Equus Rising: How the Horse Shaped U.S. History
By: Julia Soplop
Illustrated by: Robert Spannring
Published by: Hill Press
Publication Date: July 2020
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: February 14, 2021
Not only is the horse one of the most elegant, stunning creatures this world has ever been able to claim, but they also carry with them an incredible backstory. This particular book unveils that tale and brings the reader along for a ride that gallops through the events in history that we know about, while delving into the huge role the horse played in each. If you are a fan of either horses or history, this author and illustrator combo definitely came together to make sure you’ll enjoy every page of this story.
Author Julia Soplop collected a ton of research, beginning her book fifty-five million years ago where she focused on the Great Plains and the evolution of the horse. The tale is a journey that leads the reader through the horses’ extinction across North America and how the Spanish culture and people reintroduced the animal to the continent. We ride from the 1500’s through the 1700’s, and are shown various consequences that came about when the native people gained ownership of the horse, and how the animal’s numbers proceeded to expand into the packs of wild horses that were once found across the West. The horse was a major necessity for battles, as everyone knows, and this book spotlights some of the most skilled and brutal warriors from the past who played major roles in how the country was shaped. From the Comanche, who basically battled and stopped anyone from exploring, developing and building upon the Great Plains for almost two centuries; to the eastern half of the U.S., where the Chickasaw horse and the early horses of the Colonies were introduced – the author hits all eras.
This fascinating read then heads through both the East and the West during the 1800’s. After Soplop goes through the Revolutionary War, she moves forward to unveil some of the most interesting moments in American history. We are led onto the battlefields of the Civil War; we find ourselves learning about the miners in the Old West, and even how the Pony Express first came together – every major role the horse played in order to get the job done and move the country closer to creating a larger, more powerful unit in the future.
The horses take those steps for us, and you will take note of all the work and strength they gave to this country and its people. We see them defending nations, racing in the Kentucky Derby as the sport became introduced, their ability to haul minecars and families going across the prairie, and even with a cowboy or rancher sitting on top who brought order and industry to one and all. You even get to know the data of the 1900’s, and witness the domestication of the animals, the introduction of the automobile and how it presented them with their decline, and so much more.
The servitude and companionship horses have given over time is immense; their list of benefits are too long to name, but this is one author who found a way to present this information in a clear, entertaining, and truly fascinating style. Skillfully combining science, politics, industry, and more, the author was able to put together, quite literally, a tale that shows you all you need to know about how the horse changed our very nation. Add to that the stunning pictures and drawings, and you have a book that you will read again and again.
Quill says: This is an intelligent read that shows, hands-down, why the horse has been one of the most powerful and beautiful influences on our world.