The Horse-Human Relationship: From Prehistory to Today

A zooarchaeologist presented a brief history of how horses and humans have coexisted and interacted over the the millennia at the International Society of Equitation Science convention.

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The Horse Human Relationship: From Prehistory to Today
The future of the horse-human relationship likely lies in equine-assisted therapy and other ways of 'valuing horses for all the things they can do,' said Olsen. | Photo: iStock
In the beginning—nearly 4 million years ago—equids and humans coexisted and traveled along the same paths in ancient territories located in modern-day Tanzania. This coexistence was, said one expert, the starting point of a long and deep bispecies relationship that’s had a critical role in shaping today’s world.

“Horses have played a variety of vital roles in societies over the millennia, including ones related to diet, transportation, work, religion, property and commodities, military service, status, and sports,” said Sandra Olsen, PhD, zooarchaeologist and professor at the University of Kansas.

Olsen spoke on the topic of how humans and horses began this relationship during her plenary lecture at the 15th Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), held Aug. 19-21 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

“They’ve been valued across the history of time for various reasons, including their milk, their meat, and their power,” she continued. “And in modern times, of course, they’re often valued for their companionship. So the relationship has gradually improved, if we look at things from the horse’s point of view

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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