ABOUT THIS BOOK
From the recent spate of equine deaths on racetracks to protests demanding the removal of mounted Confederate soldier statues to the success and appeal of War Horse, there is no question that horses still play a role in our lives—though fewer and fewer of us actually interact with them. In Precarious Partners, Kari Weil takes readers back to a time in France when horses were an inescapable part of daily life. This was a time when horse ownership became an attainable dream not just for soldiers but also for middle-class children; when natural historians argued about animal intelligence; when the prevalence of horse beatings led to the first animal protection laws; and when the combined magnificence and abuse of these animals inspired artists, writers, and riders alike.
Weil traces the evolving partnerships established between French citizens and their horses through this era. She considers the newly designed “races” of workhorses who carried men from the battlefield to the hippodrome, lugged heavy loads through the boulevards, or paraded women riders, amazones, in the parks or circus halls—as well as those unfortunate horses who found their fate on a dinner plate. Moving between literature, painting, natural philosophy, popular cartoons, sports manuals, and tracts of public hygiene, Precarious Partners traces the changing social, political, and emotional relations with these charismatic creatures who straddled conceptions of pet and livestock in nineteenth-century France.