Today, many have a romantic view of horses. While that may be admirable, would it have been the same in the old days? At the American Cowboy web site, we discussed the "no slaughter" law, and are now discussing the control of the wild horse herds. Many believe we should return to the "good old days" and let horse herds grow as large as possible, even to the point of kicking ranchers off public lands so the horses would have more range. Is that fesible? Is it even desirible?
Now, I guess to my point:
What do you think the attitude of the general public in the Old West was toward horses? We all remember the old movies where the hero always had his trusty steed near to hand. Does anyone think that was factual or even close to factual?
In my own opinion, (some based on my grandmother's words) I think the average person back then was very happy with the advent of the automobile. Before then, I think the horse was probably most often looked at as a "tool." It was a means of transportation and work. Sure, the cowboy had the most need for the horse, but most of the time back then, the average cowboy did not own his own horse, but rode the outfit's animals.
As for the towns people, I believe they most likely did not own a horse either. There was always a convient livery stable where a person could rent a riding horse or a horse & buggy if the need for such arose.
In all of my reading of Old West history, I have very seldom came across any reference to a "favorite" horse of any cowboy, outlaw, law dawg, soldier, or any other person. (with the exception of Bobby Lee and Stonewall Jackson).
So, in my opinion, I think the "love affair" we have today with the horse is more based on fiction and wishful thinking than on actual historical fact. I do not condemm that attitude, I just don't believe it was prevalent among those who lived in the old days. with the exception of the cowboy and the horse racer, I think the majority of the folks were happy to see the automobile and say good bye to the horse.
What'ca all think?
You always take care of the animals first. I don't have horses any more, but my dogs are always fed before I sit down to eat.
One of the reasons the Desert Big Horn sheep is in decline is the wild horse herds on BLM land where there are also Desert Big Horns. Those wild sheep--which are native to North America, which horses are not--are born, live, & die within perhaps a 1-mile radius of a specific water hole. A horse herd comes in, eats up all the forage, then moves on. The Desert Big Horns starve to death because they have no food around the only source of water they know.
Catching wild horses & selling them to ranchers, either the mares as brood stock--mustangs have a lot of bottom and make excellent brood mares when bred to a good stud--or the stallions to be gelded & tamed for saddle animals, is a good idea, though BLM insists that all the wild horses people 'adopt' be neutered. Of course you want to geld a mustang stud, but those mares are a valuable resource for breeders who are looking to sell working horses.
At least they're not selling them to the French any more. For a number of years Frenchmen would come to the BLM sales and buy all the horses they could get. Some of those horses would have made good work horse if properly tamed & saddle-broke. Instead, the French shipped them to France, where they were slaughtered. The French consider horse meat a delicacy.