I‘ve been editing the next Will Diaz adventure, The Judas Tree. In it, Will and his buddy Jonesy become involved in an old west fashioned man hunt high up in the mountains. Their means of transport is one humans have used for thousands of years, and that’s the horse. It got me thinking about the remarkable animal, so here we go.
Once upon a time, if a man or woman wanted to go someplace, they walked.
The human race wasn’t much back then. We probably lived off the land and that makes for hungry people. Going after anything much bigger than a jack rabbit was an iffy proposition. We had our fire, we had our tents, we had our stone spears and arrows, and humans still walked everywhere they went.
And then someplace along the line they got a great partner called the horse. No one knows exactly how or where the animal was domesticated, but one thing is for sure, we wouldn’t have the world we have today without the horse.
For my money, the laziest person in history is responsible for domesticating the horse. I don’t know if they just plain got tired of walking of if they got tired of carrying the load on their own. But someplace along the way we got hold of the horse. The how of it is lost in the mysteries of time
The first evidence we have of human domesticating horses comes out of Kazakhstan, and this was almost 4000 years before Christ rode a colt into Jerusalem. It seems the horse wasn’t being ridden much yet, but was being used for for its meat and milk.
There is evidence that they were being ridden however. As such they must have made great hunting partners. Mix a horse and a human with weapons like the spear and bow and arrow and we’re talking food on the table.
The evidence found is the animal bones with humans, and these horses are a little different from the wild ponys of the day. The evidence seems to suggest we were already trying to build a better animal using selective breeding.
It wasn’t until almost two thousand years later we start seeing horses as draft animals. While it’s a given they were used to pull wagons with loads, their biggest utility was for war. The first drawing of horses pulling war chariots are found in Mesopotamia.
It’s a cinch that the horse was being used to work the ground and help clear land years before that.
Somewhere around 400-500 BC, the saddle was invented, and the stirrup (though there some debate about this) almost 800 year later.
There were places the horse was unknown. The Native Americans were astonished by it. But when they learned how fast it was, and how it could work alongside people, and become a friend, they knew it had to be some kind of sacred animal.
There’s very few cities or nations around that haven’t been built by the horse. It carried the bricks that made the city, it pulled the carts that carried people to other lands. It turned the soil, and fed millions of souls.
Today, the work it did has largely turned over to machines. Farmers use massive machines to turn the ground. Cities have trucks to deliver laodes of lumber or steel. and the common person gets from point A to B using some mechanized means of transport.
Even ranchers, in some cases, no longer use it, replacing it instead with ATVs and motorbikes.
But in places, the animal is still a valuable ally in survival.
We’d have been poorer as a species had we never befriended the horse.