National Day of the Horse
annually on December 13th (since 2004)
United States Senate on November 18th, 2004
National Day of the Horse exists to encourage citizens to consider the contributions that horses have made to the economy, character, and history of the United States. Furthermore, it was created to recognize the importance of horses to the security, recreation, and heritage of the country, and because of their continued influence on America through things like film, and their continued existence on open land. The day was created through a Senate resolution in 2004, with the first National Day of the Horse being celebrated that year.
Horses have been of great importance to the American continents since even before the founding of the United States. It is believed that horses once roamed these lands between eight and ten thousand years ago, before becoming extinct. In the late fifteenth century they were reintroduced to the Western Hemisphere, and to Florida in 1538. The horses that came at this time have come to be known as Colonial Spanish Horses, and were prevalent in the southeastern and western United States from the sixteenth century until the mid nineteenth century, when crossbreeding began occurring. Around the same time some horses made their way to the wild, and feral horses called mustangs roamed in herds. Today there are 33,000 feral horses in the United States.
Native Americans acquired horses in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of the first tribes to get them were the Comanches, followed by the Crow and Blackfoot. Horses were particularly important to Native Americans of the Great Plains.
In the nineteenth century horses were used by cowboys on ranches and on cattle drives, for transporting people in cities, for hauling things, and for farming. Horse racing also became more widespread in the nineteenth century, with Standardbred horses for harness racing coming about, and the establishment of Thoroughbred horse races. As the twentieth century started, horses were being developed for military and agricultural purposes, but as mechanized transportation increased after World War I, horse populations went down. In 1915 there were 20 million horses in the country, but by 1959 there were only 4.5 million. Today there are 9.2 million horses in the United States.
How to Observe National Day of the Horse
Celebrate the day by signing up for some horse riding lessons! As horses had a profound impact on the United States, particularly in the 19th century, you could also spend the day reading a history book about that era. If you feel like being a bit more passive in your celebrating, kick back and watch a film that features horses.