California Riding Magazine • May, 2012

The Horse's West Coast Premiere Opens June 1
San Diego Natural History Museum hosts
remarkable equine exhibition.

Racehorse Lee Atworthy. ©American Museum of Natural History

The Horse, a comprehensive exhibition on the enduring bond between horses and humanity, opens at the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) on June 1 and will remain on view through January 20, 2013. The Horse explores early interactions between horses and humans and shows how horses have, over time, influenced civilization including major changes in warfare, trade, transportation, agriculture, sports and many other facets of human life. The exhibition, which has never before been seen on the West Coast, is included with general Museum admission.

The exhibition showcases spectacular fossils, models, dioramas and cultural objects from around the world. Visitors entering the exhibition are immediately captivated by a high-definition video projection of a beautiful thoroughbred horse moving across a giant screen. A large-scale video and computer interactive allows visitors to peek inside a life-size, moving horse to learn about its anatomy and biology. They also encounter a 220-square-foot diorama depicting some of the horse species that existed 10 million years ago in what is now Nebraska, and representations of the horse in art from the Paleolithic to the present. The exhibition also examines exciting new archaeological discoveries concerning the domestication of the horse and looks at the role of horses in sport, from medieval times on.

The Horse offers numerous activities that invite visitors to measure their strength in horsepower, manipulate a mechanical horse's leg to make the knee lock and unlock, discover characteristics of many different breeds of horses, and look inside a horse with computer kiosks and a life-size, interactive video screen. Visitors can examine different gaits of a horse by looking through a zoetrope—a precursor to the modern movie projector—at the revolutionary series of photographs taken by the famous photographer Eadweard Muybridge. (Muybridge's photographs proved that horses' hooves are all momentarily suspended at points in the trot and canter, a hotly debated point in 1877.)

Throughout the exhibition, visitors will be asked to identify objects such as a Roman horseshoe, a stirrup, a harness ornament, and a whip used in buzkashi, a polo-like sport played in Central Asia.
In San Diego, the exhibition is sponsored by the Del Mar Racetrack, Blenheim EquiSports, the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation, WWW Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. The Horse is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage; the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau-Ottawa; The Field
Museum, Chicago; and the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Accompanying the exhibition, in theNAT's fourth floor gallery, will be a spectacular photography exhibition by acclaimed photographer Robert Vavra, universally recognized as the world's premier photographer of equines. Vavra's Vision: The Equine Images of Robert Vavra showcases the vivid, fresh, and very personal way that Vavra photographs horses. It delves into the world that Vavra had created through his lens for the past 60 years while circling the globe. In photographs, in film and in print, Vavra's images capture the strength, beauty and wisdom of the horse. 

The San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution in California and the third oldest west of the Mississippi. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum's mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of Southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico; and to inspire in all people respect for the environment.

For more information, visit the San Diego Natural History Museum online at