Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Historical Horse

The Historical Horse

It is generally accepted that the horse descended from a small cleft-hoofed quadruped reaching its present characteristic development thousands of years ago in Asia.

While fossil remains indicate that in prehistoric times horses existed in the North American continent, probably arriving by successive migrations from Asia, these entire races became extinct.

Horses were reintroduced to North America through Mexico by the Spaniards who brought horses with them from Europe on their voyages of exploration. The first ridable horses being brought to the west by Cortez in 1519.

Historians believe that the first use of the horse was by the Babylonians about 1700 B.C. to draw their war chariots. These were low two-wheeled affairs. Others believe that primitive man may have learned to ride before history was recorded.

The Greeks and the Assyrians used chariots extensively in battle and for racing. In 776 B.C. the Olympian Games began. The horse events were so popular that a separate arena was built for them called the Hippodrome. We still show our horses of all breeds in special arenas today. Usually at State or Regional Fairgrounds, but sometimes on private ranches as well. One can find many ranches that maintain small rodeo arenas. These draw much local competition and hone the skills of the modern cowboys and horses for their 'real' work. As much cheering and rooting for one's favorite goes on as did in the Hippodrome of old.

The old prints and paintings of horses depicted in motion prior to 1850 were characteristically incorrect. They showed a running horse with an action similar to that of a dog rather than a horse. It wasn't until the advent of photographs that the artists started depicting the 'correct' horse. Drawings and paintings, prior to 1850 also tended to exaggerate the length of the neck and legs and to depict the horse's head on the small side.

You might have noticed that the Tang horses of Chinese art represent the war horses of the Manchu dynasty. They were depicted with open mouths and heads tossed back wildly. However, that was probably typical of what the poor beasts had to go through while being ridden by the war lords of the time.
Especially considering that the bits that were used in their mouths were huge and cruel of themselves. If the warriors treated their horses like it has been said they treated their enemies, then the horses were much to be pitied.

The horse has evolved along with man from a crude rough looking animal to the beautiful and well cared for stabled equine of today. It is doubtful that todays horses could survive the life of the wild horse of yore.

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