What would we lose in a world without horses?

Hippophiles, don’t hyperventilate at the thought. (That’s a fancy word for horse lovers.)

It’s one of the questions staff at History Colorado, a Denver museum that specializes in telling the stories of our fair state, asked participants during the creation of its upcoming exhibit, “The Power of Horses.” It runs through May 9.

“I hope people are surprised by how many connections to horses we all have,” said History Colorado’s public historian and exhibit developer Julie Peterson. “Whether through pop culture or finding resonance with stories people share, even if they don’t belong to the community.”

Visitors will learn about Colorado’s love affair with horses, from their ancient beginnings in North America, to their role in founding Western settlements and creating the stereotypical cowboy image of the West, and why they are still vitally important to us today, in such fields as contemporary medicine.

“I learned specific reasons we feel connected to horses,” Peterson said. “When horses are used in occupational therapy, horses and humans have similar movement patterns, and the same average walking speed and gait. Being on a horse helps people connect their own movement, particularly if they’re trying to improve the physical ability of the human.”

During a series of monthly programs from October 2020 to March of this year, the museum invited community members from around the state to share why horses were important to them and how the equines shaped their communities. The stories were wide-ranging, and included Ute horse culture; the Hispano community — Colorado’s first Hispanic residents — and their practice of charro culture through skilled riding and tricks; and the history of Black cowboys.

These nuggets of horse lore will be told through artifacts and photos, including a traditional charro suit, Ute saddlebag, brochure from the 1919 National Western Stock Show and a 19th-century saddle and shirt from the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the first all-Black touring rodeo. The family-friendly exhibit also will offer visitors the ability to create a keepsake in the museum’s makerspace.

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270