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These days, 'equine' seems to be a keyword at the Nevada Museum of Art, which launched not one, but two horse-themed exhibits at the beginning of March on its third floor. The first, entitled "The Horse," comes to the Museum though the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

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The other, "Horses in the American West," is locally curated through the Nevada Museum of Art and the Western Folklife Center in Elko, and utilizes both borrowed and owned pieces to tell the tale of the horse in the West.

The Horse Exhibit

Visitors to the Museum might want to start by exploring "The Horse" exhibit due to its much broader look at the connection between the horse and humanity over time. It not only examines the animal across various cultures, but also through numerous depictions and even interactive displays.

"[This exhibit] has been on tour for quite a while," said Amanda Horn, director of communications at the Museum. "This is the last stop. We actually had to work with [the American Museum of Natural History] to extend it because it wasn't supposed to keep going and we asked if we could bring it here. This is the closest to the West Coast it's been. It was in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago, but that was the farthest West it had gone until here."

This special opportunity aside, visitors entering "The Horse" exhibit will first see a diorama of a prehistoric horse, which looks somewhat similar to the modern horse from a distance, noted Horn. They also can see replicas of cave paintings of horses in France, showcasing early creative interaction between humans and their environment, a topic that is dear to the Museum. Visitors can even use a touch screen display to move a horse's ears about and find out what this means in terms of emotion – whether the horse is mad, calm or alert – as well as use the display to discover more about other parts of the horse's body.

"There are a lot of things in this exhibit that you can touch," Horn said. "This is very different for us because we normally are keeping people from touching things."

Beautiful Crow women's attire that might be worn while atop of a horse also is display. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to measure themselves in hands against the height of a horse to see whether they come up to its crest, throat, chest, forearm or other part of the body. A Zoetrope also is on display in "The Horse," showing moving images of a horse at different speeds and helping to prove, years ago, that all four hooves of a racing horse do leave the ground when it is running.

"Around the world, horses are revered in various and numerous cultures," Horn said. "I think that's really what this exhibition shows. It's broad in both time and in geography."

Horses in the American West

The second exhibit, "Horses in the American West," is built upon the image conjured up through Texas Cowboy Poet Joel Nelson's poem "Equus Caballus," the scientific name for 'horse.' Evocative paintings of this magnificent animal by artists such such as Maynard Dixon, J. Craig Sheppard and Frank Stick are an essential part to the exhibit. There also are numerous sketches or prints of horses done by various artists as well as Adam Jahiel prints of working cowboys. As part of this gallery, a video recording of Nelson, reciting his poem, also is on loop. The words to "Equus Caballus" are displayed nearby.

"This [exhibit] really brings it home," said Horn. "This is really specific to Western horse culture."

The response to the focus on the horse at the Museum has been fantastic, according to Horn. The pieces are helping to drive in a different type of audience -- those that might not consider themselves art aficionados, but feel a particular affinity to the animal.

"People have loved it," she said.

Both exhibits will be on display at the Museum through July 3.

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