The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History by Susanna Forrest

The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History

An essential book for anyone who’s ever been captivated by horses, The Age of the Horse is a breathtaking exploration of the connection between humans and Equus caballus. Equestrian expert Susanna Forrest presents a unique, sweeping panorama of the animal’s role in societies around the world and across time.Fifty-six million years ago, the earliest equid walked the earth—a...

Title:The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0802126510
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:432 pages

The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History Reviews

  • Kilian Metcalf

    It is difficult to review this book. It would be easier if it were a rant or a rave. Instead it's just 'meh.' The author looks at six uses of the horse from the dancing horses of the haute ecole to the draft horses that are making a comeback in agriculture. There is no unifying thesis to bind these disparete articles into a whole. Instead they read like magazine articles published at various times.

    If you know a young person who is horse mad and not very critical, this book might make a nice gift

    It is difficult to review this book. It would be easier if it were a rant or a rave. Instead it's just 'meh.' The author looks at six uses of the horse from the dancing horses of the haute ecole to the draft horses that are making a comeback in agriculture. There is no unifying thesis to bind these disparete articles into a whole. Instead they read like magazine articles published at various times.

    If you know a young person who is horse mad and not very critical, this book might make a nice gift.

    Thanks to Netgalley for ARC

  • Emma

    Though this is clearly well researched, it is perhaps only one for the horse enthusiast. The author's choice to organise the book along thematic lines instead of as a linear history was a good one; it provided real focus and variety to the story, making it noticeably different from other offerings on this well-loved animal. Yet the writing style veered from rather exuberant to lecturing, making it a somewhat uneven read that often edged towards the 'i'm just going to put this book down

    Though this is clearly well researched, it is perhaps only one for the horse enthusiast. The author's choice to organise the book along thematic lines instead of as a linear history was a good one; it provided real focus and variety to the story, making it noticeably different from other offerings on this well-loved animal. Yet the writing style veered from rather exuberant to lecturing, making it a somewhat uneven read that often edged towards the 'i'm just going to put this book down for a bit to have a break and i'm not sure when i'll pick it up again' type. It's here that serious interest in the subject would have saved the day.

    ARC via Netgalley.

  • Anne Morgan

    The Age of the Horse is not a history of the horse. It is, according to the introduction "a wander down six . . . ways in which we have used the horse, and the routes that ideas, people and horses took across an ever-changing territory." The six pathways Susanna Forrest takes us down include "Evolution", "Domestication", "Wildness", "Culture", "Power", "Meat", "Wealth", and "War". Within these six sections Forrest explore the entire range of equine-human interactions from warhorses to status sym

    The Age of the Horse is not a history of the horse. It is, according to the introduction "a wander down six . . . ways in which we have used the horse, and the routes that ideas, people and horses took across an ever-changing territory." The six pathways Susanna Forrest takes us down include "Evolution", "Domestication", "Wildness", "Culture", "Power", "Meat", "Wealth", and "War". Within these six sections Forrest explore the entire range of equine-human interactions from warhorses to status symbols, cart horses to polo horses, from Mongolia to England, ancient past to present day.

    From the luxury of Versailles and the life of a dancer to the harsh world of bull fighting and meat factories, Forrest doesn't shy away from exploring the negative as well as the positive in our treatment of horses over the centuries. She does an excellent job of balancing and capturing humankind's love of horses with the often cruel realities of human-horse partnership. Combined with her thorough research behind her subject, it is possible to learn some interesting facts and view horses and humans through interesting historical lenses.

    My problem, and great disappointment, with The Age of the Horse was Forrest's writing style. A meandering, almost stream of conscious style, Forrest describes everything in the closest of details and uses so many similes and metaphors in her writing that it is oftentimes unreadable. I found it frustratingly easy to lose the thread of the narrative, or the point Forrest was trying to explore/make, because of the many tangents or 'paths' we wandered down along the way. The heavy overuse of similes and metaphors bogged down the narrative. By the end of the book, while I might have learned a few things along the way, I couldn't tell you what they were. I was more relieved to be finished with the book than reflecting on the human-horse culture I had hoped to learn about.

    An excellent concept, poorly executed, makes The Age of the Horse a book probably only the most dedicated of horse enthusiasts will enjoy plodding through. For the rest of us, I recommend passing on this title.

    I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

    For my full review, go to:

  • Bonnie

    I'm giving this book the benefit of the doubt, but it's probably more like 3.5 stars than 4. My biggest criticism was that it was uneven. Maybe that was just me and it would be same, in different places, with all readers. But while I absolutely loved the sections on the Wounded Warriors and the farmers who are returning to horse-powered farming, I found the sections on the ancient horses and the modern Chinese horse industry rather dull. I even found the section on horses as meat interesting, if

    I'm giving this book the benefit of the doubt, but it's probably more like 3.5 stars than 4. My biggest criticism was that it was uneven. Maybe that was just me and it would be same, in different places, with all readers. But while I absolutely loved the sections on the Wounded Warriors and the farmers who are returning to horse-powered farming, I found the sections on the ancient horses and the modern Chinese horse industry rather dull. I even found the section on horses as meat interesting, if deeply disturbing to my horse-loving soul. This is probably not a book for anyone who is only casually interested in horses. But it is very well-researched and even the descriptions of trekking through Mongolia looking for the wild horse herds almost made me want to go to Mongolia to see them for myself.

  • Jo-anne Atkinson

    Throughout history the development of man has been intertwined with that of the horse. In this book Susanna Forrest looks at different aspects of that relationship, from the beauty of the equine ballet to the way society deals with horses injured or beyond work, from the preservation of the wild horses of Mongolia to the role of the horse in newly affluent China. This is a love story to the animal and the writing shows both passion and knowledge. However it does not really hang together as a com

    Throughout history the development of man has been intertwined with that of the horse. In this book Susanna Forrest looks at different aspects of that relationship, from the beauty of the equine ballet to the way society deals with horses injured or beyond work, from the preservation of the wild horses of Mongolia to the role of the horse in newly affluent China. This is a love story to the animal and the writing shows both passion and knowledge. However it does not really hang together as a complete book. Each section is very self-contained, this is more a collection of extended essays.

  • Dave

    Wonderful book about a great animal! Interesting historical details and stories!

  • Zoann

    This is not the typical history of the horse. It started as a dry, scholarly tome, written in the third person, but, unexpectedly, the author switches to first person in places and tells of her own experiences. So the information and education becomes personalized and more interesting. The horse's relationship with humans is told in broad themes: Evolution, Domestication, Wildness, Culture, Power, Meat, Wealth and War. Parts of the book were hard to read for this horse lover, but all worthwhile.

    This is not the typical history of the horse. It started as a dry, scholarly tome, written in the third person, but, unexpectedly, the author switches to first person in places and tells of her own experiences. So the information and education becomes personalized and more interesting. The horse's relationship with humans is told in broad themes: Evolution, Domestication, Wildness, Culture, Power, Meat, Wealth and War. Parts of the book were hard to read for this horse lover, but all worthwhile. Some quotes I liked:

    "The history of the horse family is still one of the clearest and most convincing for showing that organisms really have evolved, for demonstrating that, so to speak, an onion can turn into a lily." Horses: The Story of the Horse Family in the Modern World and through Sixty Million Years of History by George Gaylord Simpson.

    "Any beginning in nature is arbitrary."

  • Margaret Fisk

    Originally posted on

    This book is a very difficult one to review, not because it has no value, but because it has too much. I have many pages of notes about interesting elements or things to mention, all of which would make this review far too long. I’ll mention the one weakness first so I can move on to all of the strengths: The author had a couple of places in the book where, rather than telling the narrative uncovered in person or through research, the actual research ea

    Originally posted on

    This book is a very difficult one to review, not because it has no value, but because it has too much. I have many pages of notes about interesting elements or things to mention, all of which would make this review far too long. I’ll mention the one weakness first so I can move on to all of the strengths: The author had a couple of places in the book where, rather than telling the narrative uncovered in person or through research, the actual research earned a place on the page. Rapid paragraphs offering names and dates along with a simple statement of the contribution failed to give me the context to engage with the information. This happened at least three times, one so much so I stopped reading for about a week before starting up again, but don’t let it discourage you as I believe the worst was also the last time. However, when paired with the reflective, philosophical narrative voice in the majority of areas, which brought the history, pre-history, and modern day to life, it seems a minor flaw.

    The book follows what the author calls bridle paths through the history of horses and their interactions with humans. It involves a mix of history, mythology, quotes from primary and secondary sources, and personal narrative. I learned a lot through the reading, and had my own instincts about horses confirmed, but don’t expect a pretty, non-challenging account. This is more a philosophy and recognition book than a history. It meanders through time, jumping into the past and back when it suits what the author wishes to explore. Accounts of the author’s journeys to different cultures and situations cover horse reserves in Mongolia to auction houses that are only one-step removed from slaughterhouses to U.S. military therapy programs and more.

    I learned about efforts to keep horse management techniques alive in an agricultural context lead by the Amish. While some might consider this clinging to the past, a strong argument is given for horses as a way to stave off disaster when we eventually run out of fossil fuels. Horses improve field productivity by not compacting the soil and with strong fertilizer as their waste product compared to tractors, which actually reduce soil fertility and produce toxic gases.

    The change from seeing horses as intelligent helpers to beasts that must be dominated and back reveals more about humanity than horses while the different philosophies and myths both raising horses up and dashing them down did as well. One section, where the author visits a horse behaviorist, reveals more about why horses work with humans than pages of training manuals.

    The economic, political, and even diplomatic contributions from horses and how those changed over time gets a lot of word count, with a large section devoted to historical England and another to World War II Germany. One of my favorites is the reception giving the gift of simple work horses from England brought to India. While the gifters considered them a lowbrow animal, the recipients saw them as amazing in both their size and their abilities.

    The costs and compromises made with progression, and the influence of classism, defines the number and types of horses flourishing at any one point as well as their treatment. The cultural influence shows fascinating differences between cultures and classes, with the odd exception of raising up wild horses as a symbol of unfettered nature in comparison to the restrictions of society whether in the Middle Ages, early China, or the Wild West.

    What appears as chaotic organization with the information leaping forward and backward through time as well as from one side of the globe to the other proved less annoying than the wealth of content conveyed in an interesting manner. An exploration of humanity in all its good and bad sides as well as all the ways horses were involved with, and even determined, history across human cultures, this book offers valuable insights that will most likely lead you to question some decisions being made even today. I’ve offered a glimpse at the wealth to be found within these pages, and I would be surprised if there isn’t something to be learned for practically every reader interested in the subject of horses and humanity. I will caution that not all of what you’ll learn is pleasant or uplifting, but it is well worth the discomfort.

    P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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