Our relationship with the working horse,which had existed since prehistoric times,reached its peak during the long reign of Queen Victoria. Truly this was the age when the horse was king. On the farms of Britain little moved without horse power and the coming of the railways only increased the number of horses in the country. Yet following the First World War, the Empire of the Horse evaporated, and within a few decades the working horse had disappeared almost entirely from the British landscape. In Goodbye Old Friend, Simon Butler explores the reasons for this change and the effect it has had on our lives. The story follows on from this bestselling book The War Horses in which he describes the fate of the horse during the 1914-18 war, in which over a million horses died on the Western Front alone.
Here the author looks in detail at the prominence of the working horse in rural Britain during Victoria’s reign, the challenge of steam power and the internal combustion engine, and the movement of population away from the countryside. The devastating effect of the First World War is then examined, followed by the years in which the world of the working horse quickly faded from memory.
The inclusion of 300 photographs and first-hand accounts help illustrate the story of why the decline of horsepower was so rapid, and bring home to the reader the social significance of the disappearance of horses from daily life.
Here we discover the loss of the working horse was, in part, our loss too.