Are Horses Going The Way Of The Dodo?
Are baby boomers and seniors the last generations likely to grow up having regular contact with horses?
One of my grandfathers drove a milk wagon, and another was involved with trotting horse racing. Some horse-drawn milk wagons were still operating in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, although by then they had become an oddity rather than the norm.
My mother and father were truly children from the “horse generation”, growing up when horses were more than a leisure activity or something you see only on YouTube. Horses were a working partner and form of transportation for them as kids and teenagers during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
I was lucky enough to grow up in the mid-20th century countryside, and lived beside two family farms. I had exposure to cows and horses from a young age and learned to ride when I was a child. Like a lot of kids growing up 1950’s-1960’s, I was a fan of the Misty of Chincoteague book series about wild ponies, written by Marguerite Henry. I loved the book National Velvet by Enid Bagnold, and can remember listening to a recording of Black Beauty (based on the 1877 book by Anna Sewell) as a pre-schooler. The books that truly inspired my imagination and fueled my love of horses as a child were The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, published from 1941-1983.
Today in 21st century North America, working horses are extremely rare; combined with the reduction in family-owned farms, less “everyday people” have the opportunity to see a horse in person, let alone own a horse. Having grown up in a city, my kids don’t have the same appreciation of the beauty and wonder of horses that I do.
The Adventures of the Black Stallion children’s television series in 1990 starring Mickey Rooney and Canadian actor Richard Ian Cox never really interested my young kids (although I watched, and so did my mother, then well into her 50+ years). They’ve never experienced the calm companionship that comes from petting or grooming a horse, let alone the thrill of racing across an open field on horseback, floating over the ground on an Arabian, or flying over a jump. They’re not horse lovers and in fact, two of them would go out of their way to avoid horses. I think they’ve missed something special.
There hasn’t been any great new horse series of books for children, or any new television shows since the early 1990’s. Try to find a Black Stallion book in print today to give your children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren, or a good horse movie set in modern-day times, where a horse is more than background scenery.
Although technological advances in the past 100 years have been fantastic and made our lives easier in many ways, with each new invention something else becomes obsolete. I fear horses are slowly becoming the dodo of the 21st century. Future generations may have to rely on stories and pictures from their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents – as well as old horse books, TV series and horse movies – to realize what has been lost.