A book and an exhibition dedicated to the horse at Casina di Raffaello in Villa Borghese in Rome on the occasion of the 86th Piazza di Siena competition, the most important competition in Italy where riders from all over the world meet.
The exhibition “Cavalli, a family passion” exhibits objects collected in over 15 years of collecting in various parts of the world. Artistic but also curious objects from the most disparate uses.
The book is written by Claudia Bettiol and Maria Vittori, mother and daughter, and is entitled “Stories of women, men, horses and art” and tells stories alongside some of the exhibits and the countries where they were purchased. From the introduction of the book:
Those who love horses have a special gene!
When you have this horse-gene, you mould your existence to that of the horse, and you are happy. You will never see someone looking sad while they are riding, for horses convey joy.
Just look at those who get up at 5 a.m. on winter mornings, even if it’s raining or snowing, so they can feed and clean their horses and make sure they are well cared-for. And in the summer, you see them sweat … but they are happy. It’s hard to believe, and it only happens with horses.
It was with this sprit that we first made contact with the world of horses, back when my daughter was 5 years old, and since then we have never left it.
But being the parent of a ‘rider’ is no easy task, what with all the hours spent out in the cold, watching lessons, the mornings when you have to get up at 4 a.m. to take part in the first competitions, plus the fact that all your weekends are devoted to riding events.
The risk of having a child so absorbed by horses is that you can fail to help them broaden their horizons, encouraging them to experience other tastes of living tied to man’s forms of creative expression such as art, music and painting. With this in mind, I began a parallel effort to introduce children to art by approaching it through their passion for horses.
It all started when, as we would make our way around Rome, London or Brussels, my daughter would point out to me all the equestrian statues that adorned these cities. Every time we went to Rome, we had to go to Piazza Venezia and see the ‘horses on the roof’- the equestrian statues atop the monument to the unknown soldier.
We began visiting museums, stopping only to look at paintings where there were horses, at which point my little girl would explain the animals to me, for de- spite being so young, she was able to point out details of how they were standing, of their parts, or of other particulars that viewed the artist’s mastery from a different angle.
I began buying only story books that revolved around horses, to encourage her to read, and I picked up small items of art from around the world, seeing that, at the time, I had to travel a great deal for work. Toys were no problem, as she never played with anything else, and so their numbers kept growing over the years.
At a certain point, friends would bring horse-themed gifts back from their travels too, and so, over time, the collection began to take shape.
For years it was displayed where everyone could see it, when we lived on the grounds of a riding stable, and then we stored it in the closets of our home, until we met up with the Toy Museum of Zagarolo.
The tie with the museum gives a great many children the chance to discover this world, filling us with considerable satisfaction and joy over the path we have decided to take together.