Well, we have had a wide-ranging journey through the domestication of horses and the invention of wagons and buggies.
This is one of the things I find so incredible: horses (as well as donkeys, asses and other equines) were not only the main form of transportation for almost 9000 years, they were, except for shanks mare – i.e. walking –the only form. By the time of Will Rees in the late eighteenth century, wagons and buggies were polished and elegant inventions.
Okay, I can just hear someone saying ‘But what about shocks?’ Right, they didn’t have shocks. But the front wheels were slightly smaller than the rear and they were cupped to make for smooth turning. The axle, as mentioned before, is equipped with other pieces to make the operation both smooth and efficient.
And horses have been domesticated for literally millennia.
What does this mean? Well, as with dogs and the other livestock, (cattle, pigs, sheep) they are used to human companionship. Training a horse is a lot easier (I would say it requires) human contact from a very early age. Horses not only have to accept human companionship but also direction. They have to be trained to a bit and reins. If intended for a saddle horse, the animal has to accept a saddle and the weight of a rider as something normal. Horses destined to pull vehicles have to learn, besides the feel of the bit and reins, to accept the weight and the clatter of something following (Remember, horses are prey so they instinctually run).
In Rees’s time, most of the horses were trained as working horses, pulling wagons and buggies. Saddle horses were expensive and, as had been the case for several centuries, were pretty much owned and used only by the wealthy. A horse trained to pull a wagon could not serve also as a saddle horse unless it had been trained as one also. Horses were divided into the aristocrats and the cobs. The working and middle classes ( and I think of Rees as middle class since he owns property and has a craft) did not have the wherewithal to own saddle horses. They needed workers that pulled vehicles.
Of course things are different now.
For a time horses continued to be used simultaneously with the car. But gradually the engine took over. Although the Amish continue to use horses as they have been for thousands of years, for most of us, the horse has become a luxury animal. And it happened in less than one hundred years.
But not completely. One of my readers referred me to an organization that strives to keep the skills of using horses and oxen alive. Since the use of these animals are more sustainable in Africa than tractors, farmers there are assisted in their use. Thanks Kim for that information! I love it.