It can be hard to write about horses and not be misunderstood. Most people seem decided about horses one way or another (mostly another), and conventional “wisdom” I’ve known tends to dismiss horses and their activities as outdated and obsolete.
The misunderstanding is understandable: we humans have always been a few flakes short of a bale when it comes to our equine partner … the writ-large story of horsemanship is one of human ignorance staggering toward a cooperative path it wants nothing of, until some innovation in cavalry tops the ridge and a new way is more or less happily accepted (mostly much less).
When I tell people I’m writing a fiction adventure about horses in history, reactions vary. Some smile in a rush of good feelings and memories (these we call ‘horsepeople’), some are intrigued; other’s eyes dart away with a short nod and change of subject, or peer at me curiously trying to grasp why a grown man would spend time writing about ‘horsies.’
Well, I don’t write about ‘horsies’ — no author does — but about an animal, a force, that has been an essential partner in civilization. I write to honor the intangible spirit in horses which sparks humanity’s creative impulses, a spirit which has served as mankind’s inner guide by providing a concrete image of noble humility, courage and selfless service. Discussions about horses deal in ideas that created the cultures we live in and have succeeded. Horse talk is really about humanity.
We can speak about horses in bold terms and not be embarrassed: it is hard to find expressive terms to describe how close and longstanding man’s partnership with the horse truly is. History has moved to the sound of hoofbeats since prehistoric man enshrined horses on cave walls, and celebration of our partnership has ennobled mankind throughout recorded time.
Is the great ride over?
Is mankind ready to dismount and proceed into the terrifying future alone? This is a graver decision than the attention it is given.
Yes, we have machines to replace buggies and hoofed cavalry … but perhaps we should consider the lessons of the countless cultures that rested upon the status quo of their horsemanship–and were overridden by newly-discovered potential in the horse.
Today horsemanship’s ancient roles of youth development, leadership training and community-fostering deserve examination, and there are exciting new roles to explore in horse-powered ‘green’ commerce, recreation, and healing so relevant to our crowded future.
It may even be that the ancients were correct in believing the horse was a gift of the Creator, and the future belongs to horsemen as much as did the past.
My answer to skeptics? Horse talk is more than it seems.