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The Horse Trust Sets The Record Straight On 21st Century War Horses

The recent release of the Steven Spielberg film “War Horse” has prompted some to ask the question, what happens to the horses serving in the British Army in the 21st century when their working days are over? Whilst many are re-homed to private owners a number of these modern day War Horses are given life long sanctuary at The Horse Trust.

The charity specialises in providing retirement and respite to horses and ponies that have served their country or community in the armed forces, the Police service or for charities working with disabled and disadvantaged youngsters. It is a sad fact of life that for some animals re-homing or retirement is not an option due to injury, illness or very occasionally because of a behavioural problem that is serious enough to make the animal a danger to itself or its human owners. Horses are only put down by the Army as a final resort when it is certain they have absolutely no prospect of a pain free or happy, safe and secure future; those that can enjoy a peaceful retirement receive it with either with new owners or at The Horse Trust.

The Horse Trust was founded in 1886 as the result of its founder, Ann Lindo, reading the novel Black Beauty and being moved by the plight of London’s working cab horses. 125 years on The Horse Trust, which relies on donations from the public, still provides free retirement and respite for London’s serving horses as well as those working around the country, that are the responsibility of the tax payer or other charities. Back in World War I it cared for those horses, ponies and mules serving on the front line both during and after the conflict.

The Real War Horses

In 1914 The Home of Rest for Horses, as The Horse Trust was named at that time, designed and produced the first motorised horse ambulance to send to France to transport wounded horses from the front line to the veterinary stations.  In two years the ambulance had travelled some 13,000 miles and had carried in excess of 1,000 injured horses.  So successful was The Home of Rest for Horses’ ambulance that the War Office commissioned it as the official specification for their vehicles for this use. By the end of the war 14 of these vehicles were in operation inFrancesaving the lives of thousands of horses, ponies and mules.

The first equine war veteran retired to The Horse Trust’s Home of Rest for Horses in 1919 was San Toy, a horse that had served in both the Boer and First World Wars and was joined by a number of other WWI Veterans including Roger. Roger’s story was truly remarkable. A German Cavalry horse, thought to have been a German Officer’s Charger, Roger was found rider-less on the battlefield during the infamous battle of the Somme by a British Army Officer who caught him, got him to safety and at the end of the war brought him back to England to retire to the Home of Rest.

Retirement today

The Ministry of Defence Animal Centre (DAC), Melton Mowbray, the epicentre for the training and management of animals used in Defence, works in close association with The Horse Trust to ensure the retirement needs of military horses are met in the most suitable way for each individual animal’s needs.

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