This course hopes to demonstrate the complex relationship between horses and humans through time. Of the animals which have captured the imagination of humans, the horse as Pita Kelenkna describes, is surely the “aristocrat”. This introductory course begins some 55 million years ago with a brief visit to the rise of the dawn horse then traces the evolutionary path of Equus to the modern-day horse. We will spend time on the Pontic-Caspian steppes around 6000 years ago as the likely region where modern horses were first domesticated. The domestication of horses surely played a significant role in human history, horses were rapidly assimilated into nearly all aspects of human life, constructive and destructive. The nature of warfare was completely intertwined in the equestrian civilizations of the Middle East, India, and China who relied on horse chariotry and cavalry as the very core of their battlefield tactics–we will review the role of horses and the technology required by several horse-warrior societies. Beyond the battlefield, horses as draught animals co-developed with key advances in agriculture forever impacting the farming landscape. Horses provided transportation systems that allowed information, writing systems, revolutionary technologies, and ideas to spread across vast distances–even continents. As an example, the horseless Americas were forever affected by the (second) arrival of horses. Following the American Revolution, the role of the horse began a complex journey as the wealthy class of the new Americans began to shape the identity of horses by selective breeding and husbandry. Through the American industrial revolution, horses–especially work stock–became the primary blue-collar worker of the American landscape as agricultural workers, primary moving elements for road and waterway transportation systems, and occasionally recreation. Once again, horses were massively employed on the battlefield as the American Civil War raged from 1861-1865. From Reconstruction through the 1930’s, technology associated with horse-drawn equipment experienced massive development especially in the United States–farmers were living in what Lynn Miller has called the “golden era of the workhorse”. By the end of World War II, the use of horses on farms and highways was on the decline replaced by tractors and automobiles. However, a new relationship between humans and horses was on the rise, a new equestrian who by choice, now owns and works with horses. The modern equestrian industry is now very broad in scope as people continue to experience and define the horse-human connection.
For the Fall 2020 semester this course will be offered online.