horse book review

horse book review

The Beauty and Power of Horses

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1. The Majesty of Horses

The immense beauty and power of horses can be seen in the form of a wild stallion. He trots and canters gracefully across the open plain, racing with the wind. When a predator nears, he rears and strikes as a warning to protect his herd. The wild stallion embodies the essence of Equus’ genus; showing his wildness that lies beneath the surface. The males of Equus show great power and majesty. They have a presence that emanates strength from every fiber of their being. Stallions will boss and horse around for no reason than to prove their superiority. The bigger horses will usually win these spats, using size to their advantage. Horses seldom display real acts of aggression; a squeal and a kick usually get the point across. The manner in which a stallion displays his dominance is a sight not to be forgotten. He bites and rears, striking with the front hooves, to drive a weaker horse from the area, or sometimes to impress discipline onto his disobedient child. The demeanor of dominance is beautifully displayed on a horse in a subtle way. One can tell much about a horse’s rank by examining the way it moves. High-ranking horses are more expressive and interruptive in the way they move. A dominant horse will walk with high steps, his head and neck held high. He has a buoyant way of walking with a spring in every step, and a sort of prancing jog is indicative of a horse that is very sure of himself. These movements are a show of arrogance, oftentimes offensive. The horse is in essence saying, “I’m so good, that I don’t even care.”

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2. The Bond Between Humans and Horses

Despite the various types of interactions humans have had with horses, the most important and influential may be the simple act of handling the animal. All interactions between humans and horses, such as grooming, leading, and medical care, require proper handling. And although the horse will respond to dominance from a human under any circumstance, studies have shown that the horse is more content in a submissive-dominant relationship, as opposed to a dominant-submissive one. High levels of aggression from a handler will increase aggression in the horse, while a calm and consistent handler will gain more positive results. A horse that was handled in a rough manner can become difficult to work with or handle and may develop aggressive behavior toward humans. This can often lead to neglect or abuse of the animal. A horse that has had good experiences with handling will be easier to train, more willing to cooperate, and more responsive. In any scenario, the horse must trust the handler in order to feel comfortable with the situation. This can be achieved if the handler is consistent and clear in their actions and does not put the horse in a situation where its safety is threatened. It is often said that a horse is a direct reflection of its handler’s personality. This may be the truest testament to the bond between humans and horses.

The horse is perhaps the only animal that has had and continues to have any substantial impact on human civilization. No other species have shared such a long and close relationship as the horse has with humans. The creation of the wheel, which marks the beginning of human civilization, is a prime example of the horse’s impact. Its invention allowed for easier travel and transportation, and it was the horse that provided this means for many centuries. When newer forms of transportation arose, such as the car and train, horses did not become obsolete. They have always remained valuable to humans, whether it be for war, work, or companionship. Today, horses are still kept as a luxury animal and are used in sporting events such as polo and racing, where human participation is key.

Humans and horses have lived side by side for thousands of years. Indeed, many would argue that horses have been integral in the advancement of human civilization, due in part to the deep bond between the two species. The strong connection between humans and horses can be seen in all aspects of horse care and use, from grooming and management to training and riding. This section presents an overview of the various human-horse interactions and discusses how specific types of handling can influence the horse.

3. The Role of Horses in History

In recent history, no notable cavalry charge has been successful. The last cavalry charge in war is said to be the one performed by the Australian Light Horse against the Turks in the Battle of Beersheba during WW1. The Australians waited until sundown. At the time, the Australians were so desperately short of water that the capture of Beersheba and its wells was the only alternative to disaster. With horses and men so desperate for water, they performed a daring charge against Turkish defenses. After many years of failing to capture trench lines in the Western Front, this charge proved successful. In a desperate effort, by nightfall, the 4th and 12th Regiments charged over defenses and into the town. This left the Turkish army in disarray, and their command finally ordered a withdrawal. The capture of Beersheba led to a chain of events that resulted in the fall of Jerusalem in December during the same year.

In addition, many wars have been fought on horseback. Horses provided huge advantages in battle, for example, the great Emperor Attila fought his entire life without once losing a battle. He will go down in history for defeating the powerful Roman Empire, partly due to the advantages that horses gave his troops, which the Roman foot soldiers could not compete with. The advantages of mobility and speed, increase in a man’s fighting strength (from the advantage of having higher ground on horseback), shock action within the initial impact of charge, and pursuit of a routed enemy.

4. The Benefits of Horseback Riding

Improved balance and coordination is a primary benefit of riding. When riding, a person develops better balance and coordination from learning to move with the horse. Also, people that have physical disabilities have improved strength over time. When the rider adjusts to the rhythm of the horse in a walk or trot, the rider is moving his/her pelvis in the same forward and backward motion as the horse. It causes the person to have relaxation in the muscles in the back which can help reduce back pain for some. Riding is also frequently used as an exercise for people with low back pain. The use of the horse’s movement has been shown to be one of the best ways of increasing back strength. Treatment on horseback has also been shown to improve spasticity in individuals with neurological dysfunctions. High muscle tone, or spasticity, is a difficult thing to treat and has many contradictory opinions. However, from a mechanical standpoint, when a rider with high muscle tone is placed on a horse at the walk, the rider is forced to move his/her hips in the same rotational pattern as the horse, which helps to relax the muscles and can help to improve hip joint range of motion. Finally, through having better balance, coordination, and muscle strength, posture is usually improved. Another benefit of horseback riding is that it has been shown to improve the mental health of riders. The calming, rhythmic motion of the horse has been shown to drastically reduce stress levels. The participants in this test experienced an increase in Alpha brain wave activity. This is a type of brain wave seen when a person is awake, but relaxed and not under stress. The muscle activity of the riders was also affected, as there was a decrease in muscle activity and increase in relaxation of the riders. Horseback riding also is an enjoyable experience for individuals, as not only the improved physical fitness, but also as the occasional competitive rider participates in equestrian comps and challenges. Finally, horseback riding is a highly social activity. Many riders become friends with others at the stables, and often the entire family becomes involved with riding. The social aspect and enjoyment of riding has been shown to increase confidence and self-esteem in riders. This is especially important for the disabled, as it significantly increases the chances of the disabled becoming successful and independent in the future. There are also some benefits of horseback riding for physically able-bodied people. For these people, an increase in physical fitness, and the mental benefits of stress reduction and increased relaxation are important. In addition, the rider is able to develop a special relationship with the horse, which is not only a pet, but also a partner. From this, the rider receives a feeling of companionship, and it has been shown that the rider who has a bond with the horse is often kind and gentle towards the horse and others. This carries over into everyday life, and can help the individual become a caring and sympathetic person.

5. The Future of Horses in a Changing World

Many economists debate the future of the horse industry. Some say the horse industry is dying and will become more of a hobby or pastime. Others believe there will always be a market for the produce of the horse industry. Now, more than ever, the future of the horse economy depends on the horse’s role as a companion animal, rather than a working animal. To ensure a sound future, the equine industry needs to promote and establish the welfare of the horse, emphasizing their value as a pet, investment, and leisure/recreational asset. This is especially important in the vicissitude from the industrial age to a technological age. As more jobs become automated and business is conducted through phone and internet, there will be less demand for working animals, increasing their value as companion animals. According to Knight and Harland, there is a need for the industry to collaborate at every level to implement and entrench welfare, ensuring the continual improvement of the preventative and remedial care of the horse. Looking at the changes in government policy and societal views on animal welfare, the equine industry will face increasing pressures to improve their welfare and treatment of horses. The prohibition of whipping in horse racing and other substantive changes to the Australian Racing Industry are indicative of the changing attitudes towards animals and their treatment. This is most evident in the horse slaughter issue. The European Union is increasingly viewing horses as companion animals and not livestock, thus they were unwilling to formally sanction slaughter of horses for human consumption within the EU and went on to sign the Lisbon Treaty, thus raising concerns about the welfare of horses destined for slaughter. This attitude will increasingly prevail in Australia and the US, with potential to restrict the export of horse meat and live horses for slaughter to the EU, US, and other countries that have or will adopt similar horse slaughter restrictions. This is obviously beneficial for the welfare of horses in question but poses questions about the impacts to the owners, breeders, and general horse economy. This will present economic implications for those currently in the slaughter/low-value horse industries; however, it is likely to increase the value of horses as companion animals, especially in countries affected by the restriction and in the long-term future. The horse industry will also need to adapt to changes in society. One of the strongest currents of social change is the increasingly urbanized society and diminishing contact with the land and animals. Pease, quoted in Satchell, states that it is likely that there will be an increasingly diverse demand related to the role of horses and a demand for a greater range of equine activities, with a corresponding growth in recreational riding. Horses will become an increasingly important therapeutic tool.

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