The sacrifice of the ten million men who lost their lives during the conflict, which endured from 1914 to 1918, is well known. Less well known is the price paid by the estimated eight million horses that perished in the Great War, a fact lamented by Private James Robert Johnston, a horse transport driver who served with the 14th Canadian Machine Gun Company, in his memoir, Riding into War: “Very little has been said about the horses and mules that were used and what they suffered is beyond all description.”
In the National Army Museum in London, U.K., a special exhibit features a curious box. The walls on the inside of the box are mirrors, each one reflecting another. Placed inside the box are dozens of cut-out horses. They are all white, unnamed, undefined. But as they reflect back and forth on the mirrors, the little cut-out horses are multiplied into infinity. The image, so simple, is a profound reminder that over eight million horses on all enemy sides died in the horrors of the First World War.
In the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal, we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary with stories of 20 exceptional horses that have reflected our values and fired our national pride. One of those horses was Bunny. In 1914, just over one hundred years ago at the start of World War I, Bunny, a strawberry roan gelding from the Toronto Police Mounted Unit, was called upon to serve his country.
April 29, 2017, was a clear, sunny day in Worthington Valley, Maryland, United States. Crowds were gathering as restless Thoroughbreds full of anticipation were being saddled and warmed up for the 121st running of the Maryland Hunt Cup, a steeplechase over solid fences. On the board, 13 horses were listed as entered, but after three scratches, 10 horses lined up.
The musculoskeletal system of the horse is an incredible machine — strong, fast, efficient, and capable of performing feats as varied as jumping obstacles and roping cattle. However, horse owners are all too aware of the fact that despite this amazing athletic ability, the equine body can be remarkably fragile. If one owns horses long enough, he or she is bound to encounter a disorder of the equine musculoskeletal system.