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Eadweard Muybridge’s Galloping Horse

Written by: George Chittenden : 01 Dec 2019

These twelve photographs were taken on June 15th, 1878 and helped to settle and age old question… when a horse trots or gallops, does it ever become fully airborne? It’s believed this unusual endeavour was undertaken after the former governor of California, railroad tycoon Leland Stanford took a bet on whether all four of a racehorse's hooves are off the ground at the same time.

Stanford commissioned photographer Eadweard Muybridge with the task of providing proof. Muybridge had developed a way to take photos with an exposure lasting a fraction of a second. He set up cameras along a track on Stanford’s estate and as the horse raced along, it tripped wires connected to the cameras, capturing these images. It proved that a horse is completely aloft with its hooves tucked underneath it for a brief moment during a stride, something that is imperceptible to the naked eye but apparent through photography.

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