To see a Horse, to ride a Horse

Horse riding has been a fascinating activity the world over for thousands of years

Horses, like dogs, have deep bonding capabilities with human beings. Well-known American horse trainer, Buck Brannaman, said, “There are things that the horse did for me that a human couldn’t have done.”

Communication between horse and rider increased and deepened in the English style of riding which originated in Europe and was afterwards brought to the US. This style focuses more on the rider’s appearance with a flat, lightweight saddle.

With an estimated 58 million population of horses in the world, horse riding is a popular recreational activity, while horse racing has become a popular sports career, and consequently, bookie software is in widespread use. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says, the US,with a 9.5 population of horses, leads as the country with the largest number of horses. Nine other countries – Russia, China, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Mongolia, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan – have over a million horse population, while Guam and Grenada had the lowest horse population totals. Rwanda and Saint Helena have no horses.

Horses have been around to help human beings for centuries. Circumstantial evidence points to human being making use of horses as far back as 6000 BC. Horseback riding could have begunin 4500 BC. Although the earliest indirect evidence is from 3500 BC, which are jawbone remains of horses in Kazakhstan, Central Asia.Various unearthed horse drawings have placed using horses as far back as 3000 BC while Bronze Age carvings on cave walls show horse-pulled chariots. Nevertheless, the earliest record of horse riding was discovered in an Egyptian tomb believed to be around 1600 BC. During those times, Egyptians employed chariot horses in battle and for transportation.Archeologists are unable to verify which community initiated horse riding, even though Brahmins of India claim to be the first horse riders and Chinese culture records riding horses as early as 4000 BC, with systematic horse breeding horses in 1000 BC. American journalist John Trotwood Moore was so right when he said, “Wherever man has left his footprints in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization, we find the hoof print of a horse beside it.”

In ancient times, farmers were not in the habit of using horses for agriculture as horses were very pricey and a financial drain on the farmer as they needed better quality food than oxen. Also, it was only around 200 BC that harnesses for horses were invented by a Chinese inventor.

However, when horse riding took off, women began riding around the same time as men, and women were also part of horseback cavalry in ancient wars. Furthermore, the expansion of the Silk Road allowed Central Asian horse breeders to sell more horses to China and the Mediterranean countries. This was probably a reason for the significant increase in the horse population during these times. From ancient time and during the Middle Ages, horses were popularly used for riding and to pull wagons.Around 500 AD, better quality camel saddles were produced and accessible, which led to more people switching from horse riding to camel riding. However, with the triumphant battle glories of Central Asian cavalries during medieval times, first the Turks, then the Mongols, made horse riding popular during 800 and 1300.

The world’s favorite horse since long ago, is the Arabian horse Two hundred years ago, Emperor Napoleon of France was among the first people to initiate transporting of Arabian horses into Europe. Arabian horses, thus, became a status symbol in royal courts. When military campaigns changed the horses for the cavalry changed too, and the horses were able to be more agile when soldiers let go of their clumsy, heavy iron protection. In 1817, a three year old grey Arabian colt named Bairactar meaning “flag bearer” was given to the Crown Prince Wilhelm, later King Wilhelm I of the duchy Württemberg, presently part of Germany. Bairactar’s blood dominated the breeding of Arabian horses at Weil for the next 100 years. He was King Wilhelm’s personal horse and was used as a main procreator for 20 years, laying a standard for others to measure up to. Bairactar was, in fact, the forefather of today’s sporting horse.

Furthermore, Bairactar’s breeding method in Europe led to the development of other horse breeding facilities. Until the 1980s, the US was a significant buyer of Arabian horses. However, due to the economic recession at the time, the purchasing point moved back to Arabia.The World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO) was founded in 1970 and registered as a charity, headquartered in the United Kingdom. Today, 82 countries affiliated to WAHO. At the historic launch of WAHO in London in 1970, the late Major Ian Hedley, who had served for 30 years in WAHO’s Executive Committee, said the world saw the Arabian horse in the beginning as a war horse, but he hoped that it would finally become an instrument of peace and understanding.

Horses today, are indeed cherished and cared for by communities, even attributing heavenly qualities to them. Squijim the author said, “Thunder is the sound of hoof beats in heaven.” Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

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