There was once a time when capturing your horse doing something amazing/adorable/epic wasn’t as easy as whipping out your smart phone, but that didn’t stop the photographers of yesteryear from capturing these amazing equines at work.
We’ve combed the Library of Congress photo collections to bring you the best array of equines: performers, military heroes, babysitters, and work horses. Personally, I’d take every last one of them home with me.
Photo 1: International Equestrian Tournament at Green Week; Berlin, Germany 1954. One of only a few indoor equestrian competitions in Europe in that era.
Photo 2: Baby Vinson McLean, grandson of the founder of the Washington Post, riding champion McLean jumper, Indian Flower, at a 1912 horse show in Washington, D.C. Note the phantom legs from an unusual double exposure!
Photo 3: A reenactment scene of the Boer Wars at the St. Louis Exposition, 1904. Battle Reenactments called for the world’s first ever stunt horses, taught to fall without injuring themselves or their riders and then “play dead”.
Photo 4: Eight year-old Jack driving a horse rake. Photo was part of a series documenting rural child labor in Massachusetts in 1915. The report noted that his small weight meant he could easily be pulled from his seat and pulled under the rake were he to fall.
Photo 5: Children waiting in a horse show lineup in 1911 Washington, DC.
Photo 6: Colonel A.W. Dunn competing in a “hurdling” competition, 1911. Note the exceptional mustache and old-school seat style.
Photo 7: Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, future U.S. President, at Rough Riders Military Camp in New York, 1898.
Photo 8: Cornet Henry Wilkin, member of ‘Prince Albert’s Own’ 11th Hussars of the British Army, dressed for battle during the Crimean War in 1855 against Russia. The 11th Hussars were among the most formidable cavalry officers in the world, but were led into one of the most ill-fated moments of British war history, the Charge of the Light Brigade. In where is now known as the “valley of the shadow of death” the British Light Brigade was ordered to charge into artillery that they had little chance of surviving and no chance of defeating. Wilkin was fortunate to survive. The fate of his horse is unknown, but 335 horses died in the charge altogether.
Photo 9: A photo of a photographer, attempting to capture the horse’s image from above. Circa 1907.
Photo 10: The original caption for this photo reads, “Young Howland Russell, grandson of Mrs Borden Harriman, refuses to entrust to a groom the important business of preparing his pony “Tottles” for the Children’s Horse Show which will held in the National Capital on St. Patrick’s Day.” Washington DC, 1928.
Photo 11: Ms. Martha Hazard in the hurdling class in Washington DC, 1911.
Photo 12: Model of a horse in the Army Medical Museum in Bethesda. MD, circa 1900. Courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.
Photo 13: A semi-candid and haunting photo of Union Lt.General Ulysses S. Grant and his military mount, Cincinnati, on June 4, 1864, the day after suffering a bloody, hopeless, and lopsided defeat at the Battle of Cold Harbor. Grant’s men were pounded by the stronger position held by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and the Union suffered 12,737 casualties over 13 miserable days.
Photo 14: Ralph Coffin jumps a Rolls Royce at the 1916 National Horse Show. Note the Washington Monument in the background.
Photo 15: A man demonstrates the first horse vacuum cleaner on a taxidermied horse model at Berlin’s Green Week in 1928. A very, very scary taxidermied horse model.