History and Tradition

” We have thousands of years of cultural investment by mankind into the development of the skills of being able to have a beneficial relationship with horses  to address our needs and we shouldn’t just dismiss or disregard or throw away those years of co-evolvement because of the presence of cheap energy for 75 yrs. Oil doesn’t deserve the “power” to erase horsepower”. Jason Rutledge founder of Healing Forest Foundation

In the decade following World War II , American farmers traded their horses for tractors, retiring over 20 million working animals. In the rush to ‘modernize’ we threw overboard things we may yet need…and as we know, mechanization of the farm didn’t stop with eliminating horses.

In a world of shrinking resources and increasing human population, decisions must be made about which activities can be sustained. Because horses are themselves living history, they serve as an entry point to the story of civilization.

Learning about horse is to learn about where we came from. By honoring history, we also learn that we part of a bigger story, one that extends into the future with our horses alongside us in pleasure and productive partnership.

Human History is written in hoofprints…

….from around the Glided Age ( a time of enormous industrial, urban and agricultural growth) after the Civil War until the early 1900’s. Most of us have no memory of having been taught or told about the horses contribution but we should have been.

Without them there is no question that we couldn’t have achieved the kind of growth that occurred in this period. Horses worked in transit, industry, construction, shipping, commerce, and municipal government. They hauled streetcars, omnibuses, drays, delivery wagons, and private vehicles.

Horses delivered raw materials to factories and trucked away the finished products. Horses delivered building materials to construction sites, dug foundations, powered cranes, and hauled away the dirt from excavations.They loaded ships, dredged harbors, and hauled in fishing nets.

Horses brought produce, dairy products, meat, grain, and hay from surrounding areas into the city markets to feed urban consumers and returned stable manure the outlying farmlands.

Horses conveyed baggage and packages, carried freight to and from railroad depots and shipping piers, distributed coal, milk, ice, bread, and produce, delivered furniture and other consumer goods to homes and beer to saloons. they pulled fire engines, ambulances, street sweepers, and garbage wagons.

Horses provided virtually ALL of the power for the internal circulation of city life because no other prime mover could compete with them technologically.

Here are some interesting facts:

1900, the urban horse populations were at their peak, the average density in the cities of the Northeast was 396 per sq. mile, and in mid-western cities 541 per sq. mile. (Densities were lower in western and southern cities). The average density for the forty-six largest cities in the country was 426 horses per sq.mile. In that same year, New York and Chicago each averaged just under 500, Boston nearly 700, Cincinnati over 600, and Milwaukee came in the highest with 709 per sq. mile. In Philadelphia there were nearly 400 horses per sq. mile, or over 50,000 horses in the entire city.

Horses resided everywhere in the nineteenth-century cities. Livery stables hired our horses, wagons, and carriages for temporary use and housed workhorses and private carriage horses. Many hotels maintained livery operations that hired out horses and vehicles in addition to providing transportation for their guests and lodging for guests horses. Blacksmiths and horseshoers sometimes boarded horses in space alongside their shops, as did many small businesses that already kept a horse or two for their own delivery or production work.

The residential patterns of horse reflected the income and occupation of their owners and users. Elite carriage and riding horses lived in private stables in the best neighborhoods or in luxury livery stables. Working class horses lived in large, sometimes multi storied livery, freight, express, or streetcar stables, or in small stables tucked between homes and businesses. Lower-class horses lived in shacks, sheds, and cheap livery stables with poor sanitation.

Source:Horses At Work, Ann Norton Greene