3:14 Adorned for the people
are the worldly pleasures, such as the women, having children, piles
upon piles of gold and silver, trained horses, livestock, and crops.
These are the material of this world. A far better abode is reserved
16:8 And He created the horses, the mules, and the
donkeys for you to ride and for luxury. Additionally, He creates
what you do not know.
The horse has had a profound, far-reaching, long-lasting effect
on civilization. It’s far more than the beauty and grace of
the horse; it’s the impact the horse, domestication of the
horse and then riding the horse had on the world. In an amazing
way, the horse completely and dramatically and almost instantaneously
changed the face of the world. Truly in exactly the same way that
the computer has overhauled our world, and look at how quickly that’s
happened, the horse had the same impact on the ancient world.
First off on domestication: there have been more than 4000 species
of mammals on the earth over the last one thousand years, yet the
horse is one of fewer than a dozen that has achieved widespread
success as a domesticated animal. This isn’t from lack of
trying. It’s human nature to try to turn animals into pets
or servants. It turns out that it’s not a matter of human
will at all. It’s now recognized that certain species are
“pre-adapted” to domestication. That’s the term
that science uses; we know that it simply means that God has designed
them this way.
36:71-2 Have they not seen that we created for them
with our own hands, livestock that they own? And we subdued them
for them; some they ride, and some they eat.
Certain species—but fewer than a dozen—were designed
by God to go through this life in service to man. The horse and
the zebra are members of the same family, but except for the occasional
circus act, you don’t see people riding around on zebras,
but the horse is used in riding everywhere. How did this develop?
Well, it’s all part of God’s
plan, part of His overall scheme that goes back to long before He
placed man on earth. It’s amazing, and only because of God’s
will, that the horse even survived. The “dawn horse,”
eohippus, was only about 14 inches high and weighed about 12-20
pounds. This early horse was probably a jungle dweller, and was
certainly prey for a number of early predators.
Over the next 60 million years much evolution took place through
natural selection and adapting to the environment. The horse slowly
grew in stature, moved into more open ground and so developed long
legs for speed and agility. Other adaptations involved the development
of their hooves as their original 5 toes became 4, then 3 and finally
the single solid hoof of today’s horse—a great help
in moving swiftly. These adaptations happened slowly over millions
of years. It’s only in the last 6000 years that man has been
involved in this process, but our hand is clear. Natural evolution
works on important things for the survival of the species; we select
for coat color and looks depending on our whims and needs.
Interestingly, the horse began in North America and crossed the
land bridge to colonize the Old World. By about 10,000 years ago
it was completely extinct in North America. Driven from Europe because
of habitat changes, they ended up existing only on the Russian Steppes
for centuries. That’s where domestication began around 6000
years ago and with this partnership with man, the horse made a sweeping
comeback. And descendents of the population that left this continent,
millennia before, returned with the Spanish Conquistadors in 1519
and totally changed the history of America.
The horse as we know it today—the general size and shape--emerged
in the Pleistocene era, the same time as man. By around 4000 BC,
there is archaeological evidence that horses were kept for meat
and milk. They were probably kept in small herds along with cattle
There’s much debate about what happened next—in what
order. It was originally assumed that the horse was used to pull
carts and chariots before it was ever ridden. The assumption being
that it would have been easier to get a horse in harness than to
mount him. But new evidence suggests the reverse.
Archaeological remains from 6000 years
ago show a horse that wore a riding bit, and this is 500 years before
the first wheel. And how riding happened is completely open to debate.
One quote: “To ride a horse was surely more an act of daring,
bravado, curiosity and yearning than of necessity.” Certainly,
that first rider would have no idea of the changes that would follow
this brave action. Perhaps it was purely accidental. It’s
not in the nature of the horse to allow something on its back. He
has a very strong flight response and a survival instinct to throw
off anything on its back—it’s probably a predator. So
it’s likely that the first rider earned the horse’s
trust over a period of time and mounted as a natural extension of
that companionship. How quickly was that first rider thrown off?
Or did they just gallop off into the sunset?
Whatever, they changed history forever, with such speed and savagery
that we can’t even imagine. Archaeology tracks slow changes
and movements of early communities up until this point in history.
Suddenly everything changes. Tribal life was completely transformed.
Communities mingled. Riverside communities moved out into the plains.
Some cultures vanished abruptly and completely. It extended the
range for hunting because man could suddenly run down big game.
He could keep much larger herds of cattle, sheep and horses and
simply drive them to new grazing lands whenever necessary. It touched
communities farther and farther apart; they spread; they lost ties
with old communities. Weapons of war proliferated. Conflicts grew
over the best land and horses made war easier and worse at the same
When you got up on a horse you immediately held the high ground.
This separated farmers from herdsmen, placing a serious wedge between
them. The farmer, or “pedestrian,” was at the mercy
of the horsemen and had to form alliances with stronger groups for
protection and learn to cooperate and provide food and grain in
exchange for the right to exist. Arrogance went hand in hand with
conquest—the motto “might makes right.” Horsemen
felt so superior.
How long did it take? Well, it’s hard to know for sure, but
there’s an analogy in North America. Cortez invaded Mexico
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