What happens when your entire identity revolves around a way of life that is becoming obsolete?
Welcome to one of the April 18th stops on the blog tour for Horse/Man by Julia Merritt with Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, reviews, more author guest posts, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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Author Guest Post
The Complicated Transition from Horse to Human Labour
The novel horse/man follows the life of one man as the society around him transitions from equine labour as a mainstay, to horses being used only for recreational purposes. While the novel focuses on the human cost of these changes, it is underpinned by the structural changes that were made in the previous century, bringing about the way we live in North America today.
In the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, as humans invented more machines, they actually needed more horses to produce and transport the new products. The efficiency of an equine “machine” is 15-20%, or roughly the same as the internal combustion engine in a car. However, the internal combustion engine wasn’t invented until 1872, so before that, the Industrial Revolution relied on the steam engine, which only has an efficiency rating of 3-6%. Steam engines were also extremely large and heavy, so they were better suited to stationary environments like factory floors or train tracks. This meant that it was often more profitable to use horses. For example, steam boats would erode shipping canals, but teams of horse walking on the banks of the canals could pull loads on the water up to 80 miles a day. Similarly, farm equipment was modernized to include mechanical components, but steam engines were too heavy to work in deep soil, so horses were needed instead. Basically, anytime a machine was invented, horses were needed to perform a primary or secondary role in order to ensure it was successful.
This mutual dependency continued to grow, until, in the 1880s, 40,000 horses a year were imported into the USA from Europe, and by 1900s, the urban horse population along was over 3 million. In some cities, there were as many as one horse for every seven people. Horses in cities did so much work that there were over 400,000 drivers of wagons and streetcars to keep up. The amount of horses actually shaped the physical infrastructure that we have in cities today: wide streets for the wagons, sidewalks for the pedestrians, and asphalt to make dragging loads easier. Wagon drivers were called “teamsters” and they had their own guilds and unions, but for a variety of reasons they weren’t considered skilled labourers.
As the Industrial Revolution progressed, horses were used to create modern-day suburbia in North America. Before horse-drawn streetcars were invented, the size of a city was limited to the reasonable walking distance of a human. Streetcars made it possible to commute longer distances to work, and once that happened, cities started to get bigger. Sales of suburban houses increased because the rhetoric of the mid and late-1800s positioned suburban housing as safer, cleaner, and healthier for humans to live in than the downtown core of cities. To be fair, there were many concerns and campaigns to bring proper sanitation in the cities to both houses and streets (think of the lack of indoor plumbing in apartment buildings – and can you imagine the amount of manure that would build up on the roads from animals that pass manure 8-12 times per day?). Of course there were ulterior motives at play; many of the streetcar companies made a fortune by buying property just outside of the city limits, and then developing it as housing and selling it on.
The invention of streetcars was not unanimously welcome, either. Those who opposed their use did so on the grounds that streets were social public spaces, used for many purposes other than transportation. However, their concerns were overridden by the culture of progressivism, which took root during the Industrial Revolution and championed the changes brought about by new machines as being in the best interests of society as a whole (not to mention the amount of money to be made by the new market in transportation).
However, despite the enthusiasm for mechanical advancement, horses remained crucial in sustaining western society until the end of the Second World War. At that time, the reduced cost and improved efficiency of tractors had reached the point that it no longer made financial sense to use equine labour for agriculture. And so, the horse was transitioned out of the labour force. Perhaps surprisingly, although their purposes have changed, the number of horses in North America remain in the millions. The rise of the horse as a partner in sport is the next chapter.
About the Book
by Julia Merritt
Published 27 January 2022
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 274
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
In the 1920s, as Canada progresses through the Industrial Revolution, horses are still the rural engines of survival. As a child Adam lives this reality on his family’s farm in the Ottawa Valley, planning to take over one day and have a family of his own. When his parents die during the Great Depression, nineteen-year-old Adam is disinherited in favour of his brother and is forced to move to the city to find work. Without a formal education his choices are few, yet he finds a place to use his horsemanship skills in the dwindling forces of the Canadian cavalry based near Montreal. There he finds pride in being a mounted soldier, and friendship with his fellow dragoons. But the cavalry units are mechanized by the beginning of World War Two, and when Adam is sent to Europe, he must abandon his equine partners for trucks and tanks. In the catastrophic experience of war, he will lose everything once again.
Broken in body and spirit, he returns to Canada where he must confront the question of survival in a world that doesn’t seem to have a place for an injured soldier. Full of poetic reflections on what it means to work with horses, horse/man is a powerful story about a man searching for dignity and connection in the face of a rapidly shifting world.
We’re giving away 100 e-copies of horse/man, the new historical fiction novel by Julia Merritt. Don’t miss your chance to win! Click here to enter!
“You know,” Tom carried on, “you may want to start considering one for yourself.”
“Mmm,” said Ciaran, wary.
Tom shook his head. “They’re the way of the future, I’m telling you. Gonna save you farmers reams of work.”
Ciaran’s face went blank. “We’ll see,” was all he said. He looked at the floor for a moment, then to the back of the shop where Tom’s assistant was gathering the order. Tom uncrossed his arms, shifting to pull his pencil from behind his ear and move it over the ledger.
On the way home, Adam sat in the wagon’s front seat and rolled the image of the car in his mind, trying to remember the details. He’d seen cars advertised in catalogues, one of those fantastical advancements that people in the Ottawa Valley weren’t wealthy enough to afford. The idea of climbing into a car was far removed from hitching a horse to a wagon. Who owned it? Why did that person need it? Adam thought maybe his father might know, but Ciaran’s silence was always forbidding, and he wasn’t brave enough to break it. He recalled the car’s colour as so deeply black it was unnatural compared to even the blackest of horses, whose coats were sunburnt in the summer and covered with dust in the winter. And when it had passed, the engine sound had drowned out all others.
About the Author
Julia Merritt has been captivated by horses ever since she could see out of the car window. Then she grew up and became a public library CEO and certified animal bodyworker. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her thoroughbred horses and smooth collie dogs. This is her first novel.
Julia Merritt will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
|Apr 4||Long and Short Reviews||Apr 11||Rogue’s Angels|
|Apr 11||Let me tell you a story||Apr 18||Joanne Guidoccio|
|Apr 18||Westveil Publishing||Apr 25||Fabulous and Brunette|
|May 2||Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!||May 9||All the Ups and Downs|
|May 16||Viviana MacKade||May 23||fundinmental|
|May 30||J. Lynn Rowan||Jun 6||Hope. Dreams. Life… Love|
|Jun 13||Straight From the Library||Jun 20||Deborah-Zenha Adams|
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