuses and their animal acts. I had been convinced that to 'make' animals behave in such an “unusual” way was cruel and humiliating.
Then we came to live just outside the New Forest, where there are ponies running free 12 months of the year. I have watched them (both foals and adults) for hours on end, marvelling at their antics and seeing what they will do "for fun" and with absolutely no human intervention. Very much like the pictures you've uploaded later this week.

I know a little of genetics, and inheritance. Offspring inherit characteristics of their parents. Almost all breeds of horses are domesticated; they are highly intelligent; each breed has its own strengths and skills .. mostly bred by mankind for a particular reason ... the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna for example, also Shires and Percherons.

It's easy to tell whether an animal is happy or when it is fearful and cowering. The horse in this picture does not appear to be in the least unhappy and also looks to be in very good condition; the whip is only for effect and perhaps as a Pavlovian-type stimulus, which only ever works when there is a reward offered during training. (think of "clickers" for dogs).

My opinion has completely changed, and I now think it would be a tragedy if both the skill of the trainers and the gene pool of the horses was lost for ever due to the influence of vociferous pressure groups. Mankind is losing too much, too quickly and we do not know when it might be needed again.

And as for cages? Apparently it's a 'popular' way of training dogs these days! Strange old world, isn't it?
Ginnie Hart: I am absolutely astounded by your VERY LUCID response to this pic, Ellie. I can't begin to thank you for your focused, detailed "argument" for where you once were and now where you stand on this issue. I am in awe of your process and how articulately you've raised your voice. Thank you! A big resounding AMEN!
Fascinating! Obviously I'm not the only one that thinks this!
Ginnie Hart: And dear Jen, what is the "this" that you think (since 2 sides have been in this iscussion)? smile

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