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Iggy

Horses in WW1

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I apologise if this has been discussed previously. I did a search and could not find an answer to my question.

What was the minimum physical requirements for horses in WW1.

I appreciate there were a multitude of jobs horses carried out and I imagine different tasks required a different build of horse,

So what were the physical statistics required for a horse to be used as a Cavalry Horse, for example.

Thanks for any help.

Cheers

Ian

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Ian,

Take a look over at www.militaryhorse.org in the forums section. Search the general forum and the UP forum. This question was discussed at some length over there, in part by several folks who regularly post here. There were different requirements depending on the role the horsr was to play. Cavalry chargers were different than vanners (wagon pullers) were different than heavy draught.

I don't know that it answers your specific question, I'll have a look at my manual on transport and see if there are any set measurements. I suspect there are not as it was more a matter of an experienced horseman or vet serving at the remount depot to judge by eye and physical examination which horses were fit. It can be pretty subjective.

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Hello Ian

The following is an extract from an article I wrote for the WFA's journal, STAND TO! nearly twenty years ago. It was based on official sources: from my recollection, Cavalry Training, ASC Training and the Remount Manual.

"In peacetime, the purchasing of horses was placed in the hands of three Inspectors of Remounts, who were retired officers with a special knowledge of horses, and these officers would tour the main horse-breeding areas of the country (then, as now, Ireland was particularly important in this respect), accompanied by veterinary officers, to select and purchase appropriate animals. Whilst all three Inspectors could buy for all branches of the service, one was particularly charged with finding suitable horses for the cavalry and yeomanry, one for the RA and RE and one for the ASC, reflecting the differing needs of each branch.

Horses were normally purchased at between four and seven years old, although up to nine in case of need, and were expected to be able to serve until fifteen years old. They were classified according to type, as follows:

R1 Suitable for cavalry, 15 hands 1 1/2 inches to 15 hands 3 inches;

R2 Suitable for yeomanry, 14 hands 2 inches to 15 hands 1 1/2 inches;

LD1 Light draught for field artillery;

LD2 Heavier than LD1, fit for transport wagons;

HD Heavy draught horses of Shire or Clydesdale type;

P Horses and ponies working in pack in civil life.

The height ranges for RA and RE were from 15 hands 2 inches to 16 hands, and for ASC 15 hands 2 inches to 15 hands 3 1/2 inches. There were small variations depending on the age of the horse but these figures show the very small range of sizes permissible. Only geldings and mares not in foal were purchased, and were expected to be able to carry a load of fifteen stone."

That of course reflects the position in 1914: there may have been modifications later in the war. In particular, much more use was made of mules, especially by artillery ammunition columns. Many horses were purchased from both North and South America, and from Australia (known as walers, from NSW).

The horses officially described as "light draught" were those known in civilian life as "vanners."

Ron

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That's an excellent piece Ron. Sums it all up really. Thanks.

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Fascinating topic, I think. I was a stablehand all through college.

http://qmfound.com/horse-mule_use.htm

The Use of Horses and Mules in Modern Warfare

By CAPTAIN Louis B. Gerow, Q.M.C.

The Quartermaster Review – November-December 1928

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And a humorous story from Memoirs & Diaries: The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - No Use Arguing with a Mule and Other Stories.

No Use Arguing with a Mule

Whilst "resting" after the Jerusalem battle, my battalion was detailed for road-making.

Large stones were used for the foundation of the road and small and broken stones for the surface. Our job was to find the stones, assisted by mules.

A mule was new to Joe Smith - a great-hearted boy from Limehouse way - but he must have heard about them for he gingerly approached the one allotted to him, and as gingerly led him away into the hills.

Presently Joe was seen returning, but, to our amazement, he was struggling along with the loaded baskets slung across his own shoulders, and the mule was trailing behind. When I asked why he was carrying the load, he replied: "Well, I was loading 'im up wiv the stones, but he cut up rusty, so to save a lot of argument, I reckoned as 'ow I'd better carry the darned stones meself."

A . C. Wood, 56 Glasslyn Road, N.8

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What horeses would the RHA have used? would the LD1 horses have the speed required to fulfill the role of providing artillery support for the Cavalry or would Cavalry Mounts have been used?

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Hello Mr Boat

Basically the LD1 type, though they might have cherry-picked from the new purchases.

A gun team of six horses in the RHA pulled a weight of about 1.5 tons (gun and limber), whereas a similar RFA team pulled about 2 tons. Thus the RHA achieved speed through a lighter load.

Cavalry horses would not have been trained to work in draught harness as part of a team, but individually, with all weight carried on the back.

Ron

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Thanks for that Ron. I never knew there was such a narrow height range for R1 ad R2. Were any particular breeds more popular for these roles

Ali

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HD Heavy draught horses of Shire or Clydesdale type;

Sad to see in a recent article in the Daily Telegraph that the "heavies" are now threatened with extinction with some breeds now having fewer survivors than the classic example of a threatened species - the Giant Panda :(

see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/...perts-warn.html

Any pictures available of these magnificent animals at work during WW1?

NigelS

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From: http://www.britnett-carver.co.uk/heavyhors...summer2008.html

The horsemen of East Yorkshire had a special role in the First World War as the Wolds Wagoners' Special Reserve, established to ensure efficient transport for the British Army in a mainland conflict. Pole draught, remaining in this part of the country while it had fallen out of fashion elsewhere, was ideal for drawing heavy loads over rough country and the chosen method by the Army to supply the front in the Great War. Wagoners honed their driving skills in competitions at Fimber Fields near Sledmere House, Driffield, home of Sir Mark Sykes who was responsible for establishing the Reserve.

Sum_08_image9.jpg

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Thanks for the link Irish-American. Very interesting.

Ali

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In 1908 the Gunners had identified a horse crisis, they used far more horses than anyone else (they provided the ammo columns as well as guns) and realised that UK didn't have enough suitable livestock, so a sponsorship program was introduced, this provided the numbers for mobilisation in 1914. However, large numbers had to be imported from S America as the war progressed. Walers were primarily cavalry horses. Of course in 1914 there was also large scale requisitioning of horses (in accordance with the Army Act).

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Iggy

I should remember here an old-timer I worked with when I left school. Harry Way was a Gunner in the RHA and sometimes could be persuaded to tell us something of his life at the Front. I remember his answer about the sort of horse they needed,he simply said "they had to be heavy enough for the job and have a leg in each corner".

Sotonmate

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Thanks very much for the great replies and I apologise for not replying sooner.

You have answered my question + more.

The Walers are a revered breed here, but close to extinction, as far as I know. There is a group that protects and breeds some of the last known authentic Walers.

Their exploits with the Light Horse are greatly respected.

Cheers

Ian

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The attached photograph shows my great Grandfather, Gunner Alfred Cookson (nearest the camera) and Bombadier Potts attending to a horse in the War. Probably taken in this country in 1917.

They both served in the RFA and the horses were used for transport and more importantly for pulling the guns.

As you can see this horse is a heavy horse. I have some pictures of my great Grandfather mounted on on of these horses and they really were magnificent ceatures.

Cheers

Mike Tomkinson

Bradford

post-43296-1234626711.jpg

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I read one sad little anecdote recently about an officer who tried to purchase his mount after the armistice. It seems the army refused his request and ordered the poor beast to be sold "on the continenent" which I took to mean a horse slaughterer.

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The truth may be less sinister.

After the War the predecessors of the Ministry of Agriculture were apparently reluctant to have most of the horses repatriated for reasons of quarantine, and preferred to see them sold locally. The British Army looked after its horses very well on the whole, and they fetched good prices when sold to French or Belgian farmers or carriers. They may have gone for slaughter at the end of this extended working life, but not immediately.

Ron

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Mike,

Any idea how tall your grandfather was. That horse looks like it could be a Irish draught and taller than 16hh. It could be the perspective of the photo of course. It doesn't look like a shire or other heavy horse but it has no feathers would they have been routinely removed?

Thanks

Ali

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Mike,

Any idea how tall your grandfather was. That horse looks like it could be a Irish draught and taller than 16hh. It could be the perspective of the photo of course. It doesn't look like a shire or other heavy horse but it has no feathers would they have been routinely removed?

Thanks

Ali

Ali.

I think it is the perspective of the photograph make the horse look bigger than it is, and also the two lads are standing in a ditch probably on purpose so they dont have to bend too far will doing the hoofs. As to the horse, lovely animal, it looks like a very well cared for beast, very alert, as for breed could be anything, Ardennes medium draft perhaps (Just a guess)

The more people I meet the more I love my Horse. Cheers Rob.

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Hello all

In my original post I may have been too restrictive in mentioning Shires and Clydesdales. These types were certainly used to pull the 60-pdr guns - there is a photo of them in Farndale's WF volume - but many other units, notably Divisional Trains, used GS wagons drawn by a pair of heavy draught horses, so there would probably have been quite a few without the feathers and generally heavier appearance of the really big ones.

I go along with Alison's and Rob's comments about the perspective.

Ron

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I cannot say with any great certainly how tall my great-Grandfather was but around 5'8" to 5'10" would be in the right ballpark.

I also have a picture of him mounted on a similar RFA horse and will post that if it helps?

Cheers

Mike Tomkinson

Bradford

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