Horses in war: A history

Horses in war: A history

By Natalie Gracia

Journal of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Excellence, Vol.2:2 (2011)

Introduction: The sound of thundering hooves fills soldiers’ ears as their horses flatten out, lower to the ground as the increased stride length gobbles up terrain. Wind whips by, chafing faces, stinging eyes, and a wild cry tears from the lips of hundreds of men. The enemy is in sight, and the soldiers are closing in. Lances level and mounts maneuver toward any slight gap between the shields of the opponent’s infantry. Five strides to close the distance. This is what man and beast have trained for, practicing for years to meld into one body, one mind, one spirit. Three strides, targets picked, aim taken. One stride, all hell breaks loose. Lances aim true, piercing the enemy through armor and shattering with the impact; others go wide missing the target and enemy infantry swallow rider and horse. Comrades and horses are screaming, injured, fallen, and bloodied. The surviving force wheels to the right, flying back to the reserve forces to regroup. A cavalry shock charge just turned the tide in a raging battle.

The domestication of the horse led to societal advances. Horses were first kept as a source of meat and milk, like cattle. Although impossible to date exactly when horses were domesticated, there is archaeological evidence dating from as early as 4000 BCE that indicates horses were used for riding and driving. It is suspected horses were domesticated before this, but horses, unlike dogs, underwent few physical changes with the process of domestication making it impossible to determine an exact time period when horses became more than just food.

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