I want the majority of the population of New Orleans to ride on horseback instead of cars or gasoline-fueled land vehicles, but would it make sense for traders from the North to breed horses and bring them to the South to sell?

(The population of New Orleans were residents previously, I thought it would be interesting to have a setting there. The levees and everything else undergoes maintenance and the people there have rebuilt somewhat. One of the main plot points is how flooded it is, think of the city as being in a 'reinforced bowl'."

  • $\begingroup$ Is this in modern day? What technology levels are you looking for? What is the timescale? We need much more info to answer this question. $\endgroup$
    – overlord
    Oct 16 '19 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ This takes place in the year 2038 but the bombs fell in 2021. The technology level isn't medieval but they aren't using gasoline-powered land vehicles due to lack of fuel. New Orleans is now inhabited by the remains of the population that took shelter from the bombs. $\endgroup$
    – Nolan N.
    Oct 16 '19 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Nolan N.: Putting aside the question of why anyone would want to seek shelter in New Orleans, there were plenty of horses there prior to automobiles, and a quick search will find plenty of stables &c there today, e.g.: neworleans.com/things-to-do/recreation/horseback-riding $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 16 '19 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't much of New Orleans be flooded due to lack of maintenance of the levees and pumps? And much of the rest devastated when the upstream dams began to fail? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Oct 16 '19 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ There are already a lot of horse breeders near New Orleans. They are very common in the rural areas north of Lake Pontchartrain; so, unless something happened to kill these off, it is far more likely that these horses will be locally sourced. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 16 '19 at 19:45

If people do need something, they move heaven and earth for it. So people, somehow, using horses for transportation is fine.

However the real question is does it make sense? A post apocalyptic setting would mean a couple of things. For starter cities are a lot smaller with a situation similar to medieval, particularly medieval, cities. As people can't control, defend, and supply the mega cities of today. So the scale of a city is never going to be an hour drive to get to work. You just can't maintain that sort of city anymore. So it changes into 20 minute walk to walk.

Also cycles are a much much better alternative to both cars and horses. Simple, easy, cheep, portable...etc. And when the whole new city can be covered in a 30 minute trip, people would rather use them.

Second important point is that horses, historically or not, tend to be expensive. You need to constantly care for them and make sure they are fine. For example. You know parking lot? Well. If, in that world, you park your horse in a place, it needs to be cared for. Stuff like the heat, wind, snow...etc are bad for it. Then it needs to be feed and watered the entire time you are doing your work. At home you need to have a stable or suitable place for it to stay. And in PA setting where land is already limited you can see how that would be a problem.

So in essence. The logistics of using horses inside cities in PA setting don't make sense and bicycles are much better.

Now if you are thinking about travel it might make more sense depending on the setting. However days of horseback riding to reach the nearest settlement is not fun. It's long and exhausting. Then if you factor dangers on the road it becomes much worse. Cars would still be used until there is no more fuel. But the thing is that in a PA setting people could just start conserving fuel to for the out of city uses and have enough for trips. Then we already have electric cars which can still be used.

Then you need to start factoring dangers on the road. If you have to deal with mutated creatures then can horses be safely used as transportation? Do you need to deal with people with guns?...etc.

So I guess my point is that it's not a matter of can people do it or not. It's a question of would people do it or not.

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    $\begingroup$ Good answer except for using cars for long range travel. If the bombs fell in 2021 then by 2023 even the stabilised gasoline is useless (3-6 months for unstabilised) and by 2036 even stabilised diesel is unusable (12 months for unstabilised). Electric cars may still be working depending on supplies of spare parts and sustainable electricity generation. $\endgroup$ Oct 18 '19 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ I think you are underestimating both the capabilities of horses and the amount of infrastructure needed to keep cars and bicycles as practical means of transportation. $\endgroup$ Oct 18 '19 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055: Not so. Gasoline may not work as well after a year or two, but (from personal experience during the Arab Oil Embargo), you can drain leftover gas out of vehicles that have been in junkyards for years, maybe decades, and it will work. You can also distill ethanol: most cars will run on it, though it can be bad for seals. Newer cars that say "Flex Fuel" on them are designed to run on ethanol as well as gasoline. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 18 '19 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Interesting to hear - I do not doubt your personal experience yet it is contrary to the advice that has been circulated since at least the '90s. I wonder whether the increase in number and type of fuel additives may have reduced the shelf life in the intervening 45+ years since some of the experiences you describe. (Or possibly it's the oil companies doing the same thing as manufacturers who put "use by" dates on pillows.) $\endgroup$ Oct 18 '19 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055, Yes. In certain contexts it might not work. But I always assume that even after in a PA setting that a certain, small or medium, number of oil rigs, and the like, would still function and produce oil to an extent. Nothing like today but people will still need gas and it is possible that a couple of facilities remain intact and still produce oil. But it still depends. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Oct 18 '19 at 23:22

It would not, in general, be realistic, because there are plenty of horses in New Orleans and the surrounding areas today. Importing them would only make sense in two cases:

1) Something in the apocalypse caused the local horses to die out or become sterile. Perhaps due to a disease like malaria, whose vector (a mosquito) can't survive cold northern winters.

2) The northern horses are believed to be somehow "better" than the locally-bred ones. This is a real thing today: I have a neighbor who runs a business importing (by air!) European horses of a particular breed (Hanoverian?), training them, and selling them for IMHO outrageous amounts of money.

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    $\begingroup$ Your second point could be expanded to cover more demands for different horse types. For example, once the supply of truck and tractor tires and/or diesel fuel runs out, there will be more demand for heavy draft horses. $\endgroup$ Oct 18 '19 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Patricia Shanahan: Though you'd really want tires for your horse-drawn wagons, too, or FTM your bicycles. Iron rims only work well on dirt. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 19 '19 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ There is a lot more dirt than paved roads. $\endgroup$ Oct 19 '19 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Patricia Shanahan: But the most direct routes that people will want to use with their wagons are all paved. With little or no automobile traffic, and especially no heavy truck traffic, those roads will last for decades if not longer. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 20 '19 at 16:41

Import the horses

From your question:

but would it make sense for traders from the North to breed horses and bring them to the South to sell?

Yes, it would make total sense!

Horses originally came to North America from Europe, not land migration. So, historically, their movement and sprawl is greatly affected by humans who raise them.

Going further

To be more realistic, North America did have wild horses, which means some probably escaped after brought over by Europe. So, to make your plot both more deep and realistic, have some wild horses nearby, which escaped from the horses brought by the traders. Wild horses are hard to catch, so it shouldn't affect your trade scenario much if at all, unless you need it to, then a "horse whisperer/tamer" could. Wild horses could really make the plot deep, horse whisperers included, even if they don't directly affect the plot.


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