We’ve all heard that dogs are man’s best friend, but we take issue with that. After all, dogs are bred so that they really have no decision but to like you. They’re pack animals, and breeding practices has kept them in a perpetual submissive state.
Horse are friendly, yes, but the bond with horses is closer to an equal friendship. They retain a heart that is so close to their ancestors, yet still choose to work with humans (especially if you treat them well). But how did we get here? How is it that the horse went from the hardest worked animal to one that’s used almost exclusively for riding pleasure? Let’s take a look at the history or horses in America and how they ended up at our beautiful horse riding school here in Lake Worth, Florida.
Before We Got Here
Did you know that there were no horses in America for about 9.500 years? It’s true. Ancestors of the horse lived in America for millions of years, but they all died off about 10,000 years ago along with other megafauna such as the wooly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers. This die off is attributed to climate change and the arrival of humans to North America. From 10,000 years ago until about 500 years ago, there were no horses or even anything remotely like them.
How They Got Back To America
It’s very likely we have the Spanish to thank for reintroducing the horse to the Americas. They came in search of gold, but they ended up losing some of their horses! Those horses go on to become the “wild” horses you hear about, which could be more accurately described as feral. They were able to lead a relatively unbothered way of life, as many of the largest predators had been killed out 10,000 years before with their ancestors. Horses in America no longer had to fear the dire wolf, American cheetah, or short-faced bear.
Some of these horses were tamed by Native American tribes. The Spanish no doubt also traded horses to the Native Americans, who formed a fast bond with them and used them for riding, hauling, and hunting. Unfortunately, any tranquil paintings you see of Native Americans on horses is actually bitter-sweet: the introduction of the horse came hand in hand with the introduction of the Europeans, which meant an end to their way of life.
Horses In the City
The tale of horses in the city is amazing and disgusting. While most of us think of carriage rides in Central Park when the subject of city horses comes up, it was a much different story in the 19th century. After all, the average horse produces about 22 pounds of dung every day. Oh, and there were about 150,000 horses in New York City by 1900! There was no way to collect it and dispose of it all. What would you do with over 3,000,000 pounds of horse manure a day? Cities were nearly drowning in it, and during the summer the stench was pretty much unbearable. (Of course, this wasn’t just a New York problem. Here’s a “fun” article called “The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894.”
As much as most of us lament the smell of burning gasoline from cars and trucks, the automobile was seen as the solution to the manure crisis and welcomed into cities. With gas power getting people and goods around, horses could be retired, taking their waste with them. Ironically, people in cities today pay good money today for horse manure to fertilize their rooftop gardens!
Horses In the Country
When Americans started farming the land, the primary work animal they had was the horse. Horses were the beasts of burden available, and they certainly worked them as hard as they could in order to grow crops. In many cases, the farmer would spend more time with the horse than he would with his family. But while there might have been some companionship and the horse might have had a name, most horses were worked to the bone in order to farm this new land.
Of course, the bigger the horse the better. A farm horse wasn’t bred for speed, but for pulling a plow. These draft horses (or draught horses, as they would have been called back then) had the muscle, bone structure, and stamina to clear fields of trees and then plow it for years afterward.
Horses in the West
Today there’s no part of the past we associate horses with more than the Wild West. While there were certainly farm horses in the West, many of the horses that you’d see would be better suited for traveling over distance. Land that wasn’t used for farming was used for grazing cattle, and that cattle had to be transported to the nearest railroad to head back East. The cowboy was born. It’s likely that most cowboys had some connection to their horse, since they’d be spending all that time riding them across the states.
And Here We Are
Today the horse is friend and companion in almost every circumstance. Gone are the days of hauling a plow or pulling a carriage. Instead, we employ them for recreation and pleasure. That’s why we have them here in Lake Worth, providing horseback riding lessons for those who want to spend days, months, or years bonding with a horse and learning how to ride. Of course, we also have the horses around for trail riding around Lake Worth, whether you’re here for a family outing or want to have a fun-filled business retreat that looks at Florida from a different angle.
When you love horses as much as we do, we hate to think of what they had to go through to get where we are today. But we’re certainly glad that we live in a day and age where we can enjoy the companionship with horses instead of having to work them so hard. Click those links above so that you can come and meet our friends!