Horses, probably the last thing that should be on a battlefield.

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Rusk County Avengers

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I also heard in some recent news article that horses can sense your attitude or fear etc. I can't recall exactly. But I would think they pick up on your fear and that sets them on high alert. And what rider can be calm and controlled during a major battle???

There is another problem that I experienced on a Shetland pony we kept for awhile. It was an old pony and you had to be deliberate to get it to ride to the opposite end of the pasture. Once you turned his nose back in the opposite direction you better hang on. He bolted for the barn while taking every corner so close that you knew your leg would be ripped open by a barbed wire. Wonder if this was a problem in the Army? They didn't actually have a barn in the field but was there a problem of a horse getting fed up with the confusion and headed back towards home or to join the other pack?


And I thought this discussion was going to be about how big of a Target a horse was on the battlefield.
I don't know about a magazine article, but the first thing I was ever told at a young age was they could sense fear.

As for the subject, it seems to be one of horses shouldn't be on a battlefield because they are such dangerous animals.

But horses had to be on battlefields back then, literally no choice. Horses were needed to haul the artillery, ambulances for the wounded, ammunition trains, and outside of a battlefield supply trains. As for cavalry they were an absolute necessity for scouting, and faster than foot movement to key positions on the battlefield. Great big cavalry charges, not so much...

Horses were a desperately needed thing, infantrymen had all they're own stuff to carry on their person much less pull a wagon, or cannon after all, and couldn't move fast enough in the middle of a battle to get to a key position and defend it on their own. They needed cavalry to get there first and hold it for them, and cavalry to find a flank.

Yeah horses have a mind of their own, and tragic accidents could happen on and off the battlefield, but that is the nature of the beast you just got to/had to live with it. At that time they were among the most needed on the battlefield, not the last thing that should be on it, and far from the most dangerous thing.
 

Yankee Brooke

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I don't know much first hand about horses, but I worked with a lot of horse people at Tractor Supply. Going by what they always told me, I was amazed how horses were used in battle and by reenactors. I also wonder how the "mascots," usually a dog, would learn to be around that too. My dog would cower in a bush during a battle, not charge out in front of the regiment, like we hear so many did.

Heck I'd probably panic right along with the horse during my first battle. I suppose I would do a lot less damage though...
 

archieclement

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I don't know about a magazine article, but the first thing I was ever told at a young age was they could sense fear.

As for the subject, it seems to be one of horses shouldn't be on a battlefield because they are such dangerous animals.

But horses had to be on battlefields back then, literally no choice. Horses were needed to haul the artillery, ambulances for the wounded, ammunition trains, and outside of a battlefield supply trains. As for cavalry they were an absolute necessity for scouting, and faster than foot movement to key positions on the battlefield. Great big cavalry charges, not so much...

Horses were a desperately needed thing, infantrymen had all they're own stuff to carry on their person much less pull a wagon, or cannon after all, and couldn't move fast enough in the middle of a battle to get to a key position and defend it on their own. They needed cavalry to get there first and hold it for them, and cavalry to find a flank.

Yeah horses have a mind of their own, and tragic accidents could happen on and off the battlefield, but that is the nature of the beast you just got to/had to live with it. At that time they were among the most needed on the battlefield, not the last thing that should be on it, and far from the most dangerous thing.
Horses and mules can be taught to be shot off of, its not that uncommon here for hunting. But after going to reenactments not sure how you train them to be used to the shockwaves from cannon fire.......
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Boy I don't know how they did it either. @Waterloo50 , the blacksmith was around 1 1/2 away ( Somerset, Exmoor ). We thought it amazing to be allowed to take the morning's re-shoeing project to town but we were kids. Some of us Yank kids. Your back roads are around as wide as an EEE shoe, drivers around as fast as Concord. British traffic angels work overtime. It depended which horse, some never did well. Place we trained used and boarded some awfully touchy ( pricey ) animals. Those interpreted hedgehogs as dragons out to eat both of you.

You guys commenting on how well off the track horses can be made bomb proof have allll my respect. Never met one whose inner neurosis couldn't be shaken awake by a boom, beep, whistle or heck sneeze. I've always, always wondered how cavalry trained their horses. Surely it didn't always go well? Maybe the ones who objected to cannon, etc., were sent back Geisboro?

Barn we use now does have a few genuinely bomb proofs. There's a military base over the mountain here. A few weeks ago someone thought it good to apparently practice flying under radar ( or something ), planes zoomed over so low you could see landing gear. Guy was teaching disabled kids at the time, had all the kids halt and wait. It was loud. Too funny, when he started the lesson again the rider had a tough time getting her horse to move. I thought the thing was balky? Transpired he'd gone to sleep.
 

Waterloo50

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Boy I don't know how they did it either. @Waterloo50 , the blacksmith was around 1 1/2 away ( Somerset, Exmoor ). We thought it amazing to be allowed to take the morning's re-shoeing project to town but we were kids. Some of us Yank kids. Your back roads are around as wide as an EEE shoe, drivers around as fast as Concord. British traffic angels work overtime. It depended which horse, some never did well. Place we trained used and boarded some awfully touchy ( pricey ) animals. Those interpreted hedgehogs as dragons out to eat both of you.

You guys commenting on how well off the track horses can be made bomb proof have allll my respect. Never met one whose inner neurosis couldn't be shaken awake by a boom, beep, whistle or heck sneeze. I've always, always wondered how cavalry trained their horses. Surely it didn't always go well? Maybe the ones who objected to cannon, etc., were sent back Geisboro?

Barn we use now does have a few genuinely bomb proofs. There's a military base over the mountain here. A few weeks ago someone thought it good to apparently practice flying under radar ( or something ), planes zoomed over so low you could see landing gear. Guy was teaching disabled kids at the time, had all the kids halt and wait. It was loud. Too funny, when he started the lesson again the rider had a tough time getting her horse to move. I thought the thing was balky? Transpired he'd gone to sleep.
Back in the day when hunting foxes was still legal it wasn’t uncommon to meet the hunt head on in those narrow lanes, a large pack of excited beagles accompanied by 20 or 30 charging horses could be a bit daunting. As you know, Exmoor had a very large hunt community and the roads in that area are very narrow but those hunting horses were always very well controlled, maybe for those horses it was a case of safety in numbers. I actually went out of my way to watch the hunt, there’s something quintessentially British about the hunt and I miss seeing it.
 
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Belle Montgomery

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Horses are as diverse as the human race and animal kingdom. Some brave, some scaredy cats and some in between. Some personalities are genetic (cold or warm blooded/intelligence factor/breed/female in season) while others are experienced (abuse/neglect/hurt previously in a situation) and/or taught (proper or no training) or a combination of them. Just like humans, they'll respond to their environment how they feel accordingly. Horses are a "prey" (eyes on the side of their head-not in front) animal and will "spook" at anything that they think may "eat" them by "fight or flight" It is the rider's job to coax them into trusting them. They will respond to their rider positively if they feel "safe" and protected, hence instinctively following the herd leader or lead mare of their herd anywhere, even into battle. If they sense the rider is frightened or panics (I guess you're not a leader and I'm not going to die for you) then the horse's self preservation kicks in and will stop at nothing just to "get away" from the situation from fear of being eaten. Many times even a well trained horse's instinct kicks in if another horse they are riding with panics (like birds at a feeder) then the rider has to take control and reassure them to trust him/her. Some horses take longer than others, just like kids in school that will bond better/clique with certain people more than others.
Again, just like other animals and humans...some unfortunately can never successfully be fully bombproofed or rehabilitated in jail. Those are the ones sold from place to place by horse traders which only adds to their dilemma until ending up in the kill pen.
This video shows just how well a well trained horse communicates and reveres/trusts and follows her rider-it's amazing!-watch the entire thing until the very end:
 
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1SG

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I would love to get my horse trained for cowboy action shooting, but she is a tad bit spoiled.

I had heard the Morgan breed (which she is) was the best all around for different tasks.

I have 3 horses/ Oreo (the paint) Cookie (my wifes pony 12Hands), a mini called Snickers

And 2 donkeys (Cupcake the momma and a 6 week old Jenny named Sprinkles)

IMG_1868.JPG
 

Waterloo50

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Horses are as diverse as the human race and animal kingdom. Some brave, some scaredy cats and some in between. Some personalities are genetic (cold or warm blooded/intelligence factor/breed/female in season) while others are experienced (abuse/neglect/hurt previously in a situation) and/or taught (proper or no training) or a combination of them. Just like humans, they'll respond to their environment how they feel accordingly. Horses are a "prey" (eyes on the side of their head-not in front) animal and will "spook" at anything that they think may "eat" them by "fight or flight" It is the rider's job to coax them into trusting them. They will respond to their rider positively if they feel "safe" and protected, hence instinctively following the herd leader or lead mare of their herd anywhere, even into battle. If they sense the rider is frightened or panics (I guess you're not a leader and I'm not going to die for you) then the horse's self preservation kicks in and will stop at nothing just to "get away" from the situation from fear of being eaten. Many times even a well trained horse's instinct kicks in if another horse they are riding with panics (like birds at a feeder) then the rider has to take control and reassure them to trust him/her. Some horses take longer than others, just like kids in school that will bond better/clique with certain people more than others.
Again, just like other animals and humans...some unfortunately can never successfully be fully bombproofed or rehabilitated in jail. Those are the ones sold from place to place by horse traders which only adds to their dilemma until ending up in the kill pen.
This video shows just how well a well trained horse communicates and reveres/trusts and follows her rider-it's amazing!-watch the entire thing until the very end:
Totally understandable why the announcer was all choked up, what a fantastic tribute to her father. Thanks for posting this, it was very special.
 
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Nathanb1

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I also heard in some recent news article that horses can sense your attitude or fear etc. I can't recall exactly. But I would think they pick up on your fear and that sets them on high alert. And what rider can be calm and controlled during a major battle???

There is another problem that I experienced on a Shetland pony we kept for awhile. It was an old pony and you had to be deliberate to get it to ride to the opposite end of the pasture. Once you turned his nose back in the opposite direction you better hang on. He bolted for the barn while taking every corner so close that you knew your leg would be ripped open by a barbed wire. Wonder if this was a problem in the Army? They didn't actually have a barn in the field but was there a problem of a horse getting fed up with the confusion and headed back towards home or to join the other pack?


And I thought this discussion was going to be about how big of a Target a horse was on the battlefield.
The fastest way to being in trouble with my dad was letting a horse do something IT wanted to do. And absolutely, horses are pretty smart, and they soon figure out what they can get away with...I had to ride a Shetland when I was 6 or 7--I was used to trained real horses. That little sucker liked to take you around back of the barn and scrape you off...which stopped when Daddy found out.

His absolute, unbreakable rule of all--never run 'em back to the barn. And if they get antsy because that's where they know you're headed. you turn them around and make them stand. When they're ready to listen, you go. He made a fortune once he was retired buying "ruined" Shetland ponies, fixing their feet (they were invariably foundered and in bad shape) and actually riding them until they stopped being little tyrants.
 

EJ Zander

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Horses of the era grew up doing a job and were accustomed to noises, movements, and stimuli that many horses of today dont get exposed to. Not many pasture pets or weekend warriors then. For farm work a young horse is tethered next to a pair of working horses while they are working. They get used to the racket and noise of the machinery.
As far getting used to artillery and gun fire. For my last horse I took him to G-burg every weekend during the demos reeanctors where doing in Pitzer's Woods. Def advantage to living close by. This was a veteran farm worker. We started hundreds of yards away during the firing. I gave him work to do while the firing was going on. Either pulling a drag or I would be riding him. Each trip we moved closer. He acclimated fairly quickly and never exploded. Finally we were right on site of the firing. Long guns bothered him more then cannon. With firing by twos the most challenging. Due to the rythm of the firing he could anticipate the next round. But this only caused some head raising on his part.
The horse in my example saw nearly daily work before the acclimatization to fire. I think one could draw a parallel to horses of the era. Unless they were very young they probably saw some type of regular work prior to their war service.
I agree with what others have said about the bond between human and horse. It is an area of working with horses and K-9s that I find fascinating. When the bond is solid it is amazing what obstacles a team can over come. And the strength of the bond travels both ways on the reins or leash.
Once the bond is solid the team may even start to communicate on an more and more subtle level. Which is what I always try to do. Why yell a request (command) when a whisper will do. Why whisper when a look will do, etc.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Back in the day when hunting foxes was still legal it wasn’t uncommon to meet the hunt head on in those narrow lanes, a large pack of excited beagles accompanied by 20 or 30 charging horses could be a bit daunting. As you know, Exmoor had a very large hunt community and the roads in that area are very narrow but those hunting horses were always very well controlled, maybe for those horses it was a case of safety in numbers. I actually went out of my way to watch the hunt, there’s something quintessentially British about the hunt and I miss seeing it.

Yes, it's definitely something to be mourned- and I can say that at a distance of 3,000 miles without getting yelled at. Hunts were on the way 'out' when I lived there. You know the clattering through village streets thing? Became actually hazardous. In the past locals turned out to watch, slowly it morphed into a pretty hostile crowd you know? You also caught more resentment than just concern for a fox or stag, the elite element seemed to irk some. As a Yank I could stay out of the fray but it was more than your life was worth to wave to buddies. If you did you were apparently aiding and abetting murder.

Contention aside, sorry to see it go. Something about the horn's wail gave you chills every, single time. Always seemed as old as Exmoor itself.
 

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my son is experienced with horses, He was a harness racing groom/trainer/driver for a while, and also worked as an assistant with a equine vet. He never had a problem with horses around the equipment at the track ( tractors dragging the track, water trucks, etc.), they were used to that. He was training one once that tried to jump over every shadow it would see on the track. One time he told me about a horse someone else was training. Somehow, the trainer fell off the sulky - the horse just ran around the track until it decided it was done, and went back to the barn - the horse knew exactly what to do....

When he was working as a equine vet assistant, I realized exactly how fragile they could be. I was somewhat shocked to find out that it actually could take very little to cause major problems with a horse. He worked there for about 3 1/2 years, and over that time on calls he was on, they euthanized 42 horses ( yes, he did keep count).
 

zburkett

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A point that I haven't seen mentioned. Horses are individuals. They are as different as people. Then include the combination of horse and rider and no two combinations will the same. I've known horses that anyone could ride and riders that could ride any horse. I once bought an easy riding horse and when I was riding her home it had to go on an asphalt road for a short period. As soon as her hooves hit the hard surface she freaked. I've also had horses save me from my own stupidity. If you are interested in a truly fascinating War Horse Google "Comanchee" the survivor of the Little Big Horn.
 
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jackt62

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Here's an interesting story about a horse that was "enlisted" by the US Marine Corps:

"Staff Sergeant Reckless, 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 stable boy at the Seoul racetrack who needed money to buy an artificial leg for his sister. 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."
From Wikipedia
 

1SG

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The fastest way to being in trouble with my dad was letting a horse do something IT wanted to do. And absolutely, horses are pretty smart, and they soon figure out what they can get away with...I had to ride a Shetland when I was 6 or 7--I was used to trained real horses. That little sucker liked to take you around back of the barn and scrape you off...which stopped when Daddy found out.

His absolute, unbreakable rule of all--never run 'em back to the barn. And if they get antsy because that's where they know you're headed. you turn them around and make them stand. When they're ready to listen, you go. He made a fortune once he was retired buying "ruined" Shetland ponies, fixing their feet (they were invariably foundered and in bad shape) and actually riding them until they stopped being little tyrants.
LITTEL TYRANT,LOL

Our little mini is a fence crawler, if the triple strand wire aint low enough that sucker will crawl under it,
 

Cavalier

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Hope this is ok. Not civil war related but since were talking horsies:

Up until the 1920s big city fire departments throughout the United States used horses to pull the apparatus. The stories of how well trained they were, what they were capable of, and the care they required are facinating. The bond between the horses and the men must have been quite strong because here in Baltimore there was a near mutiny when they began being replaced by motorized apparatus.

The returning vets of WWll, when entering the dept., worked with old guys who were on the job in the days of the horses and were constantly regaled with stories of them. Old company journals can still be found wherein the names of the horses were recorded along with incidents involving them. Up until the 1990s most of the firehouse in Baltimore had had horses quartered in them
back in the day.I

I am sure other big city depts. we're the same.
 
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Waterloo50

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Having read all of the above posts, I’m inclined to believe that it’s the combination of rider and horse that makes for a good war horse, one is pretty much dependent on the other. Would I be right in saying that a nervous rider makes for a nervous horse? I’m impressed with the different responses that this thread has received, for a non horse person this has all been extremely insightful, long may it continue. I’m really enjoying reading about people’s experiences with their horses.
 

leftyhunter

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First off, I have to admit that I know very little about horses, I’ve never owned one and I wouldn’t know how to ride one either. If I was to be totally honest I’d have to say that they always strike me as unpredictable animals that could cause serious injury to themselves and the rider especially if they are not controlled properly.

View attachment 328675

Whenever I’ve come into contact with horses they always seem very skittish, it seems to me that it takes very little to frighten them which brings me to my point. Today I was riding my motorcycle down a very twisty and narrow country lane when I happened upon a couple of people riding their horses, whenever I see a horse on the road I always stop and cut my engine because I know that my motorcycle is quite loud and the sound of it can cause a horse to panic, today, I didn’t have time to stop and cut my engine and the result was that the two horses became a little bit lively, one of the horses slipped on the wet road as it tried to bolt through a hedge, in fact the rider really looked like she was struggling to get the horse under control, everything was okay though and luckily both horse and rider were okay.

Today’s incident with the panicked horse made me wonder how horses can be trained to ignore the loud noise of a battlefield, Ive seen horses freak out at the most simplest of things, I’ve seen a horse run when a small bag was blown across the road, every sudden movement appears to frighten and unsettle them.

I believe I’m correct in saying that many of the horses that served in the cavalry (both sides) were privately owned which probably means that those horses had never been trained to be in a battlefield environment, how was a horse trained or was it a case of wait and see how the horse reacted under fire. Finally (I did say I know nothing about horses) was there a particular type/breed of horse that the cavalry had a preference for? I’m really hoping that you horse types can educate me.
Per @Eric Wittenberg the Morgan was the preferred cavalry horse. Of course with the tremendous demand for horses and the high death rate from combat,disease and neglect just finding enough horses was a major challenge in and of itself.
Leftyhunter
 
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