Man's interaction with horses spans eons, and The Horse, the exhibit that opens Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park's International Museum of the Horse, covers at least 19,000 years of it.
You don't have that much time, so here are the 10 must-see items in the 140-piece show:
Armored horse: It's hard to top 85 pounds of hand-made, hammered and polished 15th-century German steel battle armor. It has been on display for hundreds of years, said Michael Otto, curator of arms and armor for Deutsches Historisches Museum, which loaned the piece to the American Museum of Natural History, which put together The Horse exhibit.
It came from King Friedrich I of Prussia's zeughaus, or arsenal, in Berlin, in which he collected weapons, spoils and trophies of war beginning in the late 1600s. Horse armor first appeared about 1450 and was designed to protect the animals from the arrows of longbows, with mixed success.
This armor is thought to have been made in Augsburg, the center of the ancient equivalent of the military industrial complex. It probably cost about five cows, a huge sum at the time, said Helmut Franke, an armor restorer from Potsdam hired by the museum to put the piece together for the show. Including the saddle, it weighs about 85 pounds and probably would have been worn by a stallion ridden by someone of significant standing, such as a nobleman. Franke thinks the armor was used in battle and wasn't merely ornamental. "This horse saw war in its armor," he said.
Ceramic urn with Amazon woman in leggings on horseback. This red-on-black piece, which is from 440-430 B.C. and depicts the woman fighting a Greek warrior, illustrates one of the primary contributions of horses: trousers, which were invented for riding (horsehair is itchy) and then made their way into everyday society.
The urn also has a secret you can't see, according to museum leaders: inside are fossilized, burned chicken bones, demonstrating that despite its beauty, the vessel apparently was used for cooking.
Prehistoric cave paintings. The paintings from Lascaux, France, and Tito Bustillo, Spain, are shown along with fossilized bones and flint spear points, including a 17,500- to 19,000-year-old piece with horse teeth and a broken spear joined together.
Bill Cooke, museum director, said the paintings show the horse's role as a food source as well as cultural icon. "They were obviously mystical or they wouldn't have painted them on cave walls," Cooke said.
Oberon, the digital horse. Based on video of a real animal who is a New York City stage horse, the interactive piece allows you to touch the screen to watch him eat and see how his digestive system works, including the final outcome, a very popular feature with schoolkids.
Army's leather-covered gas mask for a horse, from World War II. After the widespread use of poison gas in World War I, the cavalry created this mask and filter system to outfit horses in the Second World War.
Samurai warrior. Dating from the 1800s, it is carved from a single tusk of an Asian elephant. The horse's tail and front leg attach separately.
Crow Indian woman's full riding regalia. From the 1880s, it includes a saddle with cradleboard and shield cover.
Single-horse fire wagon from 1890. Made in Indianapolis and on loan from the Cincinnati Fire Museum, this wagon with pump handles was used by the Mount Washington Fire Department.
Terra cotta horse from Pondicherry, India. These elaborate statutes, made of dozens of individual pieces, are still made today and left in the jungle around villages as votive offerings for the local gods in lieu of real horses to sacrifice.
Citation's trophies: Of special interest to Thoroughbred racing fans are Citation's 1948 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont trophies and the Triple Crown trophy celebrating Calumet Farm's victory in all three major 3-year-old races.
Reach Janet Patton at (859) 231-3264 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3264.