"when first a horse was haltered"
Western Han Dynasty Cavalryman
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWestern Han Dynasty Cavalryman - Credit: Ayelie, Wikimedia

Horses were first domesticated as draft animals on the Eurasian Steppe between 4500 and 2500 BC, as people adopted a nomadic way of life and needed an animal to carry their belongings. The horse came to provide transportation, milk, meat and skins. By 1000 B.C., domestication had spread through Europe, Asia and North Africa.

The first record of riding comes from Persia in the third millennium BC. By 1580 BC the innovation had spread to Egypt, and 250 years later it was found in Greece. The first horse training book, the Kikkuli Text, was written in 1360 BC.


The founder of modern horsemanship was the Greek soldier and writer, Xenophon (c.430-354 BC). From the Persians he learned "leg up" mounting - a groundsman would help the rider mount the horse by holding the rider's leg and boosting him up. From the Armenians, he learned to tie pieces of cloth onto his horses' feet to protect them from ice and rocks. After his retirement, Xenophon wrote the definitive book on horsemanship, which is still used, in modern form, by trainers today.  He is sometimes described as the "original horse whisperer".