Remembering the War Horse Heroes

The first horse ambulance during the First World War
The first horse ambulance during the First World War

Horse and Country reminds us that November 10th is known as Remembrance Sunday. The Horse Trust is a leading equine charity that is remembering the important role horses played in the First World War. They wish to commemorate the thousands of horses who died during battle.

The Horse Trust — once known as the Home of Rest for Horses — has provided the very first motorized horse ambulance during WWI. This ambulance was used to transport horses that were wounded while on the front line in France.

In the 1916 annual report, the Charity states the single ambulance traveled over 13,000 miles and carried up at least 1,000 horses who have suffered an injury. The single ambulance was considered such a successful investment and important aspect of the effort, the war office commissioned 13 more.

The charity was founded in 1886 and has provided a retirement home for the war horses. San Toy was the very first war horse to call the charity it’s home in 1919. San Toy seen battle in both the Boer and WWI campaigns. He lived on the compound until its death in 1923.

The Horse Trust is the home to a number of horses who have served for the Household Calvary Mounted Regiment, the Kings Troop, the Light Cavalry HAC and the Royal Mews.

One of the most well known residents was Sefton, Sefton was severely injured in the Hyde Park bombing in 1982. Once he recovered from his injuries, he returned to service within the Household Cavalry for two years. He then retired to the trust where he died in 1993 at an incredible age of 30.

Sefton received 34 serious wounds from the bombing in Hyde Park. His most serious injury was a severed jugular vein, and he was given a 50/50 chance of survival.

Eight hours of surgery later, his jugular had been repaired and 28 pieces of shrapnel had been removed. He made a full recovery.

That day, a total of 11 men and 7 horses died due to two nail bombs exploding in the park.

The Royal Veterinary College commissioned a life-sized bronze sculpture of the incredible horse in 2012. It’s creator, Camilla Le May, spent two years studying photographs of Sefton and modeled a clay figure from another horse named Ed, to get the correct anatomical proportions correct. Ed was the same breed as Sefton, which was an Irish Draught.

A clay model of Sefton before it was to be cast in bronze.
A clay model of Sefton before it was to be cast in bronze.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE