I will be speaking at the second biannual Equine Cultures in Transition conference to be held at Leeds Beckett University on the 19th to 21st June 2018.
Details of the conference can be found here:
Here is what I will be talking about:
“A Kind of Companionship” A Critical Study of the Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War.
The British Army’s organisation brought the soldier and horse together solely for the purposes of war. However, a perpetual drive for economy and military efficiency also created an environment where the horse and the soldier were treated far more humanely than they had ever been in the Army’s past. The soldier was expected to always put his horse first, just as an officer was expected to put the needs of his men before his own. A soldier whose own needs were met in terms of rations, equipment, clothing, shelter and medical attention was far more inclined to take good care of his horse. Similarly, a horse that was well managed remained serviceable for longer. Soldiers were encouraged to take an active interest in the welfare of their horses and were given sole responsibility for their well-being. When on active service, soldiers lived and worked alongside their horses; sharing war’s dangers and privations. Many soldiers came to think of their horses as “comrades”.
Today, this relationship is often misunderstood. It is sentimentalised and trivialised. Yet the soldier-horse relationship offers us the opportunity to think about the bonds we forge with animals, when we do so, and why. It also encourages us to consider the problematic nature of human-horse interactions past and present. The soldier-horse relationship is a study of human-animal interactions as relevant today as it was one hundred years ago.