REMEMBERING THE WAR HORSE
Today is the 11th day of the 11th month, 102 years since the end of WWI and 75 years since the end of WWII. Whilst the last WWI veteran, Florence Green, died in 2012, there are many WWII veterans still surviving. Our acts of remembrance pay tribute to all those people who gave their service to their countries, and in many cases their lives, to defend the freedom of future generations.
As horse lovers we may flinch at the horror of war for a fight or flight animal amongst the thunderous sounds and flashes of the guns. In WWI in particular, large numbers of horses were requisitioned by the army. It was not uncommon for owners to spare their horses by shooting them before the army arrived to take them. It has been estimated that 8 million horses, donkeys and mules died in WWI. Around three-quarters of them are believed to have died from exhaustion and disease, with only a quarter being shot or gassed. It has been said that Britain alone lost almost ½ million horses, one for every two men killed. In WWII considerably fewer horses were used by the British as mechanisation in the forms of trucks, tanks, etc took over, although the Russians and the Germans continued to use significant numbers of horses.
One might contemplate that at least the men and women fighting in these wars could on some level understand what was happening. For the horses, mules and donkeys it was almost certainly a hell they would not comprehend. The bond between man and horse is special and today we should reflect on how lucky we are to have that relationship and remember all who gave their lives.