Throughout the collective history of our civilization, man and horses have been a taking a journey together. Before the advent of modern technology, horses were indispensible to men: some of the world’s greatest battles were won by cavalries, men riding atop battle horses, with both equally courageous as the other; pioneers looked for settlements in the heart of America using caravans pulled by hardworking horses; we use horses in the cultivation of our crops, using them the plough the land for planting, and upon harvest time, carry the fruits of our labor. As Head once said,
In like manner in history, sacred, profane, and modern, the horse if found to be omnipresent, sharing in the conquest, in the defeats, in the prosperity, in the adversity, in the joys, in the sorrows, in the occupations, and in the amusements of men. (8) And so in this paper I would like to give salute to horses by taking a look at their history and remember what it once was during the time when our need for them was absolute. While they may not be important now, all the modern conveniences we enjoy would not have been possible without the contribution of the mighty horse. The Dawn Horse
The very first horse was the size of a small dog. He roamed our land some 60 million years ago, well adapted to survive on plants which were abundant in what was once a semi-tropical forest of the Midwest. As time went by, the dawn horse evolved and grew in size. Eventually as the forests gave way to semi-arid plains, the ancestral horse became bigger, and stronger, with longer necks and sturdier limbs to run across vast plains to escape predators. It was two million years ago when the horse evolved into the form that we are familiar with. The Work Horse The horse was first domesticated some 5000 years ago.
It happened on the Eurasian steppes, a vast region that straddles modern day Hungary to Mongolia, when man’s nomadic way of life gave way to a life of settlement. By the time that horses were domesticated, man has already domesticated dogs, cows, sheep, and goats. However, as man became more productive in cultivating the land, they needed a stronger, bigger animal that can be used for transportation and the carrying of heavy objects. Almost all breeds of horses can, at least in theory, carry humans on their backs or be harnessed to pull objects such as carts or plows.
That is why just after a thousand years, the horse was domesticated in all parts of the world. The animal became a universal helper, fitting into human lives everywhere in so many ways. During this time, the horse was man’s sole source of livelihood. The horse was a source of milk, meat, and skin for the making of clothing and shelter. However, the most important contribution of the horse is that it allowed man to travel to places that would have been to far or too difficult to reach on foot. Thus, man became an explorer, a rider who was going places. The War Horse
As time went by civilization became more and more complex. As such, unavoidable conflicts came about. Horses have been intimately involved in most wars of recorded history. Their use in wars has been chronicled to have begun some 2000 years ago, even earlier, at the time of their domestication. Horses were the chariots and cavalries that was the very heart of the battle, after the archers and catapults have done their part. Wars were won and lost by soldiers and warriors riding their horses. Probably, the best-known, most romantic war horse was the destrier, used during the crusades.
They were ridden by the knight of the Middle Ages as he went on a long, uncertain journey to recover the Holy Land from the Muslim invaders. Wars saw many uses for the horse, not just on the glory of the battlefield. They were used for tactics such as reconnaissance and supply. Horses were second only to men in their value during war, and without them, success in war would have been impossible. Today, man has devised more efficient and ingenious ways of fighting one another. But the horse remains in the military, used in ceremonial purposes and parades, in tribute to a bygone time when they were doing battle alongside mankind.
However, it must be noted that apart from ceremonies, the horse is still used by modern armies to narrow and rough terrain that are impossible to navigate by motor vehicles. Even in modern warfare the horse still manages to make itself valuable, providing access to rough and mountainous terrain that would be impossible to navigate using modern vehicles. The Modern Horse Today the modern horse is no longer a war horse or a work horse. While there are still some places where they are used as such, the point is that on the whole, mankind does not need the horse in terms of livelihood.
The main place of the horse in modern times is in sports and recreation; particularly in racing. Horse racing is a very popular form of gambling where you place bets on the horse that will win. In the United States, this is an old tradition and the opening of the racing season is a big event where entire families participate. In sports, the art of riding horses is called equestrian where the winners are determined by the grace and smoothness of the horse as it jumps and runs. In modern medicine, therapeutic horseback riding is used for rehabilitation and therapy of many different types of patients.
It is known to be effective, especially in children. As Willey maintains, “Equine therapy can help the child develop skills in language, sensory integration, fine motor coordination, and gross motor coordination. In addition, equine therapy can help with developing social skills. ” (232) Conclusion From work to war to leisure, the horse has found a valuable place in man’s story through the ages. However, as technology accomplishes most of our daily tasks, the role of horses have become ornamental, recreational at best. It is indeed sad but true, that the days of glorious chariots and caravans are gone.
And in our modern times may we always keep the memory of the rider and his faithful horse, riding into the sunset, hoping that days such as those would never come to pass. And in memory, may it never will. Our horses have served us well, and we shall serve them in grateful remembrance
Head, Sir Francis Bond. The Horse and His Rider. Oxford University. 1861. Willey, Liane Holliday. Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living with the Ups, the Downs and Things in Between. Cont. Luke Jackson. Jessica Kingsley. 2003.