North America could be called the birth place of horses, as it’s where they originally evolved approximately 10 million years ago, however by the time of the 16th century Spanish invasion, they were totally extinct on the entire continent. This invasion lead to the eventual demise of the Inca Empire, and historians have often sighted the Spaniard’s ability to ride horses as a great advantage which contributed to their victory over the native people. It is even said that the Spanish spread rumours about their horses, claiming that they were mythical beasts, possessing magical powers (which probably doesn’t sound too far-fetched to many members of today’s equestrian community!). There’s debate about whether horses were more important factors in the American conquest of the Americas, such as disease, civil war and the use of steel weapons by the invading force, however Hernán Cortés, the Conquistador that lead the expedition which caused the fall of the Aztec Empire, said that “Next to God, we owed our victory to the horses.”
The fall of the empire ushered in a new age of European technology and customs, however it was not for several centuries that the Incan natives were allowed to ride on their own trails. The Spanish invaders had observed the acquisition of horses by the native people of Chile, Argentina and the United States (Native Americans), who had honed their riding skills and actually become better riders than the invaders themselves, using their newfound abilities to repel invading European forces. For this reason, the Spanish opted to keep the reins in hand, so to speak, and it wasn’t until the 19th century and the wars of independence in Peru, that the native Incan people were allowed to ride.
Today, the turbulent past has been mostly left behind, and natives and foreigners alike reap the benefits of horses on a daily basis. Locals use horses to help them traverse the steep, rocky terrain, as well as assisting in other aspects of work and daily life. The region is also hugely popular with tourists, as the breath-taking landscape and challenging topography offer an unrivalled destination for equestrian tourism, with many thrill-seeking horse lovers opting to spend their summers soaking in the scenery on horseback.
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