Horses and People: Comrades in War

The Horse in War

Whether invading or defending, there was a time when the horse was critical for the fight. He could travel faster than the people on foot. He could deliver messages to groups in an army. He could intimidate the individual soldier by rearing up and lashing out. He could run pulling a chariot loaded with archers into the midst of conflict.

During medieval times, these magnificent chargers even had their own armor. They were priceless and not for casual use. Trained to do battle, they would leap and kick at enemy soldiers on command. Even today, you can see these maneuvers done in the Spanish Riding School of Vienna by the Lippizan horses. They maintain them as a matter of tradition and respect for the past.

In the old west, horses were used in battle and what was unquestionably a war with the natives already living there. They were also used in battles between tribes. In a land where justice was rough, horses were so valued you could be hung for stealing one.

The role of horses in war has gone now, except for show, ritual and memorial services. And in many ways, this is a good thing.
Many of us who have worked or ridden horses may wonder at the role of the horse in war. We remember horses that jump in fear at shadows and wonder how any horse could face an army. But a steady hand will often work wonders to a nervous mount.

And it’s worth noting that horses are warriors, for themselves, in nature. The Lippizans perform the ‘airs above the ground’ or battle leaps, even as foals. In the wild, stallions defend the herd from other stallions and predators.
In any event, horses have been involved in the course of all but the most recent battles and wars on earth. They have been a deciding factor in who lives and who dies. And there are few of our fellow creatures who have been so loyal at our sides.

The Shire horse is descended from the medieval charger. They had to be strong and powerful to carry a fully armored knight as well as their own armor into battle.