Saudi Aramco World: January/February 2014 - page 7

January/February 2014
Horses appear in ancient Mesopotamian textual sources by around 2100
, and the earliest images of people riding
horses appear in the Near East around 1800
. Horse-drawn chariots were introduced to Egypt via the Levant soon after, during the
Hyksos era, and were highly prized status symbols. By the first millennium
, horses were more commonly used for cavalry by the
Assyrians, and subsequently by the Medes and Persians. Classical sources mention that the Achaemenid Persians (550–330
) devel-
oped body armor for both their horses and their riders.
Ron Vasser has been
involved with horses on
the competitive level for
over 20 years. He has been
associated with riding
groups and is certified
in mounted search-and-
rescue operations.
Shown with:
Bronze horse bit from the Achaemenid period, ca. 550–330
, Persepolis, Iran. (22.4 x 2.3 cm / 8¾ x 1
) This horse bit is
one of several found in the so-called Treasury and Garrison Quarters at the royal city of Persepolis. It has bar-shaped cheek pieces and a
flexible snaffle (jointed) bit made in two sections linked in the center. Double loops on the bars were used to attach the headstall straps.
The larger rings at the ends of the bit would have been attached to the reins.
“Looking at a piece like
this reinforces my under-
standing that I am doing
something that people did
thousands of years ago.
The bit I use may be a little
flashier, or the metal may
be different, but the con-
cept is the same, so I am
living part of that history
at this moment. First thing
you want to know when
you’re on a horse is, can I make him stop? You want to know where the brakes are, you want to know where the steering is. After
that, you’re golden. Having that bit is a way of controlling the horse. Any person who is into horses can look at that and say, ‘Oh,
that’s a bit’—a bizarre-looking bit because of how it’s designed, but basically they could see that’s probably a snaffle bit.... It appears
to have some ridges,... something that would give the horse rider a little bit more control in the horse’s mouth.”
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