Thank you, Skyfloating, for agreeing to this debate. Thank you, semperfortis, for setting it up, and thank you readers and judges for your attention. I am delighted to have an excuse to unashamedly expound upon the virtues of my first and most enduring love, the horse.
Horses Are Far Superior To Bicycles
When I was three years old, my grandfather took me out into the country, to a place where a friend of his had an old pony out to pasture, one that his
children had outgrown. The pony approached us eagerly for a few carrots, and my grandfather put me on his back. For what seemed like forever, that
good-natured old pony carried me around the pasture, and when I would lose my balance he would stop and wait for me to get myself resettled. I fell
head over heels in love with soft brown eyes, a shaggy mane, and four sturdy hooves that afternoon, and few things in my life have ever matched the
feeling of having a thinking, feeling, living being willingly carry me - and care for me - for no reason other than we asked, and perhaps for the
promise of a few more carrots.
Horses were first domesticated between 4500 and 2500 B.C. Initially they provided transportation, milk, meat, and hide for humans, and served as a
draft and pack animal. The first horse training book was written in 1360 B. C. For hundreds of years, the horse has been our partner, helper,
companion, livestock, sentinel, therapist, and even food, and has been bred and redesigned to suit many different purposes and needs.
A horse is by nature a prey animal, not a predator, and thus they are not inclined to be aggressive. A threatened and cornered horse can, of course,
hurt a human, but they’d rather run away. Once the horse learns that humans are not a threat, even though they look and act like a predator, he
tends to be curious about humans and quickly learns to respond to human requests in return for affection and treats.
The simplest use of a horse is for transportation. A horse and rider in good condition can cover 50 or more miles in a day, or a horse can pull a cart
or buggy about 25 miles in a day. Horses can travel over nearly any terrain that a human can, and can cross water. They are steady, reliable,
eco-friendly transportation, and often they protect themselves and their rider from danger with their superior senses. A horse will not willingly walk
into danger, and he is aware of the snake in the grass or the muddy bog underneath what appears to be shallow water when his rider is not. A horse can
get around in snow or on ice when other forms of transportation fail, and can pull a sleigh, sled, or even a boat as readily as a wheeled wagon or
Horses are also used as companion animals, for physical therapy and psychotherapy, and for many types of work such as working cattle, farming, law
enforcement, taxicabs, and delivering beer to thirsty humans. Horses also provide us the opportunity to engage in many hobbies and sports, such as
polo, racing, steeplechase, fox hunting, team penning, barrel racing, trail and endurance riding, reining, and more. No other common domestic animal
is as versatile or as useful as the horse.
My horse is a good-natured and gentle companion, and a friend who is always glad to see me and enjoys the time we spend together. On her back I go
places and experience things that would not be a part of my life if she weren’t. On bad days she is the reason I make myself get out of bed, and on
good days she is always something to look forward to. She improves my physical health as well, because every day, no matter what the weather, I must
get out and take care of her, providing at least some of the daily exercise my body needs. Training her teaches discipline, self-discipline, and
patience. In order to master her I must first master myself, because horses are emotional mirrors. If I lose my temper or become impatient, it will be
reflected in her attitude and our session will not go well. She bolsters my self-esteem and self-confidence; she outweighs me by half a ton and yet I
can control her with hand signals and verbal commands. She trusts me enough to do things for me that are uncomfortable and unnatural for a horse, and
willingly places her feet (and thus to her mind her life because a horse can’t run on three legs) in my hands. I have friends I would never have
met if not for her, and have been places I could only have seen from her back. Riding her strengthens my legs and helps my balance, and gives me a
unique perspective on the world. I own a very nice - and very expensive - bicycle that I used to ride often for exercise, and although I still can’t
quite bring myself to part with it, it’s hanging on hooks in the barn and I haven’t touched it in over a year. My horse roams my pasture and
lives in my heart, and I don’t like to think about going even one day without touching her.
As Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” (or a woman!)