Book Review: “Horses and Horsemanship” – M.E. Ensminger (2nd edition, 1956)

Haha! Finally finished another book in my stack of things I’m halfway through reading. Sorry for the delay in posts, I started a new job and was focusing on doing well for finals, still waiting to hear if vet school is going to offer me a spot as an alternate this year.

So I picked up Horses and Horsemanship at a used bookstore here in Corvallis looking for a simple review of different breeds and styles of riding. I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t raised to be a horse person, but I do like horses, and plan on working with them and the people who own them in the future.

I realized after I bought the book that it was published in the 50’s, so much of the medicine and training techniques were well out of date. Rather than go out and buy the most recent addition, I thought it would be fun reading the perspective’s from that time period, and that the history, breed descriptions, and event descriptions would be pretty much the same (been right so far).

Most interesting was the history section, which was fascinating in that it included the various European and Arabian developments of the horse and their use in agriculture and sport. It also included the authors unique views from 1956, in which he foresaw a renaissance of the horse for sport use as it was replaced by automobiles and tractors. I myself was amazed that the tipping point of more tractors than horses for agricultural use occurred only shortly after WWI, my own mother who grew up on a dairy mentioned to me that it was about that time that her father got his tractor. His predictions turned out to be correct, as we have seen growth in the numbers of horses in the US since the 60’s, with no additional use in agriculture.

The book was fun to read, and extremely beneficial to someone like me who needed a quick overview of common horse breeds, history, and descriptions of various racing sports. I would recommend picking up the newest edition if you’re interested in medicine and nutrition briefly covered (the genetics chapter was entertaining, as much of the information they had at the time was either incomplete, oversimplified, or proven incorrect in later years). However, it was really interesting to read about the recent history of the time, and how mechanization changed the use of the horse. I’ll leave you with a brief excerpt showing what I’m talking about.

The future of the horse and mule industry

Most people agree, horse lovers among them, that further declines in work horses and mule numbers are inevitable. But we need to take stock of our gasoline and oil supplies. Should there be another war, perhaps the retention of a goodly number of horses and mules might be in the nature of preparedness. In the final analysis, however, the dominant factors that will determine the future of the horse and mule situation are: (1) the amount of mechanization, (2) the need for the cow pony, and (3) the use of horses for recreation and sport.

Further mechanization inevitable

We new live in an atomic age. Certainly, further mechanization in this era is inevitable. Some manufacturers even go so far as to predict that it is only a matter of time when the farm horse will be driven into permanent oblivion. In the thinking of these machine enthusiasts, this time only awaits the ingenuity of man in perfecting more and better adapted machines that will operate with greater economy.

(Ensminger, 43)

Clearly, Ensminger wouldn’t even be able to fathom the world we live in today where so many people have never even seen a horse in person. I do agree that the cow pony is still unbeatable in it’s unique purpose. Though I think ATV’s provide an excellent tool as well.

Even the Army’s famous little jeep does not appear sufficiently versatile for use in roping a steer on the range. (Ensminger, 43)

 

Ensminger, M. E. Horses and Horsemanship. 2nd ed. Danville: Interstate Printers and, 1956. Print.

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