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in 1519 with a force of only about 850 men and 16 horses, the 16
horses that were to reinstate the equine species on the American
mainland. He claimed that “next to God, we owed the victory
to the horses for they struck terror into the natives who naturally
had never seen the like of these armored beasts before.” By
1680 when the Indians rose up and drove the Spanish out, thousands
of horses were left behind. They strayed northward and when they
arrived on the American Plains, they caused complete changes in
the culture within two generations. Two generations! Cultural changes
sometimes take centuries to come about, but this was like the computer
in our lifetime. It touched everything and quickly.
We have good historic records of this impact on the Plains Indians.
The dominance of farming tribes was completely overtaken by hunting
tribes. Riders could move 2-3 times farther and faster than could
people on foot. Sedentary horticultural villages were so vulnerable.
Enemies would make lightning strikes, take what they wanted and
disappear; they could not be pursued or punished. Whole villages
were abandoned or in self-defense they also became mounted. So warfare
increased in intensity and in social importance. Prowess in war
became more and more respected. Probably no aspect of Indian culture
was not affected by horseback riding: religion, personal identity,
warfare, economic productivity, commerce and boundaries.
By the fast gallopers. Igniting sparks. Invading
the enemy by morning. Striking terror therein. Penetrating to the
heart of their territory. (100:1-5)
Going back to ancient times, these early
horse cultures were violent, arrogant and self-absorbed. They used
the horse as a means to an end and that end was usually conquest.
God continues in sura 100: The human being is unappreciative
of his Lord. He bears witness to this fact. He loves material things
But we know that in spite of the general unappreciative nature
of humans, there are righteous individuals. Solomon is a good example,
especially in context of horses. History shows that Solomon was
a sound horse breeder. It’s claimed that he kept 1200 riding
horses and perhaps 40,000 chariot horses. We know from the Quran
that his horses were important to him, in fact, at one point, too
important and God used them as a test.
One day he became preoccupied with beautiful horses,
until the night fell. He then said, “I enjoyed the material
things more than I enjoyed worshiping my Lord, until the sun was
gone. Bring them back.” (To bid farewell), he rubbed their
legs and necks. We thus put Solomon to the test; we blessed him
with vast material wealth, but he steadfastly submitted. (38:31-4)
And I’d like to quote from The Encyclopedia of the
Horse: “The expansion of Islam through the conquests
of the 7th and 8th centuries initiated a train of events that would
ensure the emergence of Europe from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance
period and the rebirth of humanism. Unlike later conquests, which
had no lasting effects, such as those of the Mongols, Islam bequeathed
a rich legacy to the world in its graceful architecture and its
appreciation and practice of the arts and sciences. It also left
the incomparable horses on which its achievements were dependent.”
It is clear then that righteous people were capable of being appreciative
great gift which God had provided. Ishmael,
Solomon and Mohammed are all considered sound horsemen who improved
breeding stock and made good use of the horse to transport armies
In the Quran 17:64, when God talks about mobilizing all your forces,
He uses a word that implies “horse power” because it’s
the horse, not the camel, that impacted war in this dramatic way.
And of course the term survives today in the concept of the more
horse power, the better, faster, more powerful is the car.
So we need to show appreciation when studying an animal as magnificent
and historically crucial as the horse. God combined such beauty
and grace with the willingness to be tamed and work with humans.
That’s quite a gift. Although we don’t have to depend
on horses in our modern society in the same way, we need to be aware
that without that substantial contribution, history might have been
God took that dawn horse weighing in at maybe 20 pounds, shaped
its survival over millions of years, and allowed man to turn it
into the hundreds of breeds of horses and ponies of today. We have
beautiful Arabians, elegant thoroughbreds, and draft horses weighing
up to 2500 pounds. We keep them and use them in ranching and racing
and enjoy them for recreation. We put on a bridle and saddle and
trot around an arena or on a bridle path or dress up in fancy clothes
for a fox hunt. We give no thought to the remarkable impact these
gentle creatures had on all of history. It’s just like with
every other creation of God. We need to be appreciative.
The heavens and the earth are full of proofs for
the believers. Also in your creation, and the creation of all the
animals, there are proofs for people who are certain. (45:3-4)