The horse of yesteryear, retraced by Bernadette Lizet

The Horse in everyday life. Techniques and representations of the work horse in industrial Europe

the Bernadette Lizet

Preface by André Leroi-Gourhan

CNRS Éd., 320 p. ill., 25 €

Here, no learned riding, sport or equestrian leisure, no PMU. It is “An ethno-historical analysis of the place of the horse in the ordinary work which occupied the whole of society before the generalized use of fossil fuels”, in Europe and especially in France. It was published forty years ago, but here it is redesigned today by an ethnologist as we like them, nose to the wind, listening and knowing how to write. It tells the story of the handyman and its motive power gradually conquered by the internal combustion engine.

We can gallop through the first chapters which follow the evolution of the equine species and the adventure of its domestication and its selection since Antiquity, to arrive earlier at the heart of the book: the description of a civilization rural and urban where we lived and worked with horses until the 20th centurye century. It is above all a pleasure of words: who still knows the pelletized and the paturon, the limonier, the ice cream necklace, the protrusion bar, the cage wheel, the female coachman and thehippophagie ?

The apogee of the “horse-motor”

It is a reminder of the sounds of eternal childhood: the flashy start to empty the bag of oats fixed to the nostrils at the break, the differentiated shock of the irons on the granite or wooden pavement, the coachman who releases “his” pavement, the creaking of the starting truck, the trampling of the hooves to turn straight and resume the furrow at the end of the field, the breaths of joy and sorrow in the stable or in the plowing, the fatal shock of the knacker’s merlin. It is a host of images and drawings, as precise and telling as in the old school books.

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Here are the horse dealers at the fair, the quarrels between healers and veterinarians, the action of the public authorities to suppress a little cruelty and especially facilitate requisitions, the rivalries between the regions to round up the most workers, the countryside and the city linked by rolling, the mine horse helping industrialization, the love and the whip so often embraced. Everything is true here, at the height of the “horse-motor”, when everyday life took its ease with horse-drawn vehicles, except when the storm rose too quickly or when wars were killing people.

Bernadette Lizet feels in fine that a bit of optimism is rising today, since the horse takes care of the organic vine to the nearest centimeter, its light weeding saves the poppy and its precision brings life to replanted hedges and abandoned corners. . Come on, courage and hue dia!

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