Remember the Horse Cavalry This Memorial Day

Reprint from Saratoga Stalls

Thank and pay respect to a horse and donkey as you remember our amazing fallen soldiers.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance that echoes throughout the United States.  Families, friends and loved ones often gather in celebration of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  The last Monday in May, and the weekend beforehand, is a much needed break in our routine.  Some families take this moment to teach about our country’s history and past relatives who laid down their lives while others simply enjoy the long weekend off of work.  If you view Memorial Day as an opportunity to revisit the sacrifices that have made our country great, don’t forget about the amazing horse cavalry of the American Revolution, Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Though there are still small examples of horse regiments in modern day warfare, using mounts in war started to lose popularity as modern technology, think tanks and Jeeps, soared during the World Wars.  Historically, however, brave battle horses filled numerous roles in supporting the soldiers for more than 5000 years.  They were trained and used for details such as charging enemy lines, reconnaissance, transportation of goods and soldiers, and very importantly, companionship.

When settlers began to arrive in the Americas, they learned military methods from the indigenous tribes that they encountered.  This new style of trench fighting, combined with equine support, was crucial in helping the United States win the Revolutionary War and its independence from England.  Can you imagine where the USA would be today if she hadn’t had the support of horse troops during America’s war of independence?  The United States of Great Britain doesn’t flow well, does it?

The Civil War was a long and bloody conflict, and was especially hard on the horses of America. In our Memorial Day remembrance this year, let’s realize that thousands of horses died in the Battle of Gettysburg alone.  Confederate General J.O. Shelby was reported to have had 24 horses shot from under him during the war.  In total, the Civil War claimed more than one million mares, stallions and geldings, with some estimates of horses and mule lives lost hovering around three million.  That’s five horse or mule lives given for every soldier life lost… horses that had been taken from local homes and farms to fight in the war.  Bullets, bombs, overexertion, starvation, illness, and worse took these horses to their resting place.

Thank and pay respect to a horse as you remember our amazing fallen soldiers.

Poems, songs and stories have been written to honor the multitude of military mounts that have helped the United States military win the fame and freedom it enjoys today.  In a couple of special cases, the horse itself was actually preserved and is still on display for the public.  The KU Natural History Museum currently displays Comanche, the gelding ridden by Captain Myles Keogh at the Battle of Little Bighorn.  Additionally, Little Sorrel, Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s respected Morgan, can be viewed  at the Natural Museum of American History in Washington DC.

Though not as prevalent, horses continue to play an important role in today’s armed forces.  Battle trained horses have mostly disappeared but the US Special Forces and Marines have used mounted patrol in other ways during recent training and conflicts.  Local law enforcement and State Park Rangers also appreciate the mobility of having horse units on patrol for certain events and in difficult to access areas.

So with this reminder of the great role horses have played in America’s military past, let’s take a bit of time out of this holiday weekend to do something special for our favorite horses.  Whether you bring them special treats, take them on an interesting new ride route or simply stop by to give them a little extra time and grooming, your horse will appreciate your attentions.

The Memorial Day weekend is a time to honor our fallen soldiers, their mounts included.  This holiday is a privilege granted to us by the sacrifices of both man and horse, a fact that, hopefully, many will remember.

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