The annual Michigan Renaissance Festival attracts over 250,000 visitors every year. By far the most popular event is the knights jousting on their mighty steeds. BUT did you knw that the horses of that era were actually not as large as the ones used at most Renaissance Festivals?
Depiction on the Bayeux Tapestry of the death of Harold in the Battle of Hastings
FEUDALISM AND CHIVALRY
Until the Norman conquest at The Battle of Hastings in 1066, the people in England lived on their own farms. They owned the land they lived on. William the Conqueror said that he conquered the land and it ALL belonged to him. He divided the land up and gave it to the knights who had helped him conquer the land. These knights became known as lords. The lords gave some of their land to
other knights who would fight for them. They also gave land to peasants and serfs who had to give part of everything that they raised on the land to their lord. Everyone in England served someone else; this system is called feudalism.
BECOMING A KNIGHT
Training to be a knight started when boys were very young. The son of a knight did not usually go to school. Until a boy was seven, he might be taught a little by his mother at home or by a priest. Then he would be sent to live in the castle of another knight as a page. A page had to learn how a castle was run. He also learned how to ride well and to handle weapons. When he was fourteen, if his master was pleased with him, the page might become a squire. The word ‘squire’ comes from the French word ‘escuyer’ meaning ‘shield-carrier’. The young squire learned about how to be a knight by going with his master to war and tournaments, carrying his shield, helping him put on his armor before the battle and looking after his horses. The squire had to keep his master’s equipment ready and bring it to him when it was needed, even in the midst of a battle. By the time he was twenty-one, the squire might be made a knight, and hope to be given some land
by his lord.
TRAINING THE KNIGHT
Knights were always “in training.” They needed to be prepared for a possible battle or war at all times. That was their job! The daily life of knights started at dawn when they would go to Mass. Knights took time to pray several times a day. Throughout the day the knights would discuss battle tactics and strategies among themselves. In the morning knights would engage in weapons practice at the quintain and the pell. The pell was a post in the ground that the knights used to practice striking with their swords. They practiced with wooden swords that were four times heavier than their real swords so that they could develop upper body strength. They also used the pell to practice throwing spears, battle axes, hammers and other weapons. A quintain was used to help train a knight in the use of the lance. It consisted of a shield and dummy which suspended from a swinging pole. When the shield was hit by a charging knight the whole apparatus would rotate. The knight’s task was to avoid the rotating arms and not get knocked from the saddle. In the afternoon a knight worked on increasing his skills in horsemanship or he would go hunting or inspect the estate with the lord he served.
THE KNIGHT'S HORSE FOR TOURNAMENTS & BATTLE
During the Middle Ages horses were classified by their use, not by breed like we do today. The most valuable horse in the medieval stable was the horse of the knight, the “destrier.” The word destrier, meaning “right-handed” comes from the fact that the knight held a lance under his right armpit, passing it over the horse’s neck on its left side in order to hit his opponent. The horse needed very special training too. The horse needed to run directly towards another rider. That is a very unnatural thing for a horse. The horse also had to learn to gallop on the right lead. That means that the right front leg advances and touches the ground to a greater extent than the left one. This was
necessary so that the horse could be ready for an impact coming from its left. The momentum of the moving horse actually gave the blow its power so it was important that the horse was fast as well as strong so that he could accept the blows as well as help his rider deliver the blows.
The Destrier was a very valuable horse so the knights even had rules to protect their horses. In tournaments, there were penalties if a horse was purposely hurt by an opponent. The horses of the knights were so valuable that they wore armor too in order to protect them from injuries. The armor for a horse was called barding. The horse helmet was called a chamfron and was designed to protect the face. The segmented plates covering the neck were called the criniere. The breastplate or peytal covered the shoulders and chest and the croupiere covered the hindquarters.
For tournaments, the armor was covered with colorful embroidered cloths that identified the knight by his heraldic emblems. These coverings were known as caparisons. There is a general misconception that these horses must have been massive but they weren’t. If you go to a museum and see some actual armor from the Middle Ages, you will be surprised that the horses were no bigger than most riding horses today; the destriers were about fifteen to sixteen hands. That
may seem small but that is still larger than most of the other horses of the Middle Ages. Most horses in the Middle Ages were the size of large ponies.
OTHER HORSES USED BY KNIGHTS
Horses were not yet classified as breeds, but referred to as types and each type had a different use.
Knights only used the Destrier for battle and tournaments. Most knights also had other horses.
Coursers were light, fast horses. They were the most common medieval warhorses. They were
more expensive and better quality than Rounceys, but not as expensive as Destriers. Coursers were sometimes preferred over Destriers in battle. The Courser was better for hard battle and fast pursuit because of their speed and stamina. Coursers were also used for hunting. Hunting was reserved for the noble class.
Often times animals were hunted with dogs that were scent or sight hounds, depending on the animal they were hunting. The most popular hunted animals were deer, boar, wolves and hares. Hawking was also a popular form of hunting. Hawking or Falconry was the sport of hunting small wild game or birds with trained birds of prey like hawks, falcons and eagles.
Coursers were used as messenger horses too. Messengers were a vital link to court and government communication. They accompanied envoys to court, and they apprehended criminals so they would need a good fast horse for all of that.
The Rouncey was the most affordable horse and usually the animal of choice for a poorer knight or squire. Rounceys were rather plain, general purpose horses who were also used for riding and as pack horses but never for pulling carts. They could also be trained for war. Rich knights supplied their attendants with Rounceys. They varied greatly in characteristics; virtually any sound and reasonably fast horse was called a Rouncey.
pLike all European monarchs, the Habsburgs had an extensive collection of carriages. Until his death in 1916, Emperor Franz Jozef I, married to the famous Empress “Sissi,” almost exclusively used horse-drawn carriages. The Imperial stables in Vienna exceeded all others in their magnificence and size. Around 1900 there were no fewer than 600 driving and riding horses stabled at Schönbrunn Palace, mostly Lippizaners and Kladrubers. The Imperial Mews contained about 400 carriages; the state carriages for personal use by the Imperial family (some of which dated back to around 1750), other town carriages, all kinds of service carriages, and a large number of sporting carriages in all possible models. The Viennese Fiaker still say that no fewer than 250 carriages could be harnessed at the same time! About 400 members of staff including coachmen, footmen, grooms, and many different kinds of servants were permanently employed in the stables. Each stable had its own workshop for small repairs, a smithy and a saddlery. The massive collection of vehicles and the incredible treasure of harness were permanently kept in perfect condition.
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a large number of the carriages were sold. Fortunately, most of the state carriages were returned, as well as the most interesting sporting and service carriages. They now constitute the world-famous carriage museum in the renowned “Wagenburg” at the Schönbrunn.
A dress chariot built in Vienna around 1850 by the Imperial Carriage builder, Armbruster, was sold around 1870 and was rediscovered 125 years later in the props of a Hollywood film studio. When Gloria Austin purchased the carriage, it was in a dreadful state of disrepair and decay. But her passion for the historical significance of the horse and the carriage in history encouraged her to undertake the a challenge of restoring this remarkable carriage.
The incredibly difficult restoration assignment was given to the Belgian restorer, Patrick Schroven from Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Waver, who had already proved able to take on such massive jobs among other things by means of the reconstruction of the magnificent English Road Coach “Commodore.”
He began work in July, 1998. After 10 months of research, travel and investigation, the actual restoration began. All the woodwork, ironwork and painting were carried out in his workshop. Due to the huge extent of the project, about 60 expert craftsmen were called in from 7 European countries (Belgium, Austria, Germany, England, the Netherlands, France, and Sweden)
The craftsmen and women included: a metal-turner, a wheelwright, a wood-turner, a smith, a wood-sculptor, an iron-founder, a copper-founder, a gilder, an ivory cutter, a cane-weaver, a glass-turner, a patternmaker, a chaser, a braid-maker, a gold-embroiderer, a saddler, a passmentrymaker, a fabric-weaver, a tailor, a wigmaker, a whip-maker, a button-maker, a hatter, a lace-maker, a gold-leaf expert, a lamp-maker. The co-ordination alone for all these people and the personal supervision of each stage of the activities was a full-time job for Schroven for 18 months.
Such a magnificent carriage had never before been found in such a dilapidated condition and renovated completely. Techniques were used that had not been employed for 80 years. The restorer faced all difficulties head-on; no compromises were accepted. All materials used had to be identical to the original; from the incredibly fine silk-velvet hammercloth that covers the imposing boxseat to the delicate coachlace that is used to trim the cushions to the real 23.5 carat double thickness gold-leaf that covers large parts of the undercarriage and the body to the buckles on the shoes of the coachman’s livery!
After 30 months of effort, many sleepless nights, and thousands of hours of labor, the masterpiece reached its completion. The formidable carriage was exhibited during the open days in Achel, Belgium on November 17th to 19th, 1999, thanks to the famous harness-maker Henk Van der Wiel. It was Europe’s final opportunity to admire this unique carriage before it left for the USA and to its home at the Florida Carriage Museum in Weirsdale, Florida.
This Armbruster Full Dress Chariot, or as it is called lovingly by some the “Golden Carriage,” is the only full-state carriage in the United States, and it’s on display in Central Florida. Be sure to read the full story off the history of the carriage, the Hapsburgs and the restoration in The Golden Carriage and the House of Hapsburg
From the Egyptian archers to the chariot races held at the Circus Maximus during the period of ancient Rome to the draft horse pulling competitions held today at the local county fair, horses have been laboring to entertain and benefit mankind for over 6,000 years. Used for transportation, industry, commerce and warfare horses have been outfitted for the specific job they were to perform. A key to the efficiency of man’s utilization of the horse was the creation of the harness.
Through time the harness has evolved, but the mechanics of the basic harness that we use today has not changed for generations. Contemporary drivers should appreciate how the harness has been modified over time for a particular job and appreciate the diversity of the various types utilized today.
The first harness was a modification of the yoke type harness used with oxen that were put into draft long before the horse was used to pull a wagon. This ‘neck and girth’ harness ( "a" below) was light weight. Straps were placed around the horses’ neck and girth that met at the top, by the withers, where the yoke would come to rest connecting the two horses. The pole of the chariot would rest in the crotch of the yoke and be strapped securely so the horses could pull, stop and pivot the carriage.
Some time later the Chinese invented the breast collar type harness "b" below) for pulling their heavier two-wheeled carriages with a single horse. The shafts often curved high above the horse’s withers with the point of draft attachment at the horse’s sides. Around 100 BC, the Chinese went on to invent the ridged full or neck collar ("c" below) that we are familiar with today. It took many generations for these innovations to find their way into western cultures. The ridged collar finally arrived in Europe around 700 AD.
This ridged full collar, that was specifically designed for the contours and work of the horse, is considered by some historians to be more revolutionary than the invention of the automobile. It allowed one man and a horse to do the work of 50 men laboring in the fields to produce food. This left 49 men to invent new ways of doing things and to barter for food produced by the man with the horse and plow. It allowed the dark ages to evolve into the Renaissance and move to the Age of Enlightenment and then onto modern times. Through the efficiency gained by man utilizing the horse and the resulting increased productivity, a surplus of food begins to occur. This “surplus” contributes to the development of the social system called Feudalism (where the horse becomes pivotal in warfare and agriculture). Feudalism can be considered as the start of capitalism, with wealth created through surplus. This increased productivity obtained by man utilizing the horse in early civilization to obtain “value or wealth” from the land, contributes to the value that is placed today upon land ownership for sites for farms, factories and homes.
The breast collar and full collar harness are the types we utilize today and their modifications can be appreciated based on the job at hand. The breast collar which rests just above the point of the horse’s shoulder is more commonly used with light-weight carriages and less formal carriages equipped with a movable single tree. The full collar is generally used with heavier, more formal carriages. The breast collar has its advantages in that it is easier to fit to the horse in comparison to the full collar which needs to fit each horse individually. In addition, just as we have a coat for enjoying cool summer evenings and a different coat for the windy snowy days of winter in years past a horse was sold with two full collars, one for winter and one for summer.
The style of carriage, the type of driving and the breed of horse all influence the driving horse’s ‘clothes.’ Just as we wear formal evening attire to a gala ball and an athlete wears specialized shoes to play their favorite sport, the horse has to be ‘suited’ or harnessed correctly for the job to be done.
It is fascinating to try to list all of the various jobs that horses in draft still have today. They have been in the service of humans for thousands of years and their modern day “outfits” (harnesses and carriages) are all slightly different. Today there are many ways that equines are used for driving.
Amish – The Amish drive black and gray enclosed traditional Amish style carriages … black democrat wagons or black road carts. Known as a “plain people,” they use a practical harness for roadwork. They drive either trotting or pacing horse; most commonly of the Standardbred, Morgan, or American Saddlebred breeds and of solid dark color. The Amish do not believe in adornments so these turnouts are very somber. Because of extensive road work they often use overchecks and full martingales.
Arena Driving Trials – ADTs have dressage, cones and arena obstacle components which do not require the large tracts of land that are necessary in Combined Driving. The carriage and harness need to be sturdy and are newly designed to withstand the riggers of racing through cones and hazards in tight quarters. These events often have special classes for multiples, ponies, drafts and very small equines (VSEs) as well as the most common single horse
Breed Show Driving – In addition to classes where competitors show their particular breed of horses in hand and under saddle, contestants in these shows also exhibit their horses harnessed to a lightweight show cart with wire bicycle-type wheels with what is called a basket for the feet of the driver to rest. These classes are most often offered at Morgan, Saddlebred and Arabian horse shows. They use a light harness most often with bearing reins. Driven to these light carts, the horses are shown inside the ring on a flat, smooth surface. Some breeds offer “roadster" classes where the cart’s baskets are removed and the driver’s feet are placed in what is called stirrups. The driver wears racing silks to simulate standard bred racing. Some breeds offer Viceroy Classes. This is a lightweight four-wheeled wire-wheeled carriage designed for moving in the ring at a high rate of speed. The harness is lightweight and referred to as a “fine” harness since it does not face the riggers of driving over rough terrains up and down hill and over bridges. Many breed shows now include a Classic or Country Pleasure Driving Class where the lightweight carts often have wooden wheels.
Chuck Wagon Races – Primarily Quarter Horses/ thoroughbred type horses are raced in the American West to modern versions of the buckboard or chuck wagon. The yoke is carried between two horses from the base of the collar and the harness must be newly made and suitably strong to withstand the rigors of this extreme competition. With two or four horses, they compete on a variety of track surfaces - groomed exterior or interior track, in an arena or in an open field and with outriders accompanying each turnout
City Carriage Rides – Many major cities today offer the public the opportunity to enjoy a carriage ride through the city streets. From guided tours, to weddings, to traditional taxi service, the city carriage rides remain popular. The carriages are often white for greater visibility or may be highly decorated to celebrate a special occasion or the season. These horses and carriages are many times transported significant distances each morning and evening into the city. The operators of these services maintain a large stable of horses to preserve their strength and maintain their care. Drivers go through an extensive apprenticeship program to qualify as a driver of a carriage that is surrounded by all of the hazards of modern city driving and tourists in places like Frankenmuth, Michigan. Traditional draft harnesses are utilized with most carriages.
Coaching – There are coaching and four-in-hand clubs that have meets and promenades for their enthusiasts. Pleasure Driving shows sometimes offer coaching classes as part of the multi-day program. Traditional driving competitions often offer a special division for coaches. Most frequently, drivers use restored antique coaches of either the “park drag” or “commercial road coach” design. Today the Polish are making reproduction coaches that are hardly indistinguishable from the originals that serve as their models. The harness must be of a traditional style to go with the particular style of coach; dressy all black harness with a park drag and special road coach harness with brown collars with the road coach. Horses or ponies of any breed, which trot and are sized right for the coach are proper for these contests. Matching the horses’ color, stride and head carriage is a desirable characteristic for judging. Drivers try to replicate the turnout and style of driving (four-in-hand) used generations ago. Occasionally, a light colored horse is used as one of the lead horses when driven to a commercial road coach. Called a ‘light horse,’ it was positioned so as to be more visible at night. On a park drag, one could drive horses of contracting color on either side which was called a “cross-team” or “checker board team.”
Combined Driving – A modern presentation carriage, newly built marathon carriage or combination vehicle are required for this event. Presentation and marathon harnesses or combination harnesses are utilized for these driving events. Whether of synthetic or leather, the traces are often reinforced with nylon webbing. Any breed of horse or pony that trots can be used. These events consist of Driven Dressage, Cross Country Marathon and Cones Driving; the competition takes place over two to three days. Generally a breast collar type harness is used in the marathon and dressage and cones competitions. However, some feel a horse has freer shoulder-movement at the trot in a full collar type for dressage and cones.
Distance Driving – A strong lightweight wooden wheeled carriage (generally two wheeled) is used. Any practical and lightweight harness that is comfortable for use over long drives is the desirable configuration.
Draft Horse Pull – Draft horse pulls are a favorite still today at many county fair. Any breed or crossbreed of heavy horse is used. Practical, strong undecorated heavy-horse or draft horse harness is used. The teams (pairs) of horses pull either a stone boat or a weighted sled provided by the competition.
Draft Horse Show – Draft breeds are shown in competition with colorful hitch wagons. They use decorated heavy horse harnesses. Horses are driven in single and multiple hitches. In single horse classes, large phaeton carts, Meadowbrooks, other types of road carts are used. The horse’s manes and tails are braided with colorful ribbons to add to the glitz and glamor. These competition horses are sometimes called “hitch horses” since they are bred with longer legs than the typical draft horse. In comparison, traditional draft horses were bred with short legs so their centers of gravity would be close to the ground for pulling heavy loads
Driven Dressage – Sometimes part of a pleasure driving show and a mandatory part of combined driving competitions … horses in these classes can be harnessed to any lightweight carriage. The carriages often have brakes to steady the horse in transitions. The harness is typical pleasure driving harness and any breed of horse, pony or mule that trots can be used to pull these carriages
Driven Dressage – Sometimes driven dressage part of a pleasure driving show and a mandatory part of combined driving competitions. Horses in these classes can be harnessed to any lightweight carriage. The carriages often have brakes to steady the horse in transitions. The harness is typical pleasure driving harness and any breed of horse, pony or mule that trots can be used to pull these carriages
Harness Racing – The American Standardbred horse is raced on a well groomed track in a light wire wheeled sulky. Races take place at either the trot or the pace. The harness is extremely lightweight and the excitement is felt by just listening to the crowd in the stands!
Pleasure Driving – The name Pleasure Driving comes from a class of carriages that were used for leisure outings to the park or to visit friends. Competitors use suitably restored antiques or antique reproduction carriages and are teamed with any breed of light horse or pony that trots. Horses are judged at the trot, walk, and halt. A judge evaluates turnout, reinsmanship and performance. Speed classes in the ring and cross-country courses are driven at the trot since this is the classical gait of the driving horse. The harness that is utilized is matched to the type of carriage. One uses a gig harness and fancy moving horse when driving a gig … a phaeton harness when put to a phaeton … and a runabout harness when presenting a runabout. Drivers and passengers are to be in conservative contemporary attire appropriate for the event. Grooms are to be dressed in historic stable or full livery depending on the type of carriage. The more formal carriages, more required formal livery. Some events offer commercial vehicle classes where light draft horses and mules are often appropriate. Gaited (ambling) horses are generally not judged in pleasure driving since the trot (a gait sustainable over long distances) was the gait of the driving horse. Some shows do offer special classes for gaited driving horses.
Private Driving – This term is used in England for competitions with traditional carriages. Horses are judged on manners and performance at the trot, walk, and halt. Driver and passengers wear either “country or city” attire dictated by the type of carriage being driven in the competition. Grooms to the carriages are also dressed in historic livery.
Recreational Driving – Recreational drivers can use any type of sturdy carriage and a well-fitted comfortable harness. Any breed of horse that either ambles or trots is used for the experience. The American Driving Society offers awards for hours of cumulative driving by its members.
Traditional Driving – Competitors drive restored antique or new antique-type carriages with traditional-styled pleasure driving or commercial harness appropriate to the carriage. Any breed of horse or pony that trots can be driven. Horses are judged on their suitability to the type and size of carriage. Performance is judged under conditions experienced when horses were used for historical practical transportation. This event consists of Presentation, Country Driving, and Cones Driving. The quality of the overall turnout receives the most points. The driver must demonstrate road signals, the use of one of the traditional systems of reinsmanship and manipulate the turnout through controlled passages. Drivers and passengers are to be in conservative contemporary attire. Grooms are to be dressed in historic livery compliment the historical period of the carriage.
Dividing light-horse driving into two forms is often helpful: modern and traditional driving. To understand these contrasting forms of light-horse driving a comparison can be made to automobile competitions … Combined Driving is like NASCAR racing and
Pleasure Driving is similar to the exhibition of classic cars.
Combined Driving requires the sturdy new carriages that have been built to handle the sharp turns and maintain the speed while navigating the hazards. In addition, the Combined Driving horse does not have to work in the company of other horse when exhibited. It works alone in the dressage ring, on the marathon and in the cones competition responding in partnership to the "whip" (driver.)
Pleasure Driving comes from the use of ‘pleasure’ carriages that were distinguished from the commercial peddler’s wagons or farm wagons of years ago. Historically pleasure carriages were generally owner-driven and used on weekdays to go to town or on a Sunday drive to church or through the country-side. Sunday was the day to get out your best horse and put it to your best carriage to visit relatives, friends and neighbors. In comparison to the Combined Driving horse, the Pleasure Driving horse had to be uniquely trained to work in the company of other horses. In addition, these horses are required to wear harnesses that are carefully matched to the particular classical type of Pleasure Carriage.
Both pleasure and combined driving require the color of the metal on the harness and lamps to match that of the metal on the carriage. Also it is generally accepted that a painted carriage requires the utilization of a black harness and a natural wood carriage, a brown or russet color harness. Traditionally, a harness was made of leather and if cared for properly is capable of outlasting the synthetic harness. Many drivers in modern competitions prefer to use the synthetic harness, but it is best if it is lined with leather for the horse’s comfort particularly at the shoulder.
Generally carriage drivers prefer horses that have been bred for generations to trot because it is the most sustainable gait over distance. It is the gait that is judged at three different ground-covering strides in the show ring and dressage arena. The confirmation of these horses is such that their necks are set high on their shoulders and to be well away of the forearm as it stretches forward at the trot. Other breeds such as the ambling horses have been bred for generation to gait for a comfortable long distance ride under saddle. The cantering breeds are great for the sprint work of herding or racing and the large-muscled draft breeds have been bred for years to walk and pull heavy loads. These large draft horses are wonderful to watch when pulling carriages around the city or when demonstrating their strength in pulling competitions.
We should celebrate all horses and their meaning in today’s world, just as we applaud athletes. As carriage enthusiasts, we should be all inclusive and encourage all types of driving. In the show ring we strive to have the proper carriage, put to the proper horse, and fitted to the proper harness. When we climb upon our pleasure carriage for a ride through the woods, we sustain the enjoyment of driving our “classic” with true “horse power.” Let us appreciate the diversity and practice the safety
HORSES ARE PREDICTABLY UNPREDICTABLE
Horses are BIG and, if you are not familiar with horses, they can be intimidating and seem unpredictable. The horses used in a TV series or a movie need to be appropriate for the nervous and inexperienced actor as well as for the actors who ride regularly. The horses also need to be well trained so that the professional stunt men and women can do what is required. Add to that, finding horses and tack that are historically correct...because there will always be that person watching who will say, "wait, they didn't have horses and tack like that back then!"
When people think of horses and Scotland the first thing they think of is the Clydesdale Horse. Between 1715 and 1720 the 6th Duke of Hamilton imported Flemish horses in an attempt to improve the existing lines of work horses. By widespread crossbreeding with these horses, and many others, a very specific type of horse was developed. It was not until an exhibition in Glasgow in 1826 that the name “Clydesdale” was used for this type of horse that had been bred in the Lanarkshire district where the Clyde River flows through the region. By 1840, the Scottish draught horses and the Clydesdale were the same. In 1877, the Clydesdale Horse Society of Scotland was established. So kudos to Outlander for not using Clydesdale horses in the series - the breed would have been unknown in the late 1700s. But another type of draft horse was known in Scotland at the time. It was the Percheron.
DOUGAL MACKENZIE'S HORSE
In the 1500s, King Louis XII of France (reign 1498-1515) gifted James V of Scotland (reign 1513-1542) with native French horses; most likely these horses were a type of draft horse such as the French Percherons. The horse that Dougal MacKenzie rides appears to be a Percheron. The average clansman was a farmer who spent most of his time tending to fields or livestock so it makes sense the Dougal MacKenzie would have a draft type of horse. The Percheron breed derives its name from the Perche region in France where the breed originated. It is known to be one of the oldest horse breeding areas in the world. The first known records for this breed of horse are from the 8th century. The Percheron, like most heavy horse breeds, served primarily as a work horse. It was used on farms, pulling carts and was also used as a warhorse.
FROM PERCHERONS TO PONYS
From the trade routes to the battlefield to the farm, horses have been an important part of human history for over six thousand years. It’s hard to imagine, in this age of cars and orbiting space stations, that a horse could be so important to human history. Through the centuries, countries and continents changed their ruling classes and borders many times via warfare on the back of a horse. Starting in the 1500s horsemanship was considered an art much the same as music, painting and literature. No nobleman’s education was considered complete until he acquired the art of equitation. Jamie made sure of this when he taught young Willie how to ride.
Scotland and ponies are synonymous. Ponies have been native to Scotland since before the Ice Age. The ponies found on some of the Scottish Isles have been there for centuries. Willie most likely would have learned to ride on what we call today a Highland Pony. Although referred to as a ‘breed’, and since at least the 1880s bred through a studbook, Highland Ponies during the era of Outlander were not created by controlled breeding. Highland Ponies of today are descendants of the crofters’ ponies used in the Scottish Highlands. The Highland Pony was Scotland's original all purpose horse and is still sought after today due to its versatility. Outcrosses of the native Highland Pony with Percherons were recorded in the 1500s. In the 1600s and 1700s Highland Ponies were crossed with Spanish horses. The nobles were very enamored with the Spanish horses. They often had their portraits painted on a Spanish horse.
I NEED A HORSE FOR A QUICK GET AWAY!
The Battle of Culloden is often misrepresented as a bunch of hot-tempered, ill prepared Scots against the sophisticated British. Outnumbered but not outgunned, cavalry proved the downfall of the Scots. It was not British musket ball that brought down kilted swordsmen as much as British dragoons (cavalry trained for combat with swords while mounted) that cut down Jacobite musketeers. Recent archeological evidence has shown that the Scots actually fired more musket balls than the British.
One of the first acts of the British after the Battle of Culloden was to try and catch the Prince himself, who had eluded them by slipping away from the battlefield while the fighting was still going on. He fled the mainland on horseback and made for the Hebrides, outwitting both a massive military cordon and a reward of 30,000 pounds which had been offered to anyone to betray him. At one point he even disguised himself as a female Irish serving maid. Like most nobles at the time, portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie often depict him on a Spanish horse. It was probably more likely though that he eluded the British on a less noble looking horse.
A NOBLE HORSE FOR JAMIE
Jamie's horse, Donas, is portrayed by a Friesian horse in Outlander. Friesians are often used in TV series and in movies because they are quite flashy looking. However, it is highly unlikely that a Scottish clansman of the 1700s would have a Friesian. The Friesian is a horse breed originating in Friesland, in the Netherlands. German knights who fought in the crusades used a heavy horse that was an ancestor to the Friesian. These horses were improved, in terms of range of movement and stamina, thanks to the influence of Spanish horses that took place when Spain took control of the Netherlands throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
The horse that Murtagh rides in Scotland is also a Friesian. Even though historically inaccurate... if one man in a kilt on a flashy Friesian is eye candy, then why not two!?
CLAIRE'S HORSE - BRIMSTONE
Claire meets her horse, Brimstone, in The Gathering in season 1. In that episode Claire and Rupert head to the stables to choose a mount for the next day's hunt. Claire explains in voiceover that she wants a gentle mount to use in her escape as it has been years since she has ridden a horse. She tells Alec, the Master of Horse at Castle Leoch, that she has come to get a mount for the next day's hunt, which she, as castle healer, is to attend. He leads her to a filly with the unlikely name of Brimstone. Alec assures Claire the horse is misnamed, saying, "its like calling a big man wee." He assures Claire that Brimstone is really a good, gentle horse that will turn for home at the first opportunity. With that description, it is most likely that the horse she would have been given would be a Garron. A Garron is a type of a small sturdy horse or pony. In Scotland, a Garron is one of the types of Highland Pony. It is the larger, heavier type bred on the mainland. The Garron was used in farming, especially in the Highlands. These horses were valued for their hardiness and ability to work on slopes. Highland deer-stalking estates kept Garrons to bring the stags off the hill.
HORSES IN FRANCE
While in France, Claire and Jamie traveled in carriages more than on horseback. The carriage that Jamie and Claire use most often is a servant driven coach with a rear seat for footmen. At the time, France had a wide variety of horses to choose from and accordingly, horses were designated as either saddle horses or carriage horses.
Louis XIV became King of France when he was only four and a half. He was king from 1638 to1715. Louis XIV is best known for the magnificent palace that he built at Versailles. He loved horses and built extravagant stables at Versailles. The Versailles stables could house over 700 horses and had over 30 carriage buildings. At the end of his reign he had 1,700 horses! In the Small Stables at Versailles, the horses were organized according to whether they were used by the King or for carriages. In the Great Stables there were hunters which were ridden for hunting and there were riding school horses. Almost all of the horses in the stables at Versailles came from England, Ireland, Spain, North Africa and northern Europe. The horses were considered to be the most elite collection of horses any place in the world at the time. In political terms, the King’s horsemanship skills were a symbol of his ability to govern well.
The next king, Louis XV, reigned from 1715 to 1744. He recognized that there needed to be reforms but continued the extravagant lifestyle of Louis XIV. In 1744, Jamie and Claire meet with King Louis XV when they attend the King's lever (daily opportunity of accessibility to the monarch) at Versailles. Louis XVI was king from 1744 to 1789. He was married to Marie Antoinette, the daughter of the Emperor of Austria. The extravagant lifestyle of the King and aristocrats continued.... and we all know what happened next!
FINLEY - JAMIE'S HORSE IN AMERICA
Hard as it may seem to believe, there were no horses in the Americas until the explorers and colonists brought them starting in the 1500s. The Spanish brought their magnificent Spanish horses; some breeds of horses in Mexico and Central and Latin America are descendants of these horses. Many of the feral mustangs in the American west are also descendants of these horses. The colonists brought their native horses to America. In the early Americas many of the horses brought from Europe were small. The Dutch horses were just over 14 hands and the English horses were under 13 hands. Descendants of many of these small horses are feral horses living today in the barrier islands in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Settlers soon learned that a larger, more powerful and more versatile horse was needed. To foster quality in American horses, as early as 1668, the court of Massachusetts decreed that only horses “of comely proportions and 14 hands in stature” could graze on town commons.
Travel was difficult in early America. There were long distances between towns and a lack of roads. The ambling horse was very desirable since it was very comfortable to ride for great distances on uneven terrain. Ambling horses are also known as “gaited” horses. There are several 4-beat "ambling" gaits that are approximately the speed of a trot or pace, though smoother to ride. Imports of Hobbies from Ireland along with English Running Horses were very popular in the Americas. While gaited horses became extinct in England and in Ireland, in America these saddle horse traits have been kept alive even today. The Narragansett Pacer (now extinct) was known as a saddle horse with great endurance that provided a comfortable ambling gait that was sure-footed. At one time Rhode Island was the breeding capital of America; farms had as many as 1,000 Narragansett Pacers. These Rhode Island horses were shipped to all of the sea-coast colonies as well as to the islands of the Caribbean for use on the plantations.
Eventually America had many breeds of horses but not during the time of Outlander; Figure, the horse owned by Justin Morgan, was born in Massachusetts in 1789. The Morgan horse is still very popular today and many breeds of American horses trace their roots to the Morgan horse.
The horse that Jamie's aunt gives to him appears to be a Spanish horse. While highly unlikely that there would have been any horses of this type in North Carolina in 1767, his aunt was well connected and wealthy and well, let's face it, Jamie looks amazing on a noble Spanish horse!
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, CLARENCE THE MULE
When Jamie and Claire leave his Aunt Jocasta's River Run plantation in North Carolina, she gifts them with horses and a mule. The cross that has been most significant in human history is the one between horses and donkeys to create the mule. Mules come in every size and shape imaginable; miniature to mammoth. Mules have played a key role in the development of the world. Without their hard work, stamina, strength and patience over hundreds of years prior to mechanization, much of the modern world would not exist: they helped to construct it!
In the mid-1700s the best donkeys in the world were in Spain. They were animals of remarkable strength and endurance, which the monarch had long guarded by prohibiting their export. Donkeys were already in America, as they came over with the early explorers, but they were quite small. In Outlander Clarence is a pretty small mule. After the Revolutionary War, George Washington started a program to develop a larger, stronger mule to be used on farms to replace horses in the field. The very best donkeys at the time were the Andalusian donkeys of Spain. Washington wrote to King Charles III of Spain requesting permission to purchase good quality breeding stock. In 1785, the census for Mount Vernon listed 130 working horses and no mules. In October of 1785, a ship docked in Boston harbor carrying a gift from the King for Washington. The King sent two fine Spanish jacks and three jennies to Washington. One of the Jacks died in route and the surviving donkey was named “Royal Gift” in honor of the King. To Washington’s surprise, Royal Gift refused to perform his duty on the 30 plus mares awaiting his services. Undoubtedly, the exhaustive trip to a foreign land full of American mares distracted this royal gift. Fortunately, the following spring, Royal Gift responded positively to his duties and the American mule-breeding business was under way. By 1799, the year President Washington died, Mount Vernon listed 25 horses and 58 mules. It didn't take long for Americans to discover the value of the mighty mule.
In 1914, Germany had 4 million horses and mules. England and France together had 6 million, but America had 25 million! 150 years after Jamie and Claire were in North Carolina, America had more horses and mules than Europe. Hundreds of thousands of horses and mules used by the Allies in World War I came from the United States. Mules were the unsung heroes of World War I. According to Brigadier-General T.R.F. Bate, British Remount Commission, “Great as has been the success of the American gun horse, still greater, though perhaps less appreciated, have been the war qualities of the American mule...probably the most serviceable and satisfactory animal used in the war.”
FURTHER READING AND SOURCES
Carriages that were driven by individuals as a means of transportation around town were also seen on city streets of the past. Gigs were commonly used by businessmen.
The gig is an open, two-wheeled carriage that was popular in France, England and America. It was used for short distances around town. The driver’s seat is constructed so the driver sits higher than the shaft. This gives the driver a good view of the road and makes it a favorite for tandem driving even today. There are several types of gigs with different types of springing. The gig received its name from a contraction of “whirligig,” because similar to the whirligig, the gig whirled rapidly. According to the June 1900 edition of Outing, a monthly illustrated magazine for sports, travel, and adventure, when the gig made its first appearance in 1754 it was “quite the most attractive and most practical cart of its time and … became immediately popular.” The gig is still a very popular vehicle today, in the show ring, with a high stepping horse.
Gigs were commonly used by businessmen
City streets were full of commercial vehicles too. Milk, fruit, ice, coal and parcels were among the many things delivered to the home by horse drawn vehicles.
Horse drawn vehicles were also used to haul freight from docks and in warehouse districts. Express companies such as Wells Fargo and American Express had large fleets of horses and delivery vehicles. Founded in 1850 in Albany, New York, American Express established its headquarters in Manhattan at Jay and Hudson Streets and essentially enjoyed a monopoly on the shipment of express goods in the state for two decades. American Express recognized the need to enlarge their Hubert Street facility in 1898. Architect Edward Hale Kimball was commissioned to extend the stable through the entire block along Collier Street to Laight Street. The entire structure was increased to three stories. Only three years later, in 1902, the building was enlarged again. The days of horses and drays for the American Express Company were numbered, however. In 1913 the parcel post system was established, wielding a significant blow to the express companies. By 1918 American Express was gone and a railroad freight firm, the American Railway Express Company, was using the building.
Horse drawn vehicles were used for city services too such as the fire department, police department and garbage removal.
Many types and breeds of horses were used for horse drawn carriages depending on the need. When in the park and trying to impress those looking on, then a fancy, high stepping horse was used. When hauling lots of weight, then a draft horse. For the doctor or fire chief – a fast horse. Morgan horses were, and still are, a very popular breed used for carriage driving. If you attend a carriage show today you will still see many Morgans in the ring along with every breed of horse and pony imaginable – even some imported breeds!
When the days of using horses came to an end, many of the manufacturers of carriages turned to making automobiles. Surprisingly though, horse drawn carriages are still in use today. Many of the vehicles from the past, that were made by well-known manufacturers, such as Brewster, Flandrau, Demarest, Locke, Studebaker and Kimball, have survived and have been meticulously restored. They are used at horse shows and for pleasure drives.
Carriage manufacturers today make vehicles for a modern style of driving called “combined driving”. Patterned after 3-day eventing, combined driving involves driven dressage, obstacle driving and cross-country driving; as one can imagine, the lovely antiques of a bygone era would not withstand this type of carriage driving.
Driving horse drawn carriages is no longer a necessity but is very popular as a sport. You can find carriage shows to watch throughout the United States – find one near you and enjoy reliving the elegance of a bygone era!
When someone finds out you own a horse one of the first questions they ask is, “how old do horses live?” This might surprise you –Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger, lived to be 33! The average life span of a horse is between 25 and 30 years. So, the next questions are: Is that normal? How old can horses live?
Old Billy (below) is considered the oldest horse to ever live in the world. He died at age 62. He was born sometime in 1760 in Woolston, Lancashire, England. Old Billy was owned by Mersey and Irwell Navigation and spent his life working as a barge horse, dragging barges in the canals from the shore. Billy surpassed the average horse’s life expectancy and continued to work even as his back became bent. Due to his old age, he became a local celebrity and an artist named W. Taylor painted a portrait of Old Billy. To honor Old Billy, his skull was sent to the Manchester Museum and he was taxidermied and gifted to the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museums. Both parts of his head are still on display at the museums today.
So how old is a horse in human years then? A horse year is equal to 6 1/2 human years for the first 3 years of the horse's life. At the horse age of 3, the equivalent changes and is approximately 5 years to man. At the horse age of 4, the horse year equivalency changes to 2 1/2 years. So if your horse lives to be 36 horse years old, the human equivalency in years would be 100 1/2 years! If you don’t feel like doing the math, Spruce Pets has a chart calculating the ages of horses in terms of human years.
How can you tell how old a horse is? The saying, “long in the tooth” refers to the age-old method of determining age by looking at a horse’s teeth. The horses' gums recede and their teeth appear longer as they grow older. The idea behind this old folk phrase, means that one is getting on in years. Determining the age of a horse by looking at teeth is only somewhat reliable and only up to about ages 10 – 14.
30 year old horse yearling
You can also tell if a horse is older by looking at its face; particularly around the eyes. The hair around the eyes will begin to turn gray and the supraorbital fossae (the indented area above the eye) will be deeper on an older horse. The supraorbital fossae are actually cavities (spaces) behind the eyes that allow room for the eyeballs to recede into them. The cavities are lined with fat and the fat displaces upward when the eyeball recedes to avoid injury. As horses age, there can be loss of fat in the fossae so the depressions become more pronounced. Gray hair and pronounced depressions above the eye will not help you to determine the exact age but it is a clue that the horse is older.
BUT there is only one way to definitely tell the age of a horse and that is to learn the date it was foaled (born).
A horse up to age 1 is called a “foal”. When a foal is weaned it is called a weanling. Foals are usually weaned between 6 months and a year. Once it is a year old, the foal is referred to as a yearling. How old is a filly? A filly is a female horse less than 4 years old and from 4 on she is called a mare.A colt is a male horse less than 4 years old. A gelding is a male horse that has been castrated and a stallion is a male horse that is intact.
Do different breeds of horses live longer? For instance, how long do quarter horses live? Age of horses depends more on care and use than the breed of the horse. In a study of geriatric horses performed by Dr. Mary Rose Paradis at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the top 5 breeds of old horses that were seen included the Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Appaloosa, Morgan and Arabian. This was thought to be due to popularity of the breed rather than its longevity. The study found that ponies lived longer than horses, but did not find any breed-specific trends for longer life span amongst the horses studied.
So, when is a horse considered “old?” How old is a senior horse? Some geriatric studies have been done on horses as young as 15. In the Tufts study they decided that 20 years of age was a good place to start. When owners were asked about horse age most said that they started to see signs of aging at 23 and that age was considered a negative factor in the purchase of a horse at 16.5 years old.
If you can’t ride a 2-year-old horse then what can you do with a 2-year-old horse? Ground work is very important and will certainly pay off when you do ride or drive the horse. Ground work includes:
Teaching the horse to stand
Teaching the horse to lead on a line
Learning voice commands – walk, whoa, trot, stand
Picking up feet and cleaning them
Clipping, grooming and baths
Accept tack including a saddle, girth, harness, bridle, bit
Load and unload in a trailer
Travel to areas other than home
Ground drive and long line (avoiding too much circle work)
Introduce noises and strange objects
At the other end of the scale how old can a horse be ridden? What can you do with older horses? According to Karyn Malinowski, the director of the Equine Science Center at Rutgers, in a Q/A in Practical Horseman, horses have a tremendous ability to exercise. The aerobic capacity of a 20-year-old horse is still two times higher than that of an elite Olympic marathon runner. Horses are designed to continue exercising late into their lives. At Rutgers Equine Center a horse that has his own blog Lord Nelson, a 40-year-old Quarter Horse, still gallops up to the gate every morning for breakfast. Keeping horses active with exercise and turnout (preferably 24 hours/day) is essential in these later years. Horses are more likely to experience orthopedic issues before any loss of aerobic capacity. Eventually, as your horse progresses through his 20s, you will need to take his exercise level down a notch. But try to keep doing whatever activity he enjoyed most in his earlier days.
Older horses do need some special attention though like what to feed an old horse. Feeding older horses in winter is especially challenging! It is always best to have a vet check an older horse long before winter arrives to ensure he has enough weight on him and is in good physical condition. According to an article in Equus magazine, if older horses don't take in enough calories, they can get caught in a self-perpetuating weight-loss cycle in the winter. Older horses tend to be thinner, with less muscle and fat layers. The feed these horses eat goes toward creating these insulating layers and keeping them warm. If they cannot maintain body weight, they become colder and use more energy to stay warm, which in turn makes them even thinner. Additionally, when the majority of a horse's nutrients go to keeping him warm, he has fewer resources left for fighting off illness or repairing tissues, leading to a decline in over-all health. Compounding the problem is the fact that older horses don't digest food nearly as efficiently as younger horses. Their ability to digest fiber is 5 percent lower and their ability to utilize protein is about 15 percent lower. So even if they are being fed the same amount of feed as the younger horses, older horses will not utilize it all and can lose condition quickly. It is best to increase a horse's forage intake during the winter months, getting as close as possible to the ideal of around-the-clock, free-choice hay.
As horses age they will also develop cataracts. The glare from sun-light can make it difficult for horses with even minor cataracts to see. Consider outfitting these horses with dark fly masks, which will act as sunglasses.
Older horses often deal with arthritis so continuous turn out is best for an older horse. A vet may suggest an anti-inflammatory medication too.
Like people horses, are living much longer due to better health care and better-informed owners. Older horses are enjoying staying active just like their owners!
“A horse a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” This famous phrase originally occurred in Act-V, Scene-IV of William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III. In the middle of a battle, King Richard’s horse is killed and he wanders for hours trying to find it. Although used as a literary device, the phrase certainly captures the importance of the horse.
From the trade routes to the battlefield to the farm to the show ring, horses have been an important part of human history for over six thousand years. It’s hard to imagine, in this age of cars and orbiting space stations, that a horse could be so important to human history. After all, how could an animal be smart enough or capable to be trained to be of such importance? Non-horse owners are often amazed to find out that horses have distinct personalities and that they are capable of communicating with people. Research has proven that horses do not just ‘behave’ without considering the consequence of their actions. They are able to create a mental plan to evaluate how much a person is paying attention to them and to modify their communicative strategy accordingly. Horses seem therefore able of creating a problem-solving strategy. The horse is indeed then, a fitting partner for humans throughout history!
So let’s take a short trip through six thousand years of the importance of the horse in human history.
Imagine a world without a method to communicate other than transporting the message via human runners. Since there is no written documentation to determine if horses were ridden or driven first, we can only imagine some daring person deciding that getting on a horse or hooking a horse to something to pull might be a good idea – and not just to make a YouTube video that might go viral! Using horses for transportation changed the world much like computers and social media have changed the world. Horses and riders or horse-drawn carts could now cover huge distances at great speed. As a result, trade routes developed and cultures began to intermingle.
Archeological evidence tells us that horses were domesticated about 5000 BC However, the first known written information about horses comes to us in 1345 BC from a Mitannian horse-master known as Kikkulis. His “Chariot Training Manual” laid out a detailed plan for training and caring for horses. Kikkulis understood that a well trained, athletic horse was what was needed to rival the mighty power of Egypt. He developed a new method of training called “interval training”. Horses would pace a league then run a furlong followed by rest and then more exercise. Each few days the horses were asked to do more than the day before and rest and feed were increased as needed. Many baths and grooming sessions were also included.
In 430 BC a Greek named Xenophon wrote “The Art of Horsemanship.” It is the first fully preserved manual on the art of riding horses. He differs from other ancient writers on the horse because he encouraged a mutual respect between man and horse. A horse trained with Xenophon’s methods was indeed fortunate. Xenophon’s methods were very advanced for the time but he was still at a major disadvantage – he lacked a saddle! The first saddles constructed around solid trees first appeared during the Han dynasty in the year 200 BC. With the invention of the solid tree along came the invention of the stirrup as we know it today. By 477 AD the stirrup was widespread across China and then spread into Europe. The saddle tree and the stirrup offered great support for the rider. Horses could now be used more effectively in battle.
Through the centuries, countries and continents changed their ruling classes and borders many times via warfare on the back of a horse. In the 1500’s and 1600’s horsemanship was considered an art much the same as music, painting and literature. Great horse masters such as Antoine de Pluvinel, William Cavendish and Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere brought a new enlightened approach to training horses to be used for general riding and for battle. No nobleman’s education was considered complete until he acquired the art of equitation. Many of Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere methods used to train a horse for a nobleman to ride are still used today. The horses then needed to be stylish as well as responsive and were trained for battle so they needed to learn movements that allowed the rider to move and turn quickly as needed. Francois Robichon de la Guerinier had a very progressive schooling system. He often said that the “shoulder-in is the alpha and omega of all exercises”. The goal was a horse that was light, obedient and calm.
One of the most famous breeding and training programs using the methods of Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere was established in 1562 and is still in existence today. It is the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. Here the high school moves of pirouette, piaffe, passage are taught along with the airs above the ground: lavade, courbette and capriole in imitation of those thought to be used in battle.
The horse has been very important in the growth of America as well. When the colonies were first settled in the 1600’s the communities were very isolated from each other. In 1673 the governor of New York dispatched the first post rider to provide mail service between Boston and New York. Imagine trying to do that without a horse!
Horses were crucial to an American victory in the Revolution. Since bringing horses from England was difficult, the British had very few horses. Even though the Americans were outnumbered, horses allowed them to engage in swift hit and run tactics that helped to turn the war in their favor.
The Civil War put a great demand on the need for horses and mules. Horses and mules moved men, guns, messages and ambulances. This required people and horses to work together at an unprecedented scale. At the start of the war, the Northern states had approximately 3.4 million horses, while there were 1.7 million in the Confederate states. Over 1 million horses and mules died in the Civil War. One survivor was Colonel Phil Sheridan’s valiant horse, Rienzi, also known as Winchester. He is preserved and on display at the Smithsonian. Imagine not only the bravery of the men but also the horses such as Rienzi as re-told in the poem “Sheridan’s Ride” by Thomas Buchanan Read.
Up from the South, at break of day,
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
The affrighted air with a shudder bore,
Like a herald in haste to the chieftain's door,
The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,
Telling the battle was on once more,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.
And wider still those billows of war
Thundered along the horizon's bar;
And louder yet into Winchester rolled
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled,
Making the blood of the listener cold,
As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,
With Sheridan twenty miles away.
But there is a road from Winchester town,
A good, broad highway leading down:
And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed.
Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.
Still sprang from those swift hoofs, thundering south,
The dust like smoke from the cannon's mouth,
Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,
Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster.
The heart of the steed and the heart of the master
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,
Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,
With Sheridan only ten miles away.
Under his spurning feet, the road
Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed,
And the landscape sped away behind
Like an ocean flying before the wind;
And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire,
Swept on, with his wild eye full of fire;
But, lo! he is nearing his heart's desire;
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,
With Sheridan only five miles away.
The first that the general saw were the groups
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops;
What was to be done? what to do?--a glance told him both.
Then striking his spurs with a terrible oath,
He dashed down the line, 'mid a storm of huzzas,
And the wave of retreat checked its course there, because
The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
By the flash of his eye, and his red nostril's play,
He seemed to the whole great army to say:
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester down to save the day."
Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan!
Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!
And when their statues are placed on high
Under the dome of the Union sky,
The American soldier's Temple of Fame,
There, with the glorious general's name,
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright:
"Here is the steed that saved the day
By carrying Sheridan into the fight,
From Winchester--twenty miles away!"
America moved west with the help of horses. Blazing trails and tilling fields, the horse was crucial to the growth of America. As America moved west horses were again the only means of communication – the train and telegraph came later. The riders of the Pony Express carried mail from Missouri to California in only 10 days!
As America grew and developed the rest of the world moved at a fast pace too and soon the world was at war. When World War I started, horses were still very much a part of warfare. But machine guns, tanks, trench warfare and barbed wire made using horses for cavalry charges impossible and dangerous. Horses still proved invaluable for moving equipment because the “new fangled” motorized vehicles were unreliable. Over 8 million horses died in World War I.
Unbelievable as it may seem, horses were still used in World War II. Horses were not stopped by mud, snow and hills like motorized vehicles. Germany was lacking in natural oil reserves and other than the panzer division, horses were used for the majority of the transportation. George Patton supposedly once remarked that had he been given cavalry in the war in North Africa, not a single German would have escaped the Allies.
After World War II the world changed at a rapid pace. In the United Sates the number of automobiles produced annually quadrupled between 1946 and 1955. Today horses are still used by people in some parts of the world for transportation and farming but for most people, owning a horse is a hobby rather than a necessity.
Horses are enjoyed today in a variety of disciplines. Most people are familiar with jumping, thoroughbred racing and rodeos because these activities are featured in movies, on TV and in books. There are many ways that people enjoy horses. Polo, Dressage, Carriage Driving, Endurance Riding, and Gymkhana are just a few of the many activities people enjoy with their horses. Many horses are, as some owners call them, “pasture ornaments,” and may take their owners for an occasional ride but for the most part, provide a nice view out the window.
It’s hard for us today to imagine being dependent on a horse but remember, horses have been around longer than cars and planes. Horses have played an important role in the history of the world! Whether ridden or driven, horses were the means by which cultures intermingled, people were able to share communications, wars were waged and nations developed. For many people, looking out the window at a horse in a pasture is a serene reminder of human history yet still the horse brings with it all the potential of more adventures and opportunities to come.
Buying a horse is an exciting adventure but can be overwhelming too! If this is your first venture into learning about horses, you will need to get educated on all things horse before you even begin your search and purchase process.
Perhaps you already ride horses and have a fairly good grasp on the basics involved in horse ownership and now you have decided to buy a horse of your own; reviewing what you know and reaching out to learn even more will help you to make a wise decision.
Well let’s saddle up and get ready to fulfill your dreams!
First, read all you can about horses. The Equine Heritage Institute has a great book to get you started, Horse Basics 101. The book has over 100 of the most important horse facts that will get you started on your journey to becoming a horse owner.
There are many magazines available to help educate you. Some are focused on disciplines like dressage or driving or trail riding. Some are focused on breeds of horses. Some concentrate on general horse care. There are magazines for almost every aspect of horse ownership. American Horse Publications is a good place to start to find publications. https://www.americanhorsepubs.org/
Contact the association(s) of the breeds that interest you .Most breed associations have web sites. Contact them! They are usually happy to promote their breed by sending you information or helping you find events and horses in your area.
Find horse farms in your area that have open houses or call to arrange a visit. It is always best to call first; many are private farms that are not open to the public but may welcome a visit from a potential new horse owner. There are breeding farms and training farms and pleasure farms. It’s best to look at as many as possible to help you get an idea of what kind of horse you may want and what disciplines interest you.
Going to horse shows is also a way to discover the many events available for horse owners in your area. Breed associations, 4-H clubs and training barns are good places to start to find events in your area. Many areas also publish a monthly local equine publication featuring information about all things horse related in the area.
Go to horse expos. Many states have large expos once a year. These expos will have vendors and speakers and demonstrations. Attending an Expo is a great “one stop shopping” opportunity.
EXAMINE YOUR RESOURCES
Will you be taking care of your horse at home or boarding your horse? If you ae going to keep the horse at home, do you know how to care for a horse and do you have the time to do that? Horses need care 365 days a year! If you are going to board the horse, how often will you be able to be with the horse?
Buying the horse is just the beginning! Be sure you understand all of the other costs involved – feed, hay, farrier, vet, farm equipment and tack are just a few of the basics. When you visit farms, look around and become aware of all of the things involved in horse ownership.
Sometimes it is best to take lessons first before buying a horse. This will help you to decide on the type of horse you want and the discipline you may want to pursue. Working as a groom or doing barn chores will help you to decide if this is really something you want to do and the skills you learn will come in handy if and when you do buy a horse.
SELECTING THE RIGHT HORSE
It’s important to match the temperament of the horse to that of the owner. Be sure to visit the horse several times before deciding. Just like people, horses have good days and bad days. Enlist the aid of a professional when you go to look at horses. Their experience will help to determine if the horse is a good match for you.
Pony vs horse - small horse vs large horse. Small does not mean easier and big does not mean more difficult. Just like the color of the horse, size often does not matter. There are other things that are much more important. Children do not NEED to start on a pony; there are plenty of lovely horses well suited to children
Young or green horses are not always best for first time owners but older horses may come with bad habits. Again, getting the assistance of a professional who can ride the horse to try it out and knows your abilities is always a good idea. If the horse does need more training, can you afford that? Good training takes a long time but also can be very rewarding with the right help.
It’s true that geldings, as opposed to mares, are usually the same 365 days a year but many people do prefer mares for various reasons. The gender of your horse really is a personal preference. Bottom line is, you need to get along with the horse’s temperament. If a horse does not live up to its potential for you, that does not mean, “oh well, I can use it for breeding.” Only the best stock should be used to breed; leave breeding to the breeders!
Suitability for a Discipline
Do you want to cut cows with your horse or do you want to jump your horse or drive your horse? Chances are the same horse will not do each discipline equally well. You may want to decide what you want to do and find a horse suited for that discipline. That does not mean you can’t do several different disciplines with your horse; it’s just more likely that the horse will excel at only 1 or maybe 2 disciplines. Some breeds are known for their versatility. If you want to do several different disciplines, choose a breed that is known to be versatile but again, that horse will most likely not excel at every discipline you try – but you will have fun
COMMUNICATE WITH THE SELLER
Pictures and Videos
The internet certainly makes finding horses much easier. Pictures and videos can help a buyer to narrow down the hunt for a horse. But remember, pictures and videos are only a moment in time; you need to actually see the horse in person to help make a good decision.
Caveat Emptor -it’s the buyer’s responsibility to ask the questions. No question is a dumb one! Be sure to be honest with the seller about your abilities, expectations, plans and finances. Only look at what you can afford and be sure to keep in mind the cost of any additional training the horse may need.
Be sure to ask for detailed records. Most owners will have health records that include deworming, vaccinations, x-rays and more. Training records are important to ask about too. Who trained the horse? When? For What? For how long? You can also ask for show records. But don’t make the mistake of buying a horse because he/she is a “winning” horse. Not all wins are equal. Sometimes a horse will become a winner with a new owner but never won with the current owner and the opposite can be true too. Most importantly, keep in mind that winning isn’t everything!
Be sure to ask if the horse has any stable vices like cribbing or weaving; some vices never show up while you are looking at the horse so you need to ask. Ask questions about daily handling of the horse. If you can’t do 24-hour turnout and that is what the horse is used to, it could change the horse’s behavior. Ask if the horse is compatible with other horses…after all, horses are like potato chips and sometimes you can’t have just one so your herd may grow!
When you go to try the horse be part of getting the horse ready; this is an important part of really seeing the nature of the horse. Ask questions about the horse’s habits and general disposition as you are getting the horse ready. Have the owner ride the horse first and, if you brought a trainer, be sure that he/she also rides the horse; they should know what will be a good match for you and, knowing your abilities, can coach you when you try the horse.
THE PURCHASE PROCESS
You’ve found the horse of your dreams and now it’s time to welcome the horse to your family. The seller may wish to state something about vices or restricted use for which the horse is being sold. Check with an attorney if you are unsure about signing this.
Sellers usually have contracts so be sure to read it carefully. Some breeds of horses have registration papers. If the horse has papers ask who will handle and pay for the transfer. If the horse does not have papers, find out why and be sure it is eligible to be registered.
Trial Periods and Leases
Your trainer may suggest a trial period. Terms for this should be spelled out in writing so that they are agreeable to seller and buyer. Some sellers will also be willing to lease the horse. Make sure all of the particulars about care of the horse, what you are allowed to do with the horse, training etc. are well spelled out in the lease agreement.
The veterinarian who does the exam is usually not the horse’s vet due to conflict of interest so you will have to arrange for a vet to do the exam. The exam will give you an idea of the horse’s current health and an outlook for what the future will bring. A basic exam will check eyes, heart, lungs, teeth, basic soundness and x-rays if needed. The exam will help to determine if the horse will be able to do what you need and, if there are small issues, does everything else outweigh those issues.
After the Purchase
Life insurance and health insurance are available for horses and may be something you want to consider. Keep in touch with the seller; they like hearing about the horse and can also answer questions that may come up.
Now that you have a horse it’s just the beginning of a wonderful relationship and you will soon find out that you are never finished learning together. Horses provide opportunities to meet people and travel to new places. They teach us perseverance, patience, humility and unconditional love
1. WHO INVENTED THE CHARIOT?
Some scholars argue that the chariot was most likely a product of the ancient Near East early in the 2nd millennium BC. Archaeologist Joost Crouwel writes that “Chariots were not sudden inventions, but developed out of earlier vehicles that were mounted on disk or cross-bar wheels. This development can best be traced in the Near East, where spoke-wheeled and horse-drawn true chariots are first attested in the earlier part of the second millennium BC and were illustrated on a Syrian cylinder seal dated to the 18th or 17th century BC.” The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare. The first known written information about horses was in 1345 BC. In 1345 BC a Mitannian horse-master known as Kikkuli wrote the “Chariot Training Manual.” It gave a detailed plan for training and caring for horses.
2. WHAT WERE CHARIOTS USED FOR?
Contrary to popular belief, chariots were not just used for war and races. The chariot is a two-wheeled vehicle put to one or more horses. Chariots were used for ceremonies, funerals, general transportation, hunting and yes war and races.
3. WERE EGYPTIANS THE FIRST TO USE WAR CHARIOTS?
Most people in ancient times were nomads who moved from place to place to find food and water so, it was important to have control of valuable hunting lands and places with water.When the chariot was invented, those who first used the new invention were able to storm their neighbors and seize valuable hunting and pasturing land rights. Around 1720-1710 BC Egypt began to be invaded by a people who became known as the Hyk-Sos, "shepherd kings". Contrary to popular belief, the Egyptians had no knowledge of chariots until they were introduced by the Hyksos. Egypt was able to achieve its largest empire and greatest power by the addition of the horse and chariot that were first introduced to the Egyptians by the Hyksos. The chariot became the supreme military weapon.
4. DID THE ISRAELITES HAVE CHARIOTS?
Dueteronomy 17:16 expressly forbids the king of Israel to increase greatly the number of his horses “nor cause the people to return to Egypt to the end that he should multiply his horses”.
In the time of David, the Arameans and Canaanites had large numbers of chariots and war horses. But strangely enough, the Israelites still made no use of them. When David fought Hadadezer the King of Zobah he faced a large cavalry and many chariots. 2 Samuel 8:4 says that David took from him [Zobah] a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen and David houghed (hamstrung, to render them incapable of use in war) all the chariot horses. Given the size and scope of the empire he inherited from his father David, Solomon no doubt needed means for transportation and trade. I Kings 10:26, 28 says that Solomon had thousands of horses imported from Egypt. In so doing, he violated one of the precepts of God's law, first given to Israel 450 years earlier. He also imported chariots and sold horses and chariots to other nations. Solomon armed the Hittites and Syria, providing them with the means to attack Israel and Judah in later years (I Kings 11:23-25; 20:1; II Chronicles 22:5).
6. DID THE ENTIRE ANCIENT WORLD USE CHARIOTS?
While other parts of the world had already been using chariots for hundreds of years, Europe did not learn of the chariot until much later. In Europe, the chariot was transmitted, perhaps by the Etruscans, to the Celts, who were using it in the British Isles in about the 5th century BC. Eventually though, every where in Europe, the Middle East, India and China used chariots. Kings, great pharaohs and even unimportant rulers used the chariot as their master weapon. Ancient art work created to honor the rulers shows them riding in chariots. They even included chariots and horses in their tombs as symbols of power. During the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 BC -771 BC) military strength was measured by the number of war chariots each kingdom had. Horses were so important to the Chinese that horses and the vehicles they pulled were buried with their owners for the afterlife.(above- left)
The Circus Maximus had:
10. DID THE CHARIOT RACERS WIN MONEY?
Instead of the victory going to the driver and horses, all the glory went to the winning owner of the horses and chariot. This made the chariot races very important for wealthy and powerful people. Women could not race but they could own horses. Even though the glory went to the owner, a skilled charioteer did become highly sought after. The most famous charioteer was Scorpus; he won two thousand races! Although there were individual stars, there were four main teams named after the colors they wore – the Reds, Whites, Blues and Greens. People had much loyalty to their teams; much like football today. Spectators were encouraged to sabotage the opposing team by throwing lead amulets, studded with nails, at the racers. As you can imagine, clashes between supporters of opposing teams happened often.
12. WHAT WERE CHARIOTS MADE OF?
The Egyptian horse drawn chariot typically consisted of a light wooden semicircular framework with an open back surmounting an axle and two wheels of four or six spokes. It had a metal covering for the axes, which reduced friction. Some other wooden parts were strengthened by covering them with metal sleeves. Egyptian chariots were lighter and faster than those of other major powers in the Middle East.
Roman chariots used for racing were built differently. A study of a 2,000-year-old toy chariot found in the Tiber River in the early 1890s and now on display at the British Museum, has revealed a secret trick. To increase the winning chances an iron rim was mounted on the right wheel only of the two-wheeled chariot. "The basic wheels were always of wood, animal hide glue, and rawhide strips (at critical joints) that tighten upon drying, like clamps," explained author Bela Sandor, professor emeritus of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Any iron tire for racing would be a very thin strip of iron on the outside of the wooden rim, best when heat-shrunk on the wood, to consolidate the whole wheel. Adding the strip of iron to the right wheel improved a charioteer's chances of winning a race to roughly 80 percent, according to a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Roman Archaeology. Unfortunately, no actual Roman racing chariots have survived. The archaeological evidence for the single-tire configuration only comes from the small toy model now on display at the British Museum.
When British archaeologist Howard Carter entered King Tut's treasure-packed tomb in 1922, he discovered two large ceremonial chariots and a smaller, highly decorated one. These chariots were likely not designed for warfare but rather, carried King Tutankhamun and Queen Ankhesenamun during ceremonies and parades. The gold-covered vehicle is believed to have been pulled by two horses. (left below) The three other chariots found were lighter and made for daily use. (right below) The fact that the vehicles were dismantled helped their preservation. The wheel rim would have bent under the chariot's weight and been permanently deformed if the chariots weren't disassembled.
13. WHEN DID ARMIES STOP USING CHARIOTS FOR WARFARE?
The chariot was doomed by the same thing that allowed it to excel – horse breeding. Stronger horses could carry men on their backs into battle. Cavalry were more maneuverable than chariots, more flexible and a more efficient use of manpower. Instead of two horses pulling one driver and one archer, two horses could carry two archers or two men running the enemy down with swords and lances. Yet chariots continued to be used particularly for hunting and sometimes for sport racing long after the demise of its usefulness in war.
14. WHEN AND WHY DID CHARIOT RACES END?
Like Rome, there were many wonderful buildings in Constantinople (an ancient city in modern-day Turkey that's now known as Istanbul). The Hippodrome was the sporting and social center of Constantinople. The Hippodrome was used for chariot races, important festivals and commemorative events. The most important event was the anniversary of the founding of the city by Constantine I. The city’s population gathered to celebrate the birth of the city. The festival was held every eleventh of May, starting in 323 AD and continuing for a thousand years! In the time of Justinian, chariot racing was the sport that had diehard fans. The two most popular teams were the Greens and the Blues. The Blues’ fans were most often members of the upper class and the Greens’ were most often members of the lower class. The fans were fanatical and sometimes even violent! Fans in the Hippodrome would cheer on their favorite charioteers and chariot teams with the cry, "Nika!", which means “Conquer!", "Win!" and "Victory!”
In 532 AD there was a lot of unhappiness over taxes that people had to pay; the buildings and the expansion of the empire cost money and the money had to come from someplace. The citizens thought that they were not the ones who should foot the bill so there was a riot. The ringleaders of the riot were supposed to be executed but two of them were able to escape. One was a fan of the Blues, the other a fan of the Greens. They were hidden away safely in a monastery. Their supporters decided to ask the emperor for mercy for these two men at the next chariot race. On January 13, 532AD, when the chariot races were scheduled to begin, members of both the Blues and the Greens loudly pleaded with the emperor to show mercy to the two men. Imagine that – the Blues and the Greens agreeing on something! When they did not get an answer, both factions began to cry out, "Nika! Nika!" The Hippodrome erupted in violence, and soon the mob took to the streets. For several days, the Blues and Greens rioted throughout Constantinople burning buildings and even trying to crown a new ruler. Emperor Justinian nearly fled the capital but his wife, Theodora, convinced him that it was nobler to stay and fight for his crown. Encouraged by her words, Justinian had his guards block the exits to the Hippodrome which the rioters were using as their headquarters. Then the guards ambushed the Hippodrome with mercenary troops.
By the time the battle ended, the riot was crushed and an estimated thirty thousand people were dead - as much as ten percent of Constantinople’s entire population! It took years for the city and its people to recover. The Hippodrome was shut down, and races were suspended for five years. No one was willing to move against Justinian after this. He was able to go forward with all his ambitious plans. He rebuilt the city, conquered territory in Italy and completed his law codes. But chariot racing did not recover from what would become known as the Nika Riots. This was the end of chariot racing as a mass spectator sport within Byzantium
EQUINE HERITAGE INSTITUTE
Join us as we explore the history of the horse. We share our love of horses with you!
Driving Horses - Variety is the Spice of Life!
Human History without the Horse...Inconceivable!
Horses and Carriages in the Cities
The Older Horse
Buying a Horse
14 Cool Things You May Not Know About Chariots
The Horses of Outlander
The Invention of the Harness - More Important Than the Automobile?!
The Golden Carriage
The Knight's Horse