History of Horses
The history of horses shows that long before Thoroughbred Horse Racing, Grand Prix Show Jumping, and other equestrian games, horses were used in a very practical sense. They were used for work and transportation. Very few horses were owned for pleasure, and most all were owned out of practicality.
Whether the task was to pull wagons or coaches, plow fields, or to travel distances, it was necessary to have strong and reliable horses to get the job done.
Although very little is known about the horse prior to domestication, or even how the horse was domesticated, the history of horses illustrates that man and horse developed together.
We also know that the horse was first used as a food source prior to being domesticated, The evidence of this is found on the walls of ancient caves. In addition, over 40,000 horse bones have been found in the rock shelters of Solutre, France. These bones were over 25,000 years old.
The history of horseback riding also shows us that the horse was once extinct in North America. Interestingly enough, the horse disappeared right around the time man appeared, suggesting that the animal was actually hunted to extinction.
Eventually man did discover that the horse could be used for something other as a food source. The walls of caves throughout the Old World contain drawings that indicate that domestication of horses likely occurred around the world at approximately the same time.
Evidence is found in China that shows that the Chinese were riding horses as early as 4000 BC. However, it was in the European countries when the horse was integrated into everyday life as a draft animal.
With the horse, these primitive cultures were able to enjoy freedom like they had never had before. They were able to travel vast distances on horseback. The horse was next used as a tool in warfare as countries and cultures collided and exploration of the Earth continued via horseback.
The horse has had more impact and significance in the building of civilization than any other animal. Although oxen were ideal for rugged terrain and working small plots of land, the horse offered swift transportation as well as being superb beasts of burden. This was not only beginning of the domestication and use of the horse in daily life, but was also the start of horse back riding.
The history of horseback riding shows that two popular disciplines of riding evolved over the years, English and Western. These also refer to the saddles used. Both disciplines are very similar in nature with just a slight difference in seat position and leg position. The saddles, however, are substantially different with the western saddle having a deeper seat, cantle and horn, than the English version. Western saddles are designed to allow a cowboy to ride comfortably for days at a time and to work a rope.
Ancient cultures either rode bareback or used a simple piece of leather around the horse, akin to today's Bareback Riding Rodeo competition.
Today, the role of the horse has changed drastically. While many horses are still used as our ancestors once used them, such as in the Amish communities, today they are used primarily for pleasure and competition. Horse breeding is now over a $40 billion industry with a horse population of over 9 million.
Horse conformation, or Equine conformation compares the horse's bone structure in relation to it's body proportions. These comparisons usually determine what the planned "use" of the horse may be. A horse with good form for one task may have poor form for another task.
Popular Horse Breeds
Horseback Riding Guide