Not too many people ride horses in downtown Ottawa anymore, but lots of people still ride horses all over the world. Richard F. volunteered to answer your question.
Horses can run a lot aster than people and for longer. They can carry heavier loads too. When the first people were able to take a horse, they were able to go a lot faster and farther than anyone else. It was such a good idea that lots of people copied them. No-one knows who was first to take a horse, because it was so long ago.
Horses used to be the main power source for land transportation until steam engines and then the gasoline and diesel engine were invented. Now in Canada we rarely see horses used for transport, because machines are faster and cheaper.
There is a group of people called the Amish who refuse to use modern technology and still travel with horse and buggy.
The Compton's Encyclopedia has some interesting information about how long people have been riding horses. Here is a bit of that information.
A Semitic people who conquered the Mesopotamian region about 2300 BC. were mounted on horses. This fact may explain their success in war. The first sight of a man riding a horse must have struck terror in the hearts of a simple people. The myth of the centaur, half horse and half man, probably had its origin in just such an experience.
The 15 horses brought to Mexico by Cortez sent the Aztecs in terrified flight. In North America before the arrival of the Europeans, the only domesticated animal was the dog. The Indians remained in a primitive state of culture until the white people brought horses to America. The horse effected great changes in the ways of living of the Plains tribes (see Indians, American). The far more highly civilized Incas of pre-Columbian Peru domesticated the llama and the alpaca.
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