NYC could honor horses with small “Horse Village” in Central Park

The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy was inspired by man’s partnership with horses … the following is a response to an exceptional challenge to the horse’s place in society today.


The NYC carriage horse situation has given me the idea to ask the horse welfare activists to help with a project for the future of horses—by helping reconnect the public with their equestrian roots.

A New Era

The recent move to ban horse carriages in NYC follows a number of controversies involving the place for horses in modern society. The struggle against horse slaughter, the fight to keep free-running mustangs in the American West, and, for me locally, the disbanding of the Boston police horses and detached dismanagement of Suffolk Downs—these issues point to a need for an informed public conversation about horsemanship’s role in the modern era.

This is a conversation for our time. The discussion couldn’t have been had in 1900 when cavalry competitions in Jumping were new and gaining unprecedented popularity with horse-experienced audiences. In the following decades the ‘horse and buggy’ was being replaced by automobiles and made into a cliché of being old-fashioned and obsolete. A conversation about the future of horses wouldn’t have been hopeful in the WWI & II years as 21 million US farm horses were summarily ‘retired’ in favor of tractors and horse cavalries were being disbanded the world over. Even as new recreational forms of horsemanship were growing in the post-war era, it was too soon to see whether popularity would sustain or how the new forms would develop.

Today we have the evidence that human interest in horses goes beyond their use in transportation and war, and valuable experience in how humane forms of horsemanship can continue to benefit mankind. We are at a historic crossroads and, as the challenges to the horse’s presence in society are showing, we need to have that conversation for the good of our horses and future generations.

My proposal is to ask Mayor de Blasio to set aside in perpetuity a quiet 1.5 acre plot in the 840-acre Central Park for a ‘Horse Village’ dedicated to sharing horses with the public.

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Horses must be re-introduced to every new generation

Horse Blessing, Arlington Street Church (Boston 2011)If any sight creates instinctive excitement it is surely the horse. Children are naturally attracted to horses; people speak of ‘natural’ horsemen. Horses have been with mankind since our prehistoric ancestors enshrined equines in cave paintings.

Yet most people don’t have contact with horses in daily life anymore. Fortunately there are many opportunities to keep the positive tradition of horsemanship in our culture through recreation, sport and therapy. These spirited and beneficial activities are part of a unique world that must be reintroduced to every new human generation.

The new challenge for the equine industry is to share the excitement and value of horses, something never needed before our technological era. By reaching out to the general public the amazing experience of horsemanship can be honored and passed on to new generations.

Image Credit

Photo of horse greeting during the ‘Blessing of the Animals‘ service at Arlington Street Church (Boston, 2011)

Why I Write about Horses

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.’

Horse Talk

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.

Author Chat on LibraryThing

The online site LibraryThing is hosting an Author Chat on Oct. 18-24th for John Allen Royce, author of “Eclipsed by Shadow,” 1st book of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy …

The online site LibraryThing is hosting an Author Chat on Oct. 18-24th for John Allen Royce, author of Eclipsed by Shadow, 1st book of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy … come by and say hello!

LibraryThing is a social site for storing and sharing personal library catalogs and book lists, with over 1,200,000 users and nearly 56 million books catalogued … membership is free for basic accounts!