What a delightful historic video I found today on YouTube. User Ishexan edited this from old film footage featuring the Finnish Horse - also known as the Finnish Universal or Finnish Trotter or Finnhorse. These are all-round horses, Cob-like in build, strong enough for draft work, fast enough at the trot for good racing, and also used for riding, including jumping. They are most commonly chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, though other colors occur, including silver dapple (silver bay). There is a breed site in English here.
This beautiful stone relief from the 10th century BC shows an Aramaean warrior on horseback. The way the rider's hand is held makes the horse's leap seem playful, though I think it is simply a composition decision to prevent the arm overlapping the horse's neck or the rider's other arm, which holds a whip. I think the horse looks like it is smiling slightly, which adds to the playful impression I get, although if you enlarge the image you can see that the rider certainly isn't smiling, just the horse! Go to The British Museum site to see a large image and a detailed description of the origins and significance of this piece.
What an interesting set of armor for horse and rider! These are from the Sudan, made of quilted fabric, and housed at the British Museum in London.
The British Museum site describes the piece in more detail:
"This horse armour is made from several pieces
of brightly coloured cloth sewn together. They are stuffed with
kapok, the wool-like strands that surround the seeds of the silk
cotton tree, creating a heavy garment. In full battle the war-horse
would also have worn chainmail or pieces of leather across the
flanks. A headpiece of metal and cloth completed the outfit. These
colourful horses did not always go into battle but instead they
were often used by the bodyguards for leaders. Quilted armour is
still worn today but only on ceremonial
horse armour was probably used during the Battle of Omdurman (2
September 1898).... " (link) There is another caption here, describing more about the armor.
Back in the day packs of cigarettes came with collectible cards - like the baseball cards some of you may remember from packs of chewing gum in more recent times. This series (there are dozens of them to browse here) featured the drum horses of various military groups, shown in all their parade finery. They were printed between 1908 and 1915. Drum horses are large and calm-tempered, carrying the musician who play the large kettle drums in military parades. Though used sparingly now, they were formerly common, predominantly in Western Europe. They were not originally of any particular breed, though draft horses were commonly used to provide size and sturdiness. Following on the recent popularity of the Gypsy Cob in the US, drum horses have gained new attention among fans of heavy horses. Organizations such as the Drum Horse Association are attempting to define a breed from the type, by allowing registration of horses carrying, for example, Clydesdale, Shire, Gypsy Cob and Friesian bloodlines. This site has some interesting and detailed background on the military history of drums and drum horses.
This illustration, entitled "Horse Trappings, Fourteenth to Eighteenth Centuries" depicts a military horse with an entire bearskin (head and all!) as a saddle pad. Unfortunately there is no detail about the design and use of this exotic saddle pad. I noticed the horse is also wearing decorative "bracelets" on all four legs, just above the knees and hocks. Perhaps they are bells? The plume on the horse's head is quite elaborate.
Ah, no more suffering school ponies teaching kids how to post the trot! A mechanical horse is just what we needed!
This device, pictured in a 1916 issue of Popular Science Monthly, was being used to train British cavalry men. The caption says: "English cavalryman Astride 'Back Ache.' " I haven't heard of any recent use of such things - except mechanical bulls for training bull riders. But perhaps there are other mechanical horses still in use somewhere.
The Waler is a scarce breed originating in Australia, where it was bred as a fine cavalry and stock horse during the era of the British Empire. Walers were highly regarded for their stamina, hardiness, agility, trainability and bravery in battle. By the 1940s the cavalry breeding program had been abandoned, and most remaining Walers were turned loose, becoming feral horses, while others went on to develop into the modern Australian Stock Horse. In the mid 1980s a move was made to round up surviving feral Walers, which were at risk of being shot or sent to slaughter as part of a government eradication program. The Waler Horse Society of Australia was formed at that time, and has been active in promoting this hardy, athletic breed as a sport horse.
The Waler has an interesting background, being strongly influenced by the Indonesian Timor Pony and the South African Cape Horse, with much additional mixture of European coach and trotting horse breeds, draft horses, Thoroughbred, and Arab. The original Waler was not bred according to fixed standards, but rather by type; today it continues to be quite variable in appearance. However, the new organization takes into account the current preference for purebred horses, and requires registration and breeding records to be kept.
Yarramalong Waler Stud has a wesbite full of photos showing historic and modern Walers in all sorts of activities. Also interesting is this page which quotes from dozens of historic sources, revealing the varied breeding programs and types of horse used by the military. They are affiliated with another association, the Waler Horse Owners & Breeders Association, which has broken away from the Society mentioned above, with somewhat different breeding guidelines and goals.
NamibWeb.com, a travel site, has an article uncovering the mystery of a valley full of old horse bones that occasionally appears deep in the desert. Spooky! I wouldn't want to wander into that on a moonlit night!
This is fascinating: a film shot by Thomas A. Edison in 1898, showing cavalry practicing laying down. I imagine this was an important skill to master in case of battle! There are more subtle ways to teach a horse to lay down, but one can't take one's time when being shot at.