July 2003: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Submitters Perspective

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Continued from page 2

in 1519 with a force of only about 850 men and 16 horses, the 16 horses that were to reinstate the equine species on the American mainland. He claimed that “next to God, we owed the victory to the horses for they struck terror into the natives who naturally had never seen the like of these armored beasts before.” By 1680 when the Indians rose up and drove the Spanish out, thousands of horses were left behind. They strayed northward and when they arrived on the American Plains, they caused complete changes in the culture within two generations. Two generations! Cultural changes sometimes take centuries to come about, but this was like the computer in our lifetime. It touched everything and quickly.

We have good historic records of this impact on the Plains Indians. The dominance of farming tribes was completely overtaken by hunting tribes. Riders could move 2-3 times farther and faster than could people on foot. Sedentary horticultural villages were so vulnerable. Enemies would make lightning strikes, take what they wanted and disappear; they could not be pursued or punished. Whole villages were abandoned or in self-defense they also became mounted. So warfare increased in intensity and in social importance. Prowess in war became more and more respected. Probably no aspect of Indian culture was not affected by horseback riding: religion, personal identity, warfare, economic productivity, commerce and boundaries.

By the fast gallopers. Igniting sparks. Invading the enemy by morning. Striking terror therein. Penetrating to the heart of their territory. (100:1-5)

Going back to ancient times, these early horse cultures were violent, arrogant and self-absorbed. They used the horse as a means to an end and that end was usually conquest. God continues in sura 100: The human being is unappreciative of his Lord. He bears witness to this fact. He loves material things excessively.

But we know that in spite of the general unappreciative nature of humans, there are righteous individuals. Solomon is a good example, especially in context of horses. History shows that Solomon was a sound horse breeder. It’s claimed that he kept 1200 riding horses and perhaps 40,000 chariot horses. We know from the Quran that his horses were important to him, in fact, at one point, too important and God used them as a test.

One day he became preoccupied with beautiful horses, until the night fell. He then said, “I enjoyed the material things more than I enjoyed worshiping my Lord, until the sun was gone. Bring them back.” (To bid farewell), he rubbed their legs and necks. We thus put Solomon to the test; we blessed him with vast material wealth, but he steadfastly submitted. (38:31-4)

And I’d like to quote from The Encyclopedia of the Horse: “The expansion of Islam through the conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries initiated a train of events that would ensure the emergence of Europe from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance period and the rebirth of humanism. Unlike later conquests, which had no lasting effects, such as those of the Mongols, Islam bequeathed a rich legacy to the world in its graceful architecture and its appreciation and practice of the arts and sciences. It also left the incomparable horses on which its achievements were dependent.” It is clear then that righteous people were capable of being appreciative of this

great gift which God had provided. Ishmael, Solomon and Mohammed are all considered sound horsemen who improved breeding stock and made good use of the horse to transport armies and equipment.

In the Quran 17:64, when God talks about mobilizing all your forces, He uses a word that implies “horse power” because it’s the horse, not the camel, that impacted war in this dramatic way. And of course the term survives today in the concept of the more horse power, the better, faster, more powerful is the car.

So we need to show appreciation when studying an animal as magnificent and historically crucial as the horse. God combined such beauty and grace with the willingness to be tamed and work with humans. That’s quite a gift. Although we don’t have to depend on horses in our modern society in the same way, we need to be aware that without that substantial contribution, history might have been very different.

God took that dawn horse weighing in at maybe 20 pounds, shaped its survival over millions of years, and allowed man to turn it into the hundreds of breeds of horses and ponies of today. We have beautiful Arabians, elegant thoroughbreds, and draft horses weighing up to 2500 pounds. We keep them and use them in ranching and racing and enjoy them for recreation. We put on a bridle and saddle and trot around an arena or on a bridle path or dress up in fancy clothes for a fox hunt. We give no thought to the remarkable impact these gentle creatures had on all of history. It’s just like with every other creation of God. We need to be appreciative.

The heavens and the earth are full of proofs for the believers. Also in your creation, and the creation of all the animals, there are proofs for people who are certain. (45:3-4)

Lydia K.