Remembering the War Horses

Civil War Horse Monument. The War Horse. At the Virginia Historical Society on The Boulevard, Richmond, Va. Created by Tessa Pullan.
The War Horse is a memorial to the Civil War horse, designed by Tessa Pullan of Rutland, England, and given to the historical society by Paul Mellon.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Here are some of the way horses have been used in wars and conflicts. Millions upon millions have died for it. They didn’t give their lives. The lives were taken.

American Civil War

More than 1,000,000 horses and mules were killed during the U.S. Civil War. In the early days of the conflict, more horses than men were killed. Just at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg alone, the number of horses killed was about 1,500—881 horses and mules for the Union, and 619 for the Confederacy.

Eric J. Wittenberg, the award-winning Civil War historian, writes:

During the era of the Civil War, 1861-1865, there were no internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline, so there were only three ways to transport men, equipment and supplies: by boat, by train, or by horse. Horses were the primary means for logistics. Horses were used by artillery, by cavalry, by infantry, and by teamsters to move men and equipment. Read more »


Horses and mules provided the overwhelming majority of the power used to move men and machines – the true “horsepower” of the war effort. They served in a wide variety of roles, including being ridden, as draft animals pulling vehicles and guns, and as pack animals.

Horses were in demand during the First World War. Britain responded to this shortage by obtaining its horses by importing them from America and New Zealand with as many as 1,000,000 coming from America. This costs Britain 67.5 million pounds. Germany had a more elaborate system before the war. They had set up sponsored horse-breeding programmes in anticipation of the war. Their horses were registered every year, just like army reservists.

The Central Powers, unlike the Allies, were unable to import horses from overseas and as a result, led to their defeat through paralyses artillery battalions and supply lines.

During the war, many horses died because of exhaustion, drowning, becoming mired in mud and falling into shell holes. In some cases, riders were killed and their horses captured. Horses were sometimes fed and cared for poorly, poison gas attacks injured their respiratory systems and skin, and skin conditions such as mange were common. The invention of improvised nose plugs, however, served to help horses in the event of a gas attack. Improved gas masks were later on created by both the central and Allied nations, although most of the horses destroyed them mistaking them for feed bags. Read more »

A draft horse shown left hitched to a post, his partner just killed by shrapnel, 1916,
A draft horse shown left hitched to a post, his partner just killed by shrapnel, 1916,

In 1917, when more than 94,000 horses were sent from North America to Europe and 3,300 were lost at sea. Around 2,700 of these horses died when submarines and other warships sank their vessels.

Eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys died in the First World War. They were used to transport ammunition and supplies to the front and many died, not only from the horrors of shellfire but also in terrible weather and appalling conditions.

Read more, Tuesday’s Horse, 28 May 2012 »  See also the World War One Centennial Commission website »

WW II writes:

World War II was the first highly mechanized war, and the most vivid images of the war include tanks, long convoys of trucks and jeeps, masses of bombers flying over. But there were still large numbers of horses and mules employed as cavalry, field artillery draft animals, and in supply trains. The United States was the most fully mechanized, but even the U.S. used animals throughout the war.

When mobilization for World War II began in 1939, it was predicted that the Army would need 200,000 horses. In 1940, mechanization of the Army was well under way, but the Army still had two horse cavalry divisions (the 1st and the 2d), two horse-drawn artillery regiments, and two mixed horse and motor transport regiments, with a total authorization of 16,800 horses and 3,500 mules. Read more »

The National Interest website tells us that:

By 1939 the German Reich possessed 3,800,000 horses while 885,000 were initially called to the Wehrmacht as saddle, draft, and pack animals. Of these, 435,000 horses were captured from the USSR, France, and Poland. Additional horses were purchased from Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Ireland.

Nearly 3 million horses and mules were used by the Germans During World War II. Of these an estimated 750,000 were killed.

The German Army entered World War II with 514,000 horses, and over the course of the war employed, in total, 2.75 million horses and mules; the average number of horses in the Army reached 1.1 million.

Read more about horses and Nazi Germany »

Though the US army dispensed with horses by 1943 the Nazis embraced them, employing 2.7 million during the Second World War. Almost two-thirds were killed or wounded.

Still, it is estimated 1.75 million horses were killed during World War II, although it could be as high as 2 million. Another report says the death count may be as high as 5 million.

Hitler and Lipizzaner Horses

The following is a fascinating side story to World War II an horses.  We found it in the New York Post, August 20, 2016:

The valuable Lipizzaner horses — snow-white and blue-black, many of them Olympic dressage champions — had been stolen from the countries that the Nazis occupied during the war. In addition to gold, jewelry and artwork, the Nazis seized the valuable horses from Poland, Yugoslavia, Italy and Austria.

The Nazis’ goal, according to author Elizabeth Letts in her new book “The Perfect Horse” (Ballantine), was to breed the Lipizzaner with German horses in order to create an equine specimen that was worthy of the German master race.

The Perfect Horse, a book by Elizabeth Letts.
The Perfect Horse. By Elizabeth Letts. Click to shop this book.

Horses were central to the Nazi propaganda effort, and Hitler was often shown as “the man who put Germany back in the saddle,” according to Letts. In fact, as soon as he ordered the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and unleashed the grisly chain of events that plunged the world into war, Hitler had important plans for the country’s horses. As Letts writes, “In the blueprint forged for its occupation, a plan was put into place for the ‘rebuilding of Poland’s horse-breeding industry’ for the ‘interest of the German nation.’ ”

We found more, this time in an English newspaper.

Just as Hitler wanted to eliminate ‘impure’ human strains so Rau planned to use selective breeding to erase the individual differences characterising the several strains of Lipizzaner that had emerged and replace them with a single mould: pure, imperial and ideally suited to military use.

Source: Mission to rescue Hitler’s equine master race; Daily Express UK, 6 Aug 2016.

Korean War — Sgt Reckless

You were waiting for her, right?

Korean War Veteran, Sgt Reckless.
Korean War Veteran, Sgt Reckless.

Staff Sergeant Reckless (c. 1948 – May 13, 1968), a decorated war horse who held official rank in the United States military, was a mare of Mongolian horse breeding.

Out of a race horse dam, she was purchased in October 1952 for $250 from a Korean stableboy at the Seoul racetrack who needed money to buy an artificial leg for his sister[citation needed].

Reckless was bought by members of the United States Marine Corps and trained to be a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

She quickly became part of the unit and was allowed to roam freely through camp, entering the Marines’ tents, where she would sleep on cold nights, and was known for her willingness to eat nearly anything, including scrambled eggs, beer, Coca-Cola and, once, about $30 worth of poker chips.

SSgt Reckless Statue dedicated by the US Marines.
The SSgt Reckless Statue is dedicated by the US Marines.

Reckless served in numerous combat actions during the Korean War, carrying supplies and ammunition, and was also used to evacuate wounded. Learning each supply route after only a couple of trips, she often traveled to deliver supplies to the troops on her own, without benefit of a handler. The highlight of her nine-month military career came in late March 1953 during the Battle for Outpost Vegas when, in a single day, she made 51 solo trips to resupply multiple front line units.

She was wounded in combat twice, given the battlefield rank of corporal in 1953, and then a battlefield promotion to sergeant in 1954, several months after the war ended.

Reckless also became the first horse in the Marine Corps known to have participated in an amphibious landing, and following the war was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, was included in her unit’s Presidential Unit Citations from two countries, as well as other military honors. Read more at Wikipedia »

• Reckless made it to No. 1 in the Top Famous War Horses in History »


We Also Like

• Eventing Nation have a splendid article called Memorial Day: Honoring the Horses of War »

• Here is another fascinating article, A Horse’s Eye View of the Civil War »

• See World War II Horses in Pictures »

Tuesday’s Horse

Sgt. Reckless: A Great American Hero; June 28, 2011 »

5,000 Years of War Horses, January 14, 2012 »

War horses: Remembering the millions who fought and died in human battles; May 28, 2012 »

Recommended Book

The War Horses book cover..
The War Horses: The Tragic Fate of a Million Horses in the First World War (Book Cover). By Simon Butler. Rated 5 Stars. Hard Back. Click to buy at

Thank you for stopping by. Wishing you peace. With love, Tuesday’s Horse.

Russell Crowe tweets about horse friends he made on set

Russell Crowe in Gladiator aboard a horse he became friends with.
Russell Crowe in Gladiator aboard a horse he became friends with.

Russell Crowe and horses on set. How tweet it is. Look!

THE DAILY DOT ( — The Daily Dot reports that Russell Crowe loves horses. We knew that. But particularly horses he makes friends with on set.

Check out this tweet. He mentions a couple of them.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Crowe recalled that George, the horse upon which he gave his iconic Gladiator speech in the woods before battle, was also on the set of Robin Hood years later. “We would have a chat everyday [sic],” Crowe wrote.

You can see this tweet was a big hit. Thank you Daily Dot. See their story here »

Can Horses Act?

Can horses act? Cutting to the chase, no not in the way humans do or even other mammals.

Example: If you want a horse to look and act scared, you need to scare him. This is the bottom line from all the horse handlers we have talked with over the years who train and take part in movies and stage productions with horses.

Back in 2004, Kelly Chase wrote a insightful article on this subject. We have it on our “new” website. It’s a good read.

Can you believe how old we are? On October 23, we will be embarking on our 16th year defending and protecting horses.

Speed Miller shares the peace he’s found in horses with Detroit’s children

METRO TIMES (Detroit, Oct 3, 2018) — Excerpts from original article by Michael Jackman below. Read full article at the Metro Times here »

Speed Miller and his 21 year old Tennessee Walking Horse, Frisk. NOAH ELLIOT MORRISON.
Speed Miller and his 21 year old Tennessee Walking Horse, Frisk. NOAH ELLIOT MORRISON.

FOR YEARS NOW, alert motorists on Detroit’s west side have been treated to an unusual sight. They have posted photos of what they’ve seen on social networking and even sent them to our office, in surprise and in puzzlement, but mostly in delight. What they have witnessed is a young rider on a Western saddle guiding his horse down West Seven Mile Road, past the gas stations and fast food restaurants, a sight that seems so out of place in the car-centric Motor City as to be remarkable.

Late this summer, the horseman finally calls and invites us to watch him ride. On a recent morning, we drive over to a house near the intersection of West Seven Mile Road and the Lodge Freeway. There we finally connect with 21-year-old Speed Miller, the “Greenfield Gaucho” we’d seen photographed so widely. He speaks with us while he carefully guides his 12-year-old Tennessee walking horse named Frisk out of a stock trailer, carefully grooming the animal, which eyes us contentedly.

Miller credits his love of horses to his grandfather, the elderly man who watches from the porch for a moment before allowing his grandson to handle the reporter and photographer. The elder has owned a 44-acre farm outside of Belleville for generations, and that’s where the young rider began his love affair with horses. That fascination began with his mother, who found encouragement from Miller’s grandfather when she climbed into the saddle decades ago.

“I was there all the time,” Miller says. “I was raised by my mom, but I spent every day with my grandad. My mom was always at work, so I’d be chilling with my grandad. I guess you could say that I was raised by both in a sense. I think me and my grandad are a little bit closer though, ’cause I spent most of my days with him. He taught me pretty much everything I know about these horses.”

[ ] when Miller began riding in the city and saw how young Detroiters connected with the animals, he realized he could offer them the same joy he found in horses.

“The kids were actually fascinated,” he says, “so I started bringing them out more, letting the kids touch them. Then, as I got more comfortable with the horse, I started putting the kids on the horse, just showing them a little something different. So I bring them down about twice a week. It’s kind of like a learning experience for both the children and the horse, in my eyes.”

Speed Miller and friend riding around the neighborhood. NOAH ELLIOTT MORRISON.
Speed Miller and friend riding around the neighborhood. NOAH ELLIOTT MORRISON.

‘When I get on the horse, everything else really don’t matter. I can ride down these streets in the toughest neighborhood. It really just don’t matter when I’m on the horse.’

Read more of this story at Detroit’s Metro Times »

# # #

This puts us in mind of the Sir Winston Churchill quote:

 ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.’

Merlin a magician at survival

Well, it is more instinct than magic. A telling story all the same. —Editor.

Merlin, a wild horse, survived Hurricane Florence in quarantine on lands owned by the National Park Service. Photo courtesy of Kathy Knight/Foundation for Shackleford Horses.
Merlin, a wild horse, survived Hurricane Florence in quarantine on lands owned by the National Park Service. Photo courtesy of Kathy Knight/Foundation for Shackleford Horses.

Outer Banks horse left alone in pasture may have had to swim to survive hurricane

Cross-posted from the Charlotte Observer

Written by Mark Price

A mystery has emerged in the telling of how the Outer Banks’ wild horses survived Hurricane Florence.

Instincts dating back five centuries compel the feral mustangs to either huddle on high ground — butts to the wind — or seek refuge in the maritime forest during storms, say experts.

But news has come of a Shackleford Banks horse named Merlin who was fenced in an “inundated” quarantine site during the storm, according the Foundation for Shackleford Horses.

“Given the condition of the site, Merlin was likely in deep water during part of the storm. His water trough was full of salt water,” she said, noting two volunteers hiked an hour through mud and debris to find him.

“Candidly, (we) anticipated they would be much more likely to find Merlin’s body than Merlin himself. But despite the fact that the barn was destroyed and much of the fencing was covered with debris and even laying down in some areas, there was Merlin, prick-eared, bright-eyed, and happy to greet them.”

• Continue reading »  • View video story »