The domestic horse as we know today is the product of a long evolutionary chain and this process was developed for 50 million years from small animals, with measures similar to that of a medium-sized dog, to reach the fast horses that run the steppes and diverse lands, with the dimensions that we know today.
At the end of this evolutionary process, humans domesticated the horse through captivity and a process of artificial selection, an element that characterises every scheme of domestication.
We can ask ourselves the following question: Are there today truly wild horses, that are not influenced by domestication? The answer is affirmative, although the number of wild horses is currently very low.
In 1881, a Russian-born explorer named Nicolai Mikhalo Vich Przewalski discovered a very small herd of wild horses on the border of Mongolia and Sinkiang in Central Asia. This animal receives the name of “Wild Horse of Mongolia” or “Horse of Przewalski”, measures 1.3 meters to the cross and owns a thick head. It is believed that this is the only and authentic wild horse that exists today, whose ancestors were never domesticated.
While other races, such as the Mustang of North America, the Brubie of Australia, or the Icelandic horse, are also commonly referred to as “wild”, the truth is that they all came from places where the man had already domesticated them and then returned to its natural state of life. For example, the Mustang appeared in North America brought by the Spanish conquest.
Where do the horses come from?
Some affirm that the horses come from the North of America and that from there it would have emigrated towards South America and Asia, by the frozen strait that united then America with Asia, to expand from there to Europe and Africa. The curious thing is that for the same strait, tribes of humans who hunted the horse with great aggression also went to the North of America until they exterminated it in that region. Fortunately, this situation has not been replicated, at least at the level of extermination, in Asia and Europe.
The horse would not return to the American continent, but until the Spanish conquest, who, as we said before, reintroduced him to the continent from where he had emigrated.
How and why was the horse domesticated?
We say first that a species is considered domesticated, when humans begin to intervene in its reproduction and, from there, its evolution results basically from artificial selection, leaving natural selection a minor role. In other words, to domesticate presupposes the separation, total or partial, of the animals of their wild pairs.
At first, humans hunted the horse to feed, but then this began to change. Between 11,000 and 4,000 BC, humans gradually began to change from hunter to producer, giving origen to agriculture and the domestication of animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, dogs, etc.
A significant number of experts believe that the horse was domesticated from the Tarpan, a wild horse that lived in the South of Russia and Ukraine and in the steppes of Eastern Europe. The Tarpan became extinct in Ukraine at the end of the 19th century. Other scholars, say that the origin of our horse is Przewalski’s horse, questions linked to the 64 chromosomes of this horse and the 62 that the current horse has, a difficult technical issue to address here inclines us in favor of accepting the Tarpan as the wild origin of our horse.
A study that carried out a mitochondrial among 600 horses belonging to 25 different breeds indicated that they came from at least 17 different genetic groups and that they were domesticated in six different places. Therefore, determining the place where the horse began to be domesticated is, in principle, very complicated.
This study does not rule out that the first domestication of the horse was made in the Eurasian steppes and with the primary objective of producing meat. Nor does it rule out that the region of Mongolia and Kazakhstan between the years 3,500 to 3,000 A.C used the milk of the mares of their herds.
Although the horses were domesticated in the beginning for food, the human then found in them an added value in regard to their collaboration in the development process, and it is from there that human and horse develop a very close relationship, with different characteristics, endures to this day.
Horse riding allowed humans to travel long distances, fight to build great empires and pull their plows, creating a relationship so close that it has even been reflected in the history of humanity with “legends” such as Bucephalus the horse of Alexander the Great, Babieca the horse of the Cid Campeador, Incitatus the horse of the Roman emperor Caligula, Marengo the white horse of Napoleon, Pegasus the winged horse of Greek mythology or Rocinante the horse of Don Quixote de la Mancha.
To such an extent has reached this close relationship between humans and horses that many people choose to enjoy their holidays “on horseback”. This activity, commonly called Equestrian Tourism, which result from the combination of the hobby of horseback riding with the interest of visiting different parts of the world, allows us to delight ourselves with other traditions and cultures while we ride on horseback through different parts of the world.
We invite you to know the proposals that Ampascachi Horse Riding Holidays has thought for you to visit Argentina.
Domestication of the Horse
Over time, to domesticate the horse, humans developed and used different elements or accessories in order to exercise control and improve riding. Some of these elements, in order of appearance, were the following:
a) The Horse Halter and the Horse Muzzle, which was intended to control the head and mouth of the animal, both for riding and to pull the carts or plows. The development of these elements dates from the years 2,300 AC showing clearly its consolidation of use from 1,300 AC.
b) The saddle, which evolved to the saddle with a wooden base that we know today, contributed to improve the safety of the rider on the horse, especially in the actions of war. The saddle did not appear until 500 BC.
c) The iron stirrups, which provided the rider with two points of support for his feet, which significantly improves his way of balancing and marks a very important change in the technique for fighting with spears and swords. While there are many advantages to this element, its creation is late because neither Persians nor Greeks nor Roman knew or felt the use of stirrup was practical. There are unequivocal signs of its appearance in the eighth century AD, although it can also be said that there are Assyrian iconographic samples from 850 BC that show figures of men mounted supporting their feet in elements similar to a stirrup.
d) The horseshoe with nails, allowed to solve something that was fundamental to riding, especially on hard or stony ground, and that is the protection of the horse’s hooves. This cornea wrapping of the last two phalanges of the finger in which the front and rear members of the horse end up should be protected, not only by the added weight of the rider and his mount but also by the hardness of the floors that seriously affected the physical integrity of the hooves. This was a concern that always had the riders, about to have more than three horses for riders to avoid the demands, until the Romans who made a kind of metal sandal for hooves protection. The precise historical references, of the already effective presence of the horseshoe of nails, that we use to date from the 9th century AD.
Horse Breeds More Popular To Ride
In this topic, and given the large number of existing breeds, we indicate the ones we estimate are the most popular for the equestrian sport of Dressage and Jumping and also the most appropriate for horseback riding, the special breeds for equestrian routes and the fundamental breeds.
For the most linked to sports, which can also be used in horseback riding, we will name:
Breeds more linked with the equestrian sport
Dutch Warmblood – KWPN
The KWPN or Dutch Warmblood Horse, as its name indicates the purpose for which it was selected, giving today very good results in the dressage and jumping competitions. It is also used to ride in the field as tasks related to leisure.
The Hanoverian horse is originally from Germany and is currently one of the most popular breeds in the world, especially for the practice of sports riding.
Among his ancestors we find specimens of the holsteiner breed, pure English breed and a first horse native to the Hannover region.
From the different crosses was obtained a light animal and elegant gait that both used it for hooking and to mount it and physical aptitudes that also allowed to use it in the field.
This breed was developed in Germany during the seventeenth century, with the aim of getting a horse for pull carriages.
The main base of this breed was based on the Friesian horse.
Over time, the breed was improved with the blood supply of the Napolitano horse, Berberisco, Spanish, Hanoverian and Thoroughbred, achieving a greater refinement of the horse for more complete uses, than that of pulling carriages.
It is an animal of great physical build and is very used in the present in jumping competitions, dressage and even in competition of carriages.
The Westphalian is originally from the Rhineland region (Germany) and is a product of basically three breeds: Pure English, Arabic and Hanoverian blood.
In the 1970s, the moment of the rise of horsemanship in Germany, this horse strongly broke into the sectors of sports riding as a product of high quality, noting this in all types of competition.
The Holsteiner is a breed of warmblood horse of German origin.
Its origins date back to the thirteenth century in the province of Schleswig-Holstein, some think it is the oldest warmblood breed.
For centuries, these horses have not had a single use, so they were used for riding, pulling carts and also in some agricultural work.
The bases of the current breed began in 1961.
The breed, as we say, is very oriented towards sports, especially jumping.
They also present good results in hitch, dressage and full competition.
Purebred Spanish (PRE)
The Pura Raza Spanish horse, named after 1912, which historically and internationally was known as Andalusian horse, is the result of a breeding that go into time until before the Roman Empire.
A horse that is balanced between the beauty of Renaissance art and the overcoming of the Golden Age; shows the past, the present and allows to visualize a great future.
The Pura Raza Spanish horse is one of the most valued horses, because it is in balance, it is worthy for any job, and so its beauty and brio is the result of keeping the blood pure, without crosses and improving the genetic quality in each generation, also marking a great influence in the generation of several breeds of Central Europe Central and America.
The origin of the Trakehner is located in the east of Prussia (border region between Lithuania and Poland at the moment).
In the 17th century, Frederick I of Prussia chose the best studs of Schweiken to start a breeding selection to make a military breed of horses and in the 19th century blood of pure Arab blood and Turkmen was introduced to refine the breed and currently The Trakehner is a tough, powerful, athletic and elegant horse.
Originally from France, this breed was bred mainly for sport.
Although it is a very young breed, in Europe it was recognized as such in 1970, because its veins run very old blood like that of the Pura Sangre, the Hunter or the Anglo Norman.
The crosses that have been made the most to improve the breed are: the Anglo Arabic with the French Trotter, the Pure English Breed with the French Trotter and Pura Raza with the Anglo Arabic. It is characterized by its great ability to jump.
Breeds more related to horse routes
These horses were bred by the Nez Persé Indians in north-western Oregon and Idaho. Unlike other tribes, these Indians bred only the best stallions and mares to achieve the breed with the colours that we recognise today at Appalosa.
These animals were valued for their ability to move safely on rocky slopes, as well as for their endurance and strength.
It is as if it had grown up just to walk on all kinds of terrain. It has a strong and compact body and hard hooves.
His character is calm and good spirited, and can take his rider faraway places without problems.
The Quarter House or Quarter of a Mile
The Quarter Horse is the result of the crosses that were made in the USA since colonial times for activities of different types of work, both in the field and for the transport of stagecoaches, and on weekends, to run short races.
We would say that it began to acquire definitive breed characteristics with the breeding developed in the most important ranches in Texas such as King Ranch, Four Sixes, Wagoner Ranch, etc., It is in these ranches where a breed defined by the Pura Sangre, Morgan and the American Saddlebred, with the already specific sense of having a cowboy horse, even in automobile times, were essential to manage and guide the herds.
In addition to providing a fast start, ability to turn and stop, necessary for work with livestock, qualities provided by the powerful hindquarters, this quality also helped the horse to show an extraordinary performance in short races.
Special breeds linked to horseback riding
Here we want to mention the Paso breeds, which in our opinion are those that present a greater future for use in equestrian routes or equestrian tourism, due to the comfort and smoothness of their walking and the resistance to travel long distances at speeds, which the other breeds need the trotting or galloping, to reach them.
The Peruvian Paso Horse
This equine breed is native from Peru, and was present in everything that occupied the Viceroyalty of Peru especially in what is now northern Argentina.
This horse came with the Spanish conquest, whom brought horses that were in the Iberia peninsula and that were a mixture of the Iberian horse or Andalusian with the Berber Horse of North Africa, who brought the ability to amble.
In this mixture, the Andalusian horse, which carried other bloods, like that of the Frisian, gives the Iberian horse the bearing, and the influence of the African race of the Berber, is what gives the horse, which came with the conquest, his softness to his steps.
The horse has a step gait (moves one member at a time) that allows him to make a four-step isochronous movement, known as Paso Llano, which gives great comfort to the rider and allows to advance at average speeds in Paso Llano from 12 to 15 Km/h.
The Tennessee Walking Horse
This horse, also known as the Tennessee Paso Horse, emerged in the south of United States and is recognized as an ideal breed for all types of work, including ploughing.
The passage through which the horse is known gives comfort to the chair and therefore to the rider.
The origin of this breed is in the American Narragansett ambler horses and Canadian horses, crossing these breeds, the breeders looked for a resistant animal, that moves with ease, and in mountainous terrain.
At a later stage, a crossbreed of ambassador horses with national trotters is used, calling these pups Tennessee Pacer that they had a good amble, although it was still very compact and rough. Later, with different breed crosses, the breeders gave the horse more finesse.
Nowadays it is a very good horse to go horseback riding.
The Icelandic Horse
Although it looks like a pony, it is considered a proper horse.
The Icelandic horse is the only autochthonous equine breed in Iceland, although it has spread to many parts of the world.
It is believed to have descended from the Scandinavian ponies between the 9th and 10th centuries, and its first references date back to the 12th century, when they were the object of cult in the Nordic culture.
It adapted very well on the island to the extreme conditions to which it is subjected.
They are also very calm and brave, perfect for horseback riding in Iceland.
This horse has very unique abilities. Besides the step, the trot and the gallop, it has two other characteristic airs: the Tölt and the Skeid.
The Tölt is a variant of the trot in which the horse moves at high speed, moving the two-legged side and always maintaining a limb on the ground, which translates into greater comfort for the rider.
The Skeid is a very fast step also in which you can reach 56 km/h. The lateral bipeds move in unison at great speed.
Here we want to refer to two breeds of horses that we believe have contributed to the formation of a large number of current breeds of riding horses.
They are pure and continue to contribute to the improvement of horse breeds, in addition to being used as riding horses in the sport as well as in horseback riding or equestrian routes.
While there are other pure races the two most popular are undoubtedly the Thoroughbred and the Arabian Horse.
It was selected for its speed and has dominated the races since its inception, beating the Andalusian horse considered the lightest, along with the Berber, since Roman times.
About the origin of the Thoroughbred there are different opinions, but not to go into the details of this diverse opinions, we will say that the current English Pure Blood descends from a small group of stallions imported from North Africa and the Middle East to England at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Although this horse is used mostly in races, we can say that it can also be used to ride in the field if it is properly trained.
The Arabian Horse
The origin of this horse is hazed, there are some legends, but it is known that it is one of the oldest breeds, there are archaeological evidences of 4,500 years ago of horses similar to the current Arab, and that developed in the deserts of the Middle East and from there it spread to the rest of the world due to trade and wars.
They have had as their masters the Bedouins who considered them part of their family, and thus, they were selecting the most docile to be reproduced. The Arab Horse is considered one of the 10 best breeds in the world and is used for different purposes, being the races or endurance the main of.
For its brio and ductility this beautiful horse is also used with great success in equestrian routes or horseback riding, in addition to other various uses to which it is intended.
Without a doubt, one of the best horses in the world.