Humans have a peculiar relationship to nature, the environment and the outside world in general. We treat it as secondary and unimportant at the best of times but we absolutely cannot live without it. We are tied into it and feed ourselves from it. We keep it close to ourselves even as completely push it away. This is foolish at best and extremely dangerous at worst. We even mistreat other animals as if we weren’t one of them. As if, to some degree, we weren’t exactly the same as they are except slightly smarter. All of this can seem extremely bleak and, to some extent, it is, but there are bright spots in this story of us coming to terms with who we are. We do have spots of small victory we can look and marvel at. For instance, our relationship to the animals we keep safe. Dogs, for one example. Gray wolves decided to join with us humans hundreds of thousands years ago and neither species has ever looked back. They live with us and we live them, each species helping the other out in exchange for mutual benefit. But dogs aren’t the only success story here. They are one of the most popular, no doubt, but they aren’t the only one. There are plenty of others.
- Other, stronger animals
Yes, dogs are the most popular but they aren’t our biggest success story. After all, dogs, even their progenitors the gray wolves, aren’t quite as big as we are. Close but not quite. We have horseback riding. We don’t have dog back riding. The history of the relationship between horses and humans is just as interesting as the history of dogs and is, actually, a little less understood. Let’s take a look at this history in order to get a better understanding of what drives both species. After all, we don’t arrive at having horse farms, the horse show or horse shows, or horseback riding overnight. Horseback riding isn’t just any one of many attractions, either. For some, it’s a way of life. But this seems inherently strange doesn’t it? Our ancestors might not think so. The real history of humanity and horse goes back thousands of years and starts, many think, with people on the great central plains of Asia and peoples who had just moved into the central plains of the Americas.
How we came to move
It’s a bit difficult to picture, isn’t it? All of these small tribes of people, moving constantly over endless wilderness. There were no power lines or buildings or roads. Those wouldn’t come until much later. There was no way to know what lay over the horizon. That impulse calls to us still and will continue to call to us. Humans are a restless species and they keep moving, even when it seems dangerous. These tribes in Asia and America likely understood this idea and understood that that this need to move was inherent. They were just as intelligent as we are albeit without having access to some of the tools that had yet to be developed. With this ingenuity and the newfound trust that they were finding within tamed wolves, they turned their restless attention to the larger creatures they saw on the plain. These peoples were closer to nature than we are in the contemporary age and thus their intuition and intelligence for innovation was stronger. They likely understood that, given the right circumstances, they could use the power of this large animal to their advantage. And so, by slow degrees, they did.
Riding into the future
Fast forward centuries into the future and these peoples are horseback riding as if it has always been a thing. They are riding to other areas, trading, spreading ideas, bringing their culture and personality to other places all on horseback. Not only this but other cultures are gaining access to these tamed horses and using them for their own ends. Hauling cargo, moving faster between villages and growing cities. Horses were becoming a species that humans couldn’t live without. In exchange, the horses were cared for and kept from the predators of their natural environment.