National Day of the Horse, December 13

United States 2-cent Post Horse and Rider stamp from 1869.
United States 2-cent Post Horse and Rider stamp from 1869.

Today, December 13, is the National Day of the Horse, a day annually observed in appreciation for the contribution of horses to the economy, history and character of the country. The domesticated horse we know today was first introduced into North America by Spanish explorers.

Escaped horses eventually spread across the American Great Plains and were later domesticated by the early settlers of the West. Horses played a significant role in postal history, delivering mail and messages for many years. In the early days of U.S. mail when there became a great demand for a more timely transportation of public correspondence, riders on horseback, known as “post riders,” would be contracted to take small bundles of mail and packages, first along post roads and later, through a series of relays, across the country.

Mail transported  by horse briefly reduced the time for mail to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to around 10 days before being replaced by the Transcontinental Railroad and then the telegraph.

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