For the Love of Horses

Do you love to take trail rides or go to the races? Enjoy some of the California State Library’s equine-related images and artifacts from California’s horse-crazy past.

Racing at Santa Anita (20th Century) by Pacific Electric Railway CompanyCalifornia State Library

Hear the starting gun and watch the horses explode out of the gate!

California horse races like the Santa Anita Big ‘Cap have for many years drawn crowds. Many travel for miles to visit the tracks

Admission Badge (19th Century) by California Jockey ClubCalifornia State Library

Wait...Did you buy a ticket?

The California Jockey Club owned a number of Bay Area tracks. They sponsored, regulated and promoted public horse races, such as the one on this ticket.

Horse Racing Poster (20th Century) by Fair Publishing HouseCalifornia State Library

California has long had a love affair with horse racing of all kinds.

Racing isn’t just the province of galloping thoroughbreds; other breeds trot or "pace" to victory in harness races.

Harness Racing (20th Century)California State Library

We have feted our equine track stars.

The horse, Mona Wilkes, appeared in headlines and was honored at a banquet after winning this 1908 harness race where she broke speed records.

Sheet Music (19th Century) by Valentine HuberCalifornia State Library

We have even written songs about riding horses

Commissioned by the Jockey Club, this song, "With Whip and Spur," was clearly horse related. It was a galop, which means gallop in French.

Whip and Spur Interior (19th Century) by Valentine HuberCalifornia State Library

So that we could mimic horses in our dances.

The fast music of the galop often accompanied a dance also called a galop. Galop dancers imitated horses by moving in a circle with quick hopping steps.

California Rodeo (20th Century) by Irvine & JachensCalifornia State Library

Our rodeos are well over 100 years old.

Saddles and bridles were official prizes, but in 1913 spectators could take home souvenir buttons from Salinas Big Week, a rodeo still held today.

Military Rodeo Benefit (20th Century)California State Library

In fact, they're popular enough to be fundraisers!

This military rodeo was more than a good show. Proceeds from events like this went to charities supporting the war effort during World War I.

State Fair (20th Century)California State Library

Even our State Fair is horse-mad.

Californians have exhibited horses at the State Fair since its inception in 1854. By 1933, a fair visitor could see draft horses, Kellogg’s Arabians and more.

San Joaquin County Fair (20th Century) by Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company,California State Library

Our County Fairs are horse-crazy too.

In 1931, the San Joaquin County Fair boasted 200 show horses. The event kept growing. By 1937, its horse show rivaled the State Fair's.

Credits: Story

Have we piqued your interest in all things equine? You can learn more about our horse-racing history via our research guide Horses and Horse Racing in California.

By Elena Smith and Veronica Alvarado

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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