Remembrance Day has come and gone, but it’s never too late to remember. Due to my appalling lack of time these days, I’m going to postpone my pre-planned Remembrance Day research article for another year. However, I am going to give some thoughts on the horse’s role in our human pursuits of war and how we can glean bits of understanding from it.

It is heartbreaking when one thinks of how many horses were lost in WWI alone, never mind all the ancient wars where horses were the only battle machines. Horses couldn’t look into the future and see himself nose deep in mud, or dying of starvation with his rider, or having to charge head long into artillery over dead bodies. They didn’t make that choice and they had no voice to refuse.

In films that portray these horrors, horses are often portrayed as brave despite their tribulations. Even in ancient paintings, horses are given the appearance of divine warriors with muscles rippling and fiery anger in their eyes, complete with barred teeth and striking hooves. To the uneducated eye, horses are fearless. I’m sure most of you know otherwise.

So what is bravery and courage? Do horses possess it? I believe that they do. Horses were driven into blood and gore by humans. They had no say. They simply worked to the best of their abilities with no awareness of the glory or despair they participated in. They lived and died selflessly, merely surviving as best they could. If this is not courage, I don’t know what is.

Courage is not the absence of fear. If there was no fear, it wouldn’t be called courage. Horses possess courage because they abandoned themselves to the job ahead of them even though they were placed in terrifying situations. They lived on because they did not have control over their life. They died because they could. They had no convictions to encourage the violence they participated in – no sides to choose. Those that survived I’m sure were forever burdened by the tragedies they witnessed, never to look at life with the same optimism.

I don’t believe that courage is something people have when they choose to go into a compromising situation. I think that’s dullness of the senses. I think it is courage to be the sharpest, most intuitive, most sensitive of souls and to face what comes to you with selflessness and humility.

So there’s my little Remembrance Day chat. Enjoy the coming of winter and if you’re interested in where my ideas came from, check out these links:

  • The History of Horses During WWI is a short, well written article that gives us a clear reminder of the role the horse played in WWI. In many occasions the deaths of horses outweighed the human casualties.
  • Unshakeable Courage of the Real War Horses is filled with pictures that emptied my tear docks. Horses did not complain or refuse for this simple reason: they couldn’t.
  • Alexander and Bucephalus are a horse/human duo that ought to be remembered. This is, indeed, an amazing example of what simply centring your own mind and body can do. Bucephalus and Alexander’s relationship is one that will inspire and excite. With the knowledge I have now, it’s much more than just an action packed legend.
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