Playing Horsey: Chrnological Trends

Figure 1.--Playing horsey was very popular with 19th century children. With the arrival of automobiles this changes, alrgough playing horsey never ebtirely disappeared. Here we see children in 2005 playing horsey with improvised gear.

We are not sure when children began playing horsey. Our information dates from the early 19th century, but we suspect that children were playing this game well before the 19th century. The sources for this game come primarily from early 19th crentury drawings and paintings. The work here was painted about 1810 (figure 1) any shows a very simple rig. We notice an ad from a 1878 magazine offering clothing patterns that depicted a very elaborate rig. This means that the rig and gear were made especially as play items for children. We are not sure if the rig was for sale or an elaborate fantasy. We note many 19th century portraits of younger boys with whips. There is also a 1900 illustration from Sears showing that this game persisted to the early 20th century when presumably the coming of the automobile changed children's interests. Apparently this game has not totally disappeared. A reader in Canada writes us, "I found a play harness last winter [2002] in a net store called Magic Cabin. It is a real soft harness made in Estonia or Germany. I remember in the 1970s When learning horse riding, my daughter played like this with her best friend to master technic of horsing." We have even noticed children playing in the 2000s, although generally with improvised gear.


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Created: 5:15 AM 11/20/20055
Last updated: 5:15 AM 11/20/2005