Horses have shaped history like few other creatures, and their role in modern culture is vast and diverse. From transporting people and food, to being used in wars and sport, horses are part of almost every human culture on earth. The ability to ride a horse has allowed humans to move faster, farther, and more comfortably than ever before, and the horse has had an enormous influence on human civilization. It has also become one of the world’s most beloved animals and a great source of entertainment. Here is a look at some of the most famous equestrians in history and their legacy. Some of the earliest evidence of horseback riding has been found in skeletal remains of people from Europe.
The research, published in the journal Science, shows that humans first began to mount horses around 4500 BCE, and it is the earliest direct evidence of this innovation. Researchers looked at skeletons from burial mounds called kurgans that belonged to the Yamnaya people who lived in today’s countries of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Serbia. They searched for six tell-tale signs that a person was riding, including distinctive wear marks on the hip sockets, thigh bone, and pelvis. “You can read the bones just like you read a book,” says co-author University of Helsinki anthropologist Martin Trautmann, who worked on the study with other colleagues. Before humans were able to ride horses, they used them as sources of meat and for work on farms and in other types of manual labor. The horses were often too small to actually carry people, and it may have been a long time before a horse was trained to do so. Some scholars believe that the Hittites may have been the first to develop a systematic approach to training and conditioning horses, and they are known for their chariot races.
The horse has shaped many different cultures, and many of these have developed their own unique style of riding. From the early eras of Greek and Roman art, where monumental equestrian bronzes were cast to honor successful mercenary generals, to the more modern traditions of dressage and show jumping, these equestrian artists have helped to shape a sport that is now practiced worldwide. These equestrians are true icons of equestrianism.
A British eventer, Sheila Willcox, has made a name for herself as one of the most accomplished women in her field. She is a legend in her own right, and has paved the way for other female riders by showing that women can be as good as men in competitions. Paralympic gold medalist Lee Pearson is a world-class horseman with a rare genetic disorder that limits the movement of his muscles. He is a true hero in the world of equestrianism, and is considered the godfather of para dressage. His ability to master a horse with his condition has changed the world of equestrian sport for disabled athletes.