the horse

      19th century Nebraska's most valuable utility item was the familiar horse whose brethren were seen in almost every setting.  The heaviest and sturdiest of equines powered farm machinery or tugged loads in business enterprises.  These duties were sometimes fulfilled by a half-blooded long-eared hybrid, the obstinate and wily mule.  Lighter-weight horses pulled livery vehicles or family carriages over streets and roadways.  The fleeter saddle pony was commonly used to carry just one person to wherever the rider determined.

      New colts required training almost from birth to later become good serviceable workers.  A responsible owner was always observant to take good care of his animal's health.  The young horse needed to be trained, fed, worked, and treated properly for an owner to get the best production from his beast.

      Failure to routinely inspect an animal could permit an injury or illness to worsen into a catastrophic state.  Horses could also develop bad habits often difficult to correct, while the more intelligent mules seemed to maintain faulty behavior by nature.  The caretaker kept assorted medical tools and remedies, and he was required to have an ample supply of perseverance and knowledge to rectify any undesirable circumstance.

      As a politician might conduct routine business, similarly an unscrupulous trader would try deceitful tricks and blatant lies to unload defective animals onto unwary buyers.  A wise individual could look at a horse's teeth and determine the animal's age to the very year.  He also knew collar and harness markings would always show in the hide of a good experienced work horse.  A seasoned horseman's shrewd examination could reveal hidden weaknesses or equinal afflictions.  Being familiar with any nuance a horse could demonstrate, he could spot every unnatural movement.  Rural folks usually developed good horse sense.

copyright © Dick Taylor, 1997 -- Oldtime Nebraska, The Horse (September 1997)