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Horse sense before the car
4:48pm Tuesday 7th November 2006 in Heritage
Horses gave us the main motive force on our roads and farms until other forms of power such as steam, petrol and diesel engines provided the means of moving people and goods.
Although the working horse has vanished from the local scene there is much to remind us of its past importance.
Many buildings still have archways that once provided access to courtyards and stables; iron tethering rings still hang on some house walls; horse troughs, many nowadays filled with flowers instead of water, still stand beside roads once used as main supply routes.
A feature connected with the horse that is rarely seen nowadays is the smithy. The roar of the fire, the sound of the bellows, the hiss of the hot shoe dropped into water to cool and the patient horse looking over its shoulder as it was shod; all these, and more, were the sounds and sights of the smithy.
Blacksmiths did other work, such as repairing farm implements, fences, carriages and carts and, as motorcars became popular, they took to repairing them as well.
Eventually blacksmiths were doing more work on cars than on horses, including supplying petrol, and their premises gradually turned into the forerunners of the garages we have today.
Until the middle of the last century horses were still used on the farm, in forests for the movement of felled timber, and on our streets for the delivery of coal, milk and bread.
In the late 1800s they had to get used to traction engines and cyclists, and in the early 1900s to motorcars; backfiring being the cause of many a bolted horse, usually with milk float or coal cart still attached.
Today motorists still slow for horses and riders on our roads and there must be many people who still have vivid memories of working horses.
Article by Alan Moore, author of A History of Redhill Volumes 1 and 2. History website www.redhill-reigate-history.co.uk