100 years on, USA’s million war horses honored

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The USA’s World War One Centennial Commission has made Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign an official Centennial Partner, recognizing the contribution of America’s horses and mules to the war effort.

This year the United States will commemorate the 100th anniversary of its entry into one of bloodiest wars of the century.

The Commission was established by the US Congress under the World War I Centennial Commission Act. The role of the Commission is, among other things, to develop programs to commemorate the historic event and to encourage and facilitate the activities of private, state, and local organizations which are commemorating the centennial. President Obama signed the Act, and Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are Honorary Chairs of the Commission.

“The Commission believes that Horse Heroes will further the Commission’s goals of educating the American people about the causes, courses and consequences of  WW1, commemorating US involvement in that war, and honoring the service and sacrifice of American servicemen and women in the war.”

The role of Horse Heroes will be to remember the nearly one million American horses and mules who served alongside their brave soldiers, by raising $1 million to improve equine welfare around the world.

Brooke USA Chairman Dr David Jones said the organisation was honored to be named as a partner alongside several highly esteemed organizations. “We’re also grateful for the privilege of bringing the immeasurable impact that American horses and mules had on the war to the public’s attention.”

Brooke International Chairman Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, a retired senior British Army officer and a military historian, spoke of the enormous impact that American horses and mules had on the war effort.

“As best we can determine, nearly two-thirds of the animals used by England in France and other theaters of war were from North America, so we are glad for the opportunity that the Commission has given Brooke USA to remember those animals.”

Horses and mules carried men to battle and wounded men to safety.  They transported food, water, medical supplies, guns, ammunition, and artillery to the front lines through appalling weather, over unforgiving terrain, in horrifying situations, and surrounded by dead and dying men and animals.  Yet they continued to do their part, in spite of being terrified and often while sick and wounded themselves, and they worked until they were annihilated by guns or poison gas, or simply died in their harnesses from exposure and sheer exhaustion.

Of the one million American equines who went to Europe, only 200 returned. In total, eight million horses and mules died in WW1.

“Their contributions were enormous, but so were their mortality rates and their suffering,” Sir Evelyn said.

“Neither the men nor the horses wanted to be there, but nevertheless these forgotten equine heroes devoted themselves wholeheartedly, day and night, as true partners to the men who needed them. The American horses and mules provided immense support to the British, French, and American armies, and without their sacrifices, the war’s outcome – and now the world – would be very different.”

Dorothy Brooke in the yard of the SPCA in Cairo with some of the war horses she rescued in the 1930s. © The Brooke
Dorothy Brooke in the yard of the SPCA in Cairo with some of the war horses she rescued in the 1930s. © The Brooke

Brooke has its roots in WWI, as its founder, Dorothy Brooke, rescued 5000 former war horses and mules who had been abandoned by their armies after the war.  Today, the charity that still operates in her name, Brooke, has become the world’s largest international equine welfare charity.

“While horses no longer serve the military in the massive numbers of former years, today there are more than 100 million equines who are carrying out many of the same jobs as they did 100 years ago while they work for the poorest people on earth,” Sir Evelyn said.

“They are also suffering similar hardships leading to chronic suffering and high mortality as their military forebears, while working to support 600 million people in the developing world.”

It is estimated that 80% of those working equines are suffering from preventable problems such as exhaustion, dehydration, lameness, heat stress, diseases and injuries.

Last year alone, Brooke reached two million horses, donkeys, and mules in the developing world with programs to improve their welfare.

By providing scientifically proven, practical and sustainable programs, Brooke teaches owners how to improve the welfare of their animals.  They also provide free veterinary care for many of them.

A World War 1 Infantry horse.
A World War 1 Infantry horse. © Brooke USA

Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign will seek to raise one million dollars – one dollar in memory of each American equine war hero – to support equine welfare programs which will also benefit the people who depend on those animals.

Brooke USA Chairman Dr David Jones said: “We believe that the best way to honor yesterday’s war horses and mules is by helping today’s working equines. Brooke is equipped and positioned to do a great deal to improve the welfare of these important animals through our Horse Heroes campaign. We’re asking anyone who appreciates the contributions that American horses and mules made to the war effort to respond by donating in memory of those animals – just one dollar for each animal who suffered and died in service to our country and our allies in World War One.”

To learn more about the US WWI Centennial Commission, go to www.WorldWar1Centennial.org. To learn more about the Horse Heroes campaign, visit www.HorseHeroes.org.

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