Today marks the final day in New York of the American Museum of Natural History exibit, "The Horse," which examines the enduring bond between horses and humanity since the beginning of the Ice Age. The dioramas, fossils, models and culutural objects from around the world were fascinating, functioning as a kind of time machine that offered a peek into to a world in which horses were used as food, for work, for transportation, and yes, in warfare.
According to Kentucky Equine Research, Inc., more than 3,000 horses died at Gettysburg.
One of the more poignant artifacts in the exhibit was a photo of a horse wearing a gas mask during World War I; a quick Google revealed that more than eight million horses were killed from 1914-1918. During World War II, more horses than tanks played a role, as they were used to move artillery, as pack animals and on scouting missions. The German Army had more than one million horses, and the U.S. Cavalry staged its last charge during that time, in the Phillipines. Even today, horses are used by U. S. Special Forces in the rugged terrain near Afghanistan and Iraq.
The role of the horse today is more one of recreation, and sport; near the end of the exhibit there is a (way too) small area set aside for Thoroughbred racing, at which one can, among other things, view the 2005 Kentucky Derby (and listen to Tom Durkin's rousing call of the finish) and view trophies from Citation's Triple Crown.
Curiously, the Belmont Stakes Trophy is absent from this collection, in its stead was a large silver plate. Given the proximity of Belmont Park to Manhattan, one might have thought there would be more of a New York Racing Association presence other than a video clip of Secretariat. There is a rather large section devoted to racehorse injuries and the virtues of synthetic tracks, which speaks volumes about the public's perception of horse racing.
The exhibit goes on tour later this year to the UAE (but not in time for the World Cup); in 2010 it travels to the Canadian Museum of Civilization; in 2011 to the Field Museum in Chicago, and in 2012 to the San Diego Natural History Museum.