Part 6: Character, Type and Relationship With the Trooper

VI. Horse type

"Following the Civil War, and as the cavalry moved west, the replacement of mounts came more and more from the sturdy western mustangs as it was found from experience that the chunky, shorter-coupled horse did much better in the mountain and rough-country campaigns than did the larger, longer-coupled type."
[The Troopers by S.E. Whitman pg 204]

VII. Horse Trooper Relationship

"A cavalryman often retained the same horse through his enlistment. Working together daily brought the trooper and the animal closer together, and commonly an intimate friendship was formed. A gentle pat, a soft word or two, an extra portion of grain were the simplest signs of affection a soldier could provide for his companion. It would be sad to imagine the suffering the horse must have faced in exhaustion from the lengthy campaign or starvation. Worst for the trooper was to stand over his fallen mount, knowing he must end his horse's misery with a bullet in the brain. Eyes that followed the soldier in wondering affection would haunt him forever. Few could stand to shatter the brain of an affectionate companion, and the pistol was usually passed to someone else who ended the matter quickly."
[Bugles, Banners and War Bonnets by Reidstrum]

VIII. Character of the Army Horse

A. "A fine old veteran cavalry-horse detailed for a sergeant of the troop, was selected to bear me on the trip. He was a large horse of pony build, both strong and sound except that he bore a healed saddle-gall, gotten, probably, during some old march upon an endless Apache trail. His temper had been ruined, and a grinning soldier said as he stood at a respectful distance, 'Look out sah. Dat ole hoss shore kick your head off, sah.'"

"'What you don't know about cross-country riding in these parts that horse does. It's lucky there isn't a hole in the ground where his hoofs trod, for he's pounded up and down across this Territory for last five years'"

"My old troop-horse was at the door, and he eyed his citizen rider with malevolent gaze. Even the dumb beasts of the army share that quiet contempt for the citizen which is one manifestation of the military spirit, born of strength, and as old as when the first man went forth with the purpose to conquer his neighbor man."

"The slopes ... are very steep, and as the air becomes more rarified ... I was panting for breath. My horse-a veteran mountaineer-grunted in his efforts and drew his breath in a long and labored blowing; consequently I felt as though I was not doing anything unusual in puffing and blowing myself."..."The old troop-horse heaved a great sigh, and dropping his head went fast asleep, as every good soldier should do when he finds the opportunity."
"But the trained horses are sure of foot, understand the business, and seldom stumble except when treacherous ground gives way."

"Taking his horse by the bits, the young officer began the descent. The slope was at an angle of at least 60 degrees, and was covered with loose dirt and bowlders, with the mask of brush at the bottom concealing awful possibilities of what might be beneath. The horse hesitated a moment, then cautiously put his head down and his leg forward and started. The loose earth crumbled, a great stone was precipitated to the bottom with a crash, the horse slid and floundered along. Had the situation not been so serious it would have been funny, because the angle of the incline was so great that the horse actually sat on his haunches like a dog. My old horse took it unconcernedly, and we came down all right, bringing our share of dirt and stones and plunging through the wall of brush at the bottom to find our friend safe on the lower side."

"... cavalry soldiers never ease themselves in the saddle. That is an army axiom. ... it is carefully instilled into their minds that they must 'ride the horse' at all times and not lounge on his back."

"No pains are spared to prolong the usefulness of an army horse, and every old soldier knows that his good care will tell when the long forced march comes some day, ... ." The soldier will steal for his horse, will share his camp bread, and will moisten the horse's nostrils and lips with the precious water in the canteen."

"Now a coyote, surprised by our cavalcade ... runs along the opposite side of the canon wall. 'pop, pop, pop, pop' go the six-shooters, and then follow explanations by each marksman of the particular thing which made him miss."

"That night we made camp, ... . The horses were constantly losing one another in the timber in their search for grass, in consequence of which they whinnied ... ."
[Remington's experience in Arizona 1885]

B. "I have already referred to the readiness with which they responded to many of the bugle-calls used on drill. In the cavalry service they knew their places as well as did their riders, and it was a frequent occurrence to see a horse, when his rider had been dismounted by some means, resume his place in line or column without him seemingly not wishing to be left behind. This quality was often illustrated when a poor, crippled, or die, would attempt to hobble along in his misery and join a column as it passed."
[Hard Tack and Coffee, Billings pg 327]

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