Whether you’re a dedicated horse lover or not, you can’t help but admire the majesty and beauty of these gentle giants. The connection between humans and horses dates back thousands of years, with these animals being depicted in some of the earliest human artworks found in Lascaux in France. Horses have enriched humans’ lives for a long time and in many different ways, acting as transport, entertainment and companions as well as much more. Here we’ll take a look at the principal ways in which horses have helped humans over thousands of years living side by side.
One of the main ways in which humans have utilised the horse is as a form of transport. Horses are faster and stronger than humans and can keep moving for much longer then we can. They don’t need much sleep, only 4-5 hours a night, and once they’ve been trained properly, are fairly easy to keep control of. They can also be boarded overnight in unfamiliar stables; this is an important point as a lot of other animals large enough to use as human transport won’t accept this. Although they can be fussy eaters, their main diet of grass, hay and grain exists in most of the world and they will always enjoy a nutritious fruit or vegetable treat with relish.
After transport, one of the most common ways humans have used horses over the years is in human warfare. For many years, if you could get hold of and train a good warhorse, then you’d have a height, speed and strength advantage over your enemy’s foot soldiers. Horses have been used to charge the enemy, reconnaissance the battle ground or enemy’s position, raid enemy camps, send communications and supplies, and to carry out rescue missions. Their unique relationship with people has led to them being recognised for their bravery with special medals and being remembered as loyal friends on the battlefield.
With their superior speed and muscle strength, horses have been part of the sporting world since humans first started riding them. The chariot races of Ancient Rome were legendary, and the tradition of horses at the Olympic Games continues to this day. Modern equine sports include gymkhanas, the royal sport of polo, show jumping, jousting, rodeo, archery from horseback and, of course, racing. Many traditional sports like horse racing, cerebral games like blackjack and the appreciation of crafts like poetry can now be enjoyed online, proving that these classics have found a way to endure even in the current entertainment climate.
Bovine animals like oxen were more commonly used for labour in ancient civilizations, but horses have also been widely utilized in agriculture, the transport of goods, hunting for food and rescue operations. As previously mentioned, horses are fast and respond well to training so, once people started breeding bigger and stronger horses, they could use them for tilling the fields and pulling laden carts. Much like in warfare, hunting animals from horseback gives humans a definite advantage over their quarry, but likewise it also makes it possible to rescue people from difficult situations. Horses became an essential part of the fire service for many years, before being replaced with machinery.
As well as physically rescuing people from dangerous circumstances, horses have been found to aid in the recovery and management of both physical and psychological ailments in humans. Riding, grooming and feeding horses is used by many therapists as a way to work with patients who have difficulty expressing or controlling their emotions, as horses tend to pick up on and mirror human emotion. They can also be used to help with people’s balance, motor skills and to build up strength after a period of illness. The success rate of equine assisted therapy may have something to do with the fact that it doesn’t feel like traditional treatment, but instead helps people to forget their problems and focus on the animal instead.
Many people choose to spend time with horses simply because they love to be around them. Caring for and riding horses as a hobby has many benefits, including getting out and about exploring the outdoors, seeking peace and quiet, practicing mindful activity and taking responsibility for the care of an animal. People can develop deep and meaningful emotional bonds with horses when they spend time with them, and this can be beneficial for everyone involved. For many of the same reasons that horses work well as a therapy animal, they can be a beautiful and soothing companion for humans.
Horses are fantastic creatures that humans have cultivated a special bond with over thousands of years of life together. Perhaps only dogs would supersede the interspecies relationship between man and horse as loyal companions, but I’m sure that many horse enthusiasts would argue that horses have proven to be the most devoted friends.