© Musée des beaux-arts de Bordeaux / Photo L. Gauthier
This painting depicts a now-extinct agrarian tradition practised by the Camargue gardians. Until the late 19th century, the mares of manades, or herds of half-wild horses, were used for threshing grain. Animal-powered threshing was most often practised in a field on a threshing floor of earth were the sheaves were brought. The horses were then guided by a conductor standing in the centre of the floor. Armed with a whip, the driver drove the animals around the floor. While in traditional threshing, the horses were tied in pairs, Rosa Bonheur depicts free horses twirling and leaping at the instigation of the whip.