Fifty million years ago today, Nature gave birth to the very first Horse.
It was called ‘Hyracotherium’, (rather than Rocky, or Joy or Mickey which would have been so much easier to shout ).
To be fair it was a good first attempt but didn’t resemble a horse as we now know it, it was small and couldn’t be ridden by anything other than rodents or fleas.
For the next thirty million years nature played with its design, discarding toes, adding bone, ditching things that didn’t work well until finally it settled on Equus as its perfect design, (even the name was a vast improvement).
Next, nature settled back and simply watched for the next twenty million years as Equus roamed across the planet, eventually making its home in six out of the seven continents of this world. Despite extremely hot temperatures such as those found in the deserts in the Middle East, and extreme cold like the snow covered Alaskan hills, Equus managed, not only to exist, but thrive.
Each new Continent tested it with its own challenging environments as well as temperatures. The Camargue ponies in southern France were forced to spend months fetlock deep in marsh water, whilst native American horses walked miles over the charred rocks found in parts of America, constantly searching for the very same thing that the Camargue horses had in such abundance.
During this time nature changed nothing, it didn’t need to, its creation was perfect and capable of adapting to each new demand.
Three million years ago nature began a new project it called ‘Homo sapiens’. Precisely how this turns out is uncertain, if Equus is anything to go by, we have at least another twenty seven million years before nature makes its final decision, and already there are problems in its current design.
One of Homo sapiens biggest flaws is arrogance, five hundred years ago we ‘humans’ began to ‘improve’ on one of natures greatest achievements, the horse’s hoof.
‘How we did it’, and ‘why’, are well documented, What hasn’t been so well studied until recently is ‘at what cost”.
Recent research by Brianna McHorse published in the Journal ‘Preceedings of the Royal Society B’ has begun to establish why nature ditched the additional toes that had previously helped provide balance. It would appear that this was in order to substantially reduce weight in the lower part of the limb.
One of the first things that humans did in order to ‘improve’ the design, was to attach a steel bar called a horseshoe on to the lowest part of the limb, thus effectively negating millions of years of evolution in a single action, clever eh?
This, however, was not the end of the damage, merely the start…..