Following the hoof prints of horse history

Detail from the Nabonidus Horseman rock art at Tayma.
Detail from the Nabonidus Horseman rock art at Tayma. © Sandra Olsen

A 12-week online course exploring the evolutional history of horses, their domestication, and the impact on the modern-day human-horse relationship is being offered by Canadian education provider, Equine Guelph.

The course at Equine Guelph, the horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, is one of many offered online, starting January 2013.

Course instructor Gayle Ecker, who is the director of Equine Guelph, said students will learn about various aspects of the horse industry – both racing and non-racing – and consider the type of industry that will be built for the future.

“Many of us in the horse industry stay in our discipline ‘silos’ and do not get the chance to understand the issues faced by other sectors of the industry, many of which are shared challenges,” Ecker says. “The way forward would benefit from us working together as a whole industry.”

The course will also provide students with a look at the various roles played by the horse throughout history, such as work and warfare, and allow students to seek out information about the different sectors of the industry today and the challenges that are currently facing the industry.

Students will also benefit from key guest speakers, who will share their passion for equines of the past, including Dr Jeff Thomason, a researcher at the University of Guelph, who will discuss the evolutionary changes to the horse’s hoof and its implications; Derek Nelson, a Historical Military Strategist who will discuss the role of the horse in the military; and Dr Sandra Olsen, director of the Center for World Cultures at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, who will talk about  the first evidence of domestication in horses.

Olsen, an archaeologist whose research has focused on the horse and human relationship through time, says: “Scientists and the public at large gain a more thorough understanding of the critical roles that horses have played in human culture through the discoveries made in recent years by various researchers in molecular biology, archaeology, anthropology, history and other related fields.”

Olsen is currently investigating images of horses in rock art in Saudi Arabia, which is featured at

“Horses have made a tremendous impact on humanity, particularly in the areas of transportation, trade, work, the transmittal of language and technology, religion, accumulation of wealth, sports, and most notably, warfare and conquest,” she says.

The Equine Industry is just one of many courses offered online starting January 2013 through the continuing education program at the University of Guelph. Other courses offered in the Winter 2013 lineup include Equine Functional Anatomy, Equine Behaviour, Management of the Equine Environment, Equine Nutrition, and Marketing and Communications in the Equine Industry.

Registration is now open, with early bird registration ending December 7, 2012. Courses run from January 7 to March 31, 2013.


More information: Email the Centre for Open Learning and Educational Support at, call 519-767-5000, or visit

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