Posted 10 February 2009 - 10:33 am
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."