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Pretty Is As ...

In part, perhaps, because of its primacy over the body--and certainly because of the head's limitless capacity for beauty--man has been preoccupied with the head in his relationship with horses. Horse merchants have long known that it's possible to sell a good horse with a plain head to an experienced horseperson, but it isn't easy, and selling a good horse with a plain head to anyone else is nearly impossible. Most people have an idea of the way a horse should look, and 95 percent of that idea is centered in the face. (Not surprisingly, the importance that people assign to facial beauty when they appraise a horse reflects a similar emphasis they assign to facial beauty when they react to people.)

An interesting treatise on the relative merits and demerits of the horse's head can be found in a chapter of a book that was published in this country ninety-three years ago. Entitled The Exterior of the Horse, this lucid, often lyrical account was written by two Frenchmen, Armand Gouboux and Gustave Barrier, and translated by Simon J.J. Harger, V.M.D., a member of the veterinary faculty of the University of Pennsylvania.

Gouboux's and Barrier's apprehension of beauty has stood the test of time as few things save baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolets have managed to do in this century. Beauty, according to these observers, is synonymous with fitness: the perfect adaptation of the organ to its function or of the subject to the service for which he is intended. Defect, conversely, is the lack of adaptation of the thing to the end for which it is meant. An absolute defect--such as narrowness of the face--is one that renders a horse unfit for any utilization: in this case because a narrow face belies an insufficient respiratory capacity. A wide face, however, is the first condition of beauty because it circumscribes the nasal fossae, whose development reflects the horse's respiratory apparatus in general.

Gouboux and Barrier conclude that inharmonious proportions are less common in the head than they are in the rest of the horse. Thus, large nostrils, well-situated eyes, small, widely separated ears, and a generous space between the teeth to accommodate the bit are nearly always coexistent with a broad, handsome forehead.

Such harmony in form and function goes hand in glove with beauty. As Buckminster Fuller once replied when he was asked if he took aesthetics into account when he was tackling a problem: "No. I only think of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."

To contact Phil MaggittiAbout Phil Maggitti

Copyright© Phil Maggitti.
Published here by permission of the author.



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