Many writers have romanticised horses and human’s connection with them. In mythologies from round the world the horse is always present in places where horses lived wildly. In some cultures like those of the American West or the Argentinian Pampas (places, by the way, that didn’t have horses until Spaniards brought them over int he 1500s from Europe), the horse is seen as a symbol of independence, mobility and self-sufficiency. In other, more ancient cultures, like those of the Huns and the Mongols, their entire society was structured round horses. And in the Middle Ages, one talked of chivalry, a word that comes from the French and comes from the word horse, an animal intertwined with knights intricately.
Even nowadays there are many cultures and people throughout the world who are reliant on horses. Even in the so-called developed world, farming communities throughout Europe can be found still relying on horses despite the invention of mechanised agriculture. But for the most part people nowadays use horses for pleasure activities.
It’s sometimes hard to put one’s self into the frame of mind of someone who lived before the Industrial Revolution and the internal combustion engine, which lead to the car. However, I find it to be a humbling experience for a horse enthusiast.
For essentially most of human history, from the first domestication several thousand years ago (there is great dispute as to where and when the first horses were domesticated but one of the earliest examples of domesticated horses goes back some five or possibly six thousand years in Kazakhstan) until only some hundred years go, humans were dependent on horses for working machinery, delivering post, pulling carriages and allowing riders get from place to place comfortably and far more quickly than if walking.
In return, humans gave horses a special place in their world. Cats and dogs were animals that lived amongst humans—and were venerated in their own right—and other animals were used as sources of food. But few animals took hold of the imagination of the horse, owing to how dependent we were on it for many hundreds and thousands of years.
In addition to feeling close to the animals, when I’m riding I also feel close to our ancestors. I am now able to watch films on my smartphone and see the imagines of people from across the world and talk in real-time in addition to any of the other wonders of our modern world. But riding I feel that connection with how life used to be when horses were our main transport.
Personally I am of the opinion that this rich history between humans and horses is one of the reasons we continue to venerate horses. While most people around today don’t worship horses they still remain a part of our culture and it remains the dream of children the world over to have their very own horse (or pony).