Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
I find as I get older that I enjoy reading non-fiction history books more and more. I still enjoy historical fiction but the non-fiction is something that I am more drawn to. History on Horseback: The Early Years is one that really caught my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Sonrise Stable Books publishes this softback book written by Vicki Watson.
The premise of this particular style of storytelling is “what if horses could talk? What would they tell us about history?” Vicki Watson found this idea fascinating and explored it, just like we try to encourage our students to do. And what she found was the makings of a unique history book – one that tells the story of America through the animals, particularly horses, mules, and donkeys.
History on Horseback: The Early Years: 1493 to 1866 covers a pretty good sized chunk of America’s history. The horses played some pretty significant roles during those years, whether as pack animals, work animals, or entertainment. This book includes 54 chapters, including a preview chapter from volume 2.
The stories run the gamut from straight out of a historical book to fun and unique horses. You can read about the horses that were first brought to the Americas all the way through some of the specific horses from both the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War. There are chapters about horses working for the Lewis and Clark Expedition through those used in coal mines. There are chapters on the specific horses some of the presidents used and talk about entertainment like pack burro races.
Two of my favorite stories were the one on the Pony Express and the ones about the ponies in the mines. The Pony Express was a unique moment in history that lasted only about 19 months but was certainly an important step in the history of the country. It was part of what brought east and west together. And it was interesting.
The stories about the horses in the mines were much sadder. They were often kept underground, though they were loved by their handlers and well taken care of for the most part. The information was really interesting reading for me.
It has been fun to pull this out to read a section that relates to other things that we are reading or talking about. I would share with the girls a chapter when I read something really interesting or when it aligned with something else we were taking about or reading about.
I can’t see us using this as an actual curriculum as it, by nature, has to jump over large chunk of years in history and important events in history. However, there is a planned activity guide that should be coming out soon; watch the website or sign up for their email to get notified. This guide might help me to see how to use this more as a curriculum rather than a supplement. But it is a really good, interesting supplement.
The images throughout the book are black and white. Many are old photographs or drawings. Many are pieces of artwork. They do a really good job of illustrating the topic. They are beautiful, as can be seen on this title page below.
The information in History on Horseback appears to be really well researched. There is a long list of sites and books used to research the information. There are plenty of quotes in the books to help you realized that the people that worked with these animals were real. These personal remembrances bring the information to life.
The only issue with it is that it is nearly impossible to trace the information. A lot of the information is from websites and it is just marked by topic. These don’t exactly line up with the chapter titles so it takes a bit of work to further research these ideas on your own.
This is definitely a unique book that will work as a solid history supplement, a stand alone read, or a fun coffee-table book. It is one I would recommend.
Lori, At Home.
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