Our relationship with the working horse, which had
existed since prehistoric times, reached its peak
during the long reign of Queen Victoria. Truly this
was the age when the horse was king. On the
farms of Britain little moved without horse power
and the coming of the railways only increased the
number of horses in the country.
Yet following the
First World War, the Empire of the Horse
evaporated, and within a few decades the working
horse had disappeared almost entirely from the
In Goodbye Old Friend, Simon
Butler explores the reasons for this change and the
effect it has had on our lives. The story follows on
from the his bestselling book The War Horses in
which he describes the fate of the horse during the
1914-18 war, in which over a million horses died on
the Western Front alone.
Here the author looks in detail at the prominence
of the working horse in rural Britain during Victoria’s
reign, the challenge of steam power and the internal
combustion engine, and the movement of population
away from the countryside.
effect of the First World War is then examined,
followed by the years in which the world of the
working horse quickly faded from memory.
The inclusion of 300 photographs and first-hand
accounts help illustrate the story of why the decline
of horse power was so rapid, and bring home to
the reader the social significance of the disappearance
of horses from daily life.
Here we discover the loss of the working horse
was, in part, our loss too.
Simon Butler lives and works in the
Westcountry. A publisher of many
hundreds of titles he has also written
and edited books ranging from novels
to books on art. His book The War
Horses, published in 2011, reached
number one in military hardback sales
and has been reprinted several times.
That volume grew out of his interest
in the First World War and in his
friendship with those who keep alive
the bond between humans and the
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 170 8, hardback, 238x258mm, 144 pages. Published October 2012.Reprinted May 2015.