June 2003 --Today's U.S. military pilots strike enemy targets at supersonic speeds, while ground forces advance to the battlefront in sophisticated tanks that can traverse practically any type of terrain. In addition to their remarkable speed and range capabilities, these stealthy fighters can often complete their missions before the enemy ever detects them. Bring the U.S. Navy into the theater, and the military possesses a triple threat by air, land and sea that provides tremendous advantages during times of war.
It wasn't that long ago, however, that the horse supplied a strategic advantage and played a major role in helping the United States to defeat its enemies. From Revolutionary War times right on past the Spanish-American war in 1898, skilled horsemen were riding their strong mounts to victory, as the United States made steady progression as a world power.
After the turn of the 20th century, a group of knowledgeable and insightful individuals, determined to maintain and ultimately enhance their country's military advantage, devised a program to ensure that Americans would always have enough horses ready for any fight at any time. Strength in numbers was not their only concern. These military planners were also committed to establishing a national stable of military horses that were superior in intelligence, strength, stamina and soundness than those of any other nation.
This was the birth of the U.S. Remount Service, and is the primary focus of a fascinating new book, titled "War Horse," written by authors Ed Roberts and Phil Livingston.
The compelling book gives just and long-overdue credit to the U.S. Remount Service for achieving its military objectives and helping the nation to maintain a strong defense.
Roberts and Livingston detail how the U.S. Remount Service, from 1908 to 1948, met its goals of supplying hundreds of thousands of outstanding horses for military use. Formed under the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Remount Service actually established a special program to make government stallions available to private mare owners so they could develop a breeding pool of horses that could be called into action at any given time.
Not only was this program highly successful in serving the needs of the military, the authors point out, but it had far-reaching benefits to the U.S. economy and the horse industry as we know it today. From 1914 to 1918 alone, according to Roberts and Livingston, the Army purchased more than a half million horses at a cost of about $150 each, pumping an estimated $82.5 million into the agricultural economy.
In addition, because of military's rigid requirements for the horses, unprecedented standards were set for many of today's horses across multiple breed lines.
"This has probably been the best-kept secret in the horse industry," said Livingston, who has authored several successful equine books. "These Remount studs were among the finest in the country. And with the extensive breeding that was going on, they helped establish a foundation of great horses. There are very few Paints, Palominos, Quarter Horses and Appaloosas that cannot trace their lineage back to these great studs. Not only that, but the Remount program vastly increased the horse population-of not just horses, but great horses-and we've been seeing the results from that for years."
"War Horse," a new 352-page book with more than 130 photographs, gives readers a fascinating insight into the history of military horses and discusses the major role these animals played in shaping the breed standards so highly respected today. The book cover was designed by legendary Western artist Chuck DeHaan. It portrays a Confederate Army soldier from the Civil War, a U.S. Cavalryman during the 1870s fighting in the Indian wars, and a 1930s-era U.S. Cavalry sergeant. All the soldiers are pictured on the sturdy, powerful mounts that typified military horses.
Roberts agreed. Once at the helm of the fastest-growing breed association in the world -- the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) -- he has seen the growth first-hand.
"Today's horse industry, without a doubt, owes a lot to the war horse," Roberts said. "The large breeding pool that was established by the U.S. Remount Service became the core of the superior stock that helped shape some of our most popular breeds today."
To back up their statements, the authors conducted extensive pedigree research for "War Horse," which reads likes a who's who of recent history's finest horses. They point out, for example, that the heritage of Roy Rogers' "Trigger" can be traced to the U.S. Remount Service breeding program.
These pedigree records, along with chronologies, U.S. Remount Service stallion listings and a wealth of sources, make "War Horse" not only a compelling read, but a valuable research tool for professional historians and history buffs alike.
"War Horse" contains more than 130 archival photographs to illustrate the insightful 352-page book.
The authors spent 13 years researching documents, obtaining government records, interviewing their subjects, tracking down photographs and piecing the information together.
"We found that not much had been written on this subject and we wanted to assemble as much information as possible" said Roberts. "The war horse story, especially as it relates to the U.S. Remount Service, is one that we really wanted to be told."
Both Roberts and Livingston became fascinated with military mounts as youngsters. For Roberts, he has vivid memories of watching the U.S. Cavalry on maneuvers at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, in the 1930s. He was captivated by the beauty and athleticism of the horses. For Livingston, the son of a cavalry officer who served in World War I, World War II and Korea, the interest began while riding a military horse in China when his father was stationed there.
The two men have dedicated much of their lives to working in the horse industry.
Roberts served as APHA executive secretary for 26 years, from 1975 to 2001, leading the association and the American Paint Horse breed to worldwide prominence. He presently serves as APHA's director of long-range planning. Before coming to APHA, Roberts developed the youth program for the Appaloosa Horse Club, and also worked as a teacher after graduating from Oklahoma State University. A rancher and horseman, Roberts is a valued member of the American Horse Council.
Livingston has served as editor the Paint Horse Journal and the Western Livestock Journal. Also a rancher and horseman, Livingston is an accomplished journalist and author with a long list of outstanding horse-related features and books to his credit. He is widely respected as both a writer and a historian. Livingston attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
"War Horse" is available from Bright Sky Press by calling toll-free (866) 933-6133. You can also visit the publisher's Web site at www.brightskypress.com.