AS the film War Horse opens in cinemas this week, tribute is being paid to some of the horses who in more recent times have also played a vital part while serving with our forces.
Michael Morpurgo’s story about a horse called Joey and the First World War has already touched the hearts of many who have seen the stage version.
Now Steven Spielberg’s film demonstrates to an even wider audience, what a bond can develop between horse and rider.
The charity World Horse Welfare has successfully re-homed a number of horses that have gone on to have successful careers, either with the police force or with regiments such as the Household Cavalry.
Digger, an eight-year-old, 19hh Clydesdale gelding is training to become a drum horse with the Household Cavalry mounted regiment.
He was taken to the charity’s rescue centre in Aberdeenshire when his owners could no longer cope with looking after him.
He was re-homed soon afterwards with the regiment where he is making good progress.
Another success story is Penny, a 14-year-old Irish Draught mare, who is used by the King’s Troop Royal Artillery. She was taken to WHW’s rescue centre near Blackpool after being found covered in lice and very underweight.
After being rehabilitated and undergoing a real transformation, Penny went to the King’s Troop where she has taken part in many important ceremonial parades and events, including the funeral of the Queen Mother.
“It is sometimes difficult to believe where horses such as Penny came from,” said Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare. “She has undergone a complete transformation and now carries out one of the most prestigious roles performed by a horse in the country. It is easy to forget that horses continue to play a fundamental role in the services today and are relied upon in many ways.”
Marley, a 16.1hh bay, was taken to the Aberdeenshire centre as a youngster after his owners could not look after him any more. After gaining some confidence and following some training, he moved on to serve with Greater Manchester Police for seven years before retiring.
One of the best-known horses that the charity cared for was Copenhagen. He was serving with the Household Cavalry and suffered serious injuries during the IRA attack in Hyde Park on the men and horses of The Queen’s Life Guard in 1982.
He returned to his duties and served a further 14 years in the Household Cavalry before retiring to the charity’s farm at Snetterton in Norfolk.