Weapon. Legend. Energy source. Shaper of cultures. Center of controversy. Throughout U.S. history, the horse has served as one of the most powerful influences on the country's development. Beginning fifty-five million years ago with the evolution of the horse across the Great Plains, this story charts its extinction in North America, followed by its reintroduction to the continent by the Spanish. The eventual acquisition of Spanish horses by the native peoples of the plains had profound consequences for the continent's future: it resulted in the explosion of wild horses across the West and unleashed some of the most talented and brutal mounted warriors in the world, the Comanche, who staved off European-American development of much of the plains for nearly two centuries. From there, the story tracks the horse's incredible contributions – through warring and racing and hauling, through companionship and servitude and strength – across the broad arc of the country's next three hundred years.
Soplop employs the horse as a narrative thread not only to bind seemingly disparate events, but also to allow for the inclusion of figures often written out of traditional histories: women and minorities. Through a modern, unconventional lens, she skillfully weaves together science, policy, literature, and history to trace the fascinating story of how one animal shaped the nation. Captivating pen and ink illustrations by Montana artist Robert Spannring, interspersed with Soplop's stunning photography, add further depth and visual interest.
A fascination with animal behaviour has led writer and photographer Julia Soplop around the globe. So, naturally, when her daughters started riding lessons, the horses' behaviour immediately drew Soplop in. What began as a casual interest rapidly escalated into amassing a collection of horse literature; dashing around the country to photograph wild horses; and, ultimately, writing this book. Soplop's work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic Magazine Online, Design Mom, Skiing, and the Summit Daily News. She is also the author of Documenting Your World Through Photography. She has a B.A. in French from Duke University and an M.A. in Medical Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives with her family outside of Chapel Hill.
Robert Spannring has been a professional painter and illustrator for fifty years. Born and raised in Montana, he grew up sneaking away from school to draw landscapes and wildlife and explore what might be around the next corner. He has served as Artist-In-Residence at the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park, and created interpretive dinosaur illustrations for the Museum of the Rockies' Special Museum Exhibits. Spannring has done illustration work for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (of which he is a founding member), Defenders of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Montana Audubon Council, among others. His work has appeared in numerous museums and galleries in the West and in private collections across the U.S.
"Thoroughly engrossing and compelling [...] In this ambitious book about the powerful influence of the horse on US history, Soplop delivers a gripping account [...] Soplop's writing is assured and her prose full of cohesion and clarity of purpose. Robert Spannring's pen and ink illustrations are striking, and Soplop's arresting photography adds further depth [...] Soplop delivers a unique and enlightening portrait of the horse's role in the development of the country. A fun and fascinating read, the book will make for a great resource book for classroom and library shelves."
– The Prairies Book Review
"I've loved and owned horses most of my life, but had never considered the important role they played in American History. This has changed now that I have read Equus Rising, a rich retelling of the history of the horse from the foundations of the earth, to the early days of America, until our current day [...] I had a hard time putting the book down, as I couldn't wait to read the next chapter to find out what would happen next! Equus Rising is a compelling, concisely written, beautifully illustrated, important read for any horse or history enthusiast. If you are a horse lover and would like to have a more intimate knowledge of the role the horse has played in U.S. history, I highly recommend Equus Rising."
– Shelley Paulson, author of Horses: Portraits & Stories
"From the Dawn Pony of the Eocene, to the Thoroughbreds of Kentucky, Equus Rising takes the reader on a tour. Through a rare blend of social and biological history, Soplop tells the story of horses, as wild animals, and also as partners to human beings. Well-written and well-researched, this volume fills a key niche in the science, politics, and literature of the horse."
– Chad Hanson, PhD, president of the Wyoming Mustang Institute and author of Trout Streams of the Heart