England has undertaken some fabulous events to mark the centenary of WWI. The BBC aired a program called World War One Centenary: As It Happened, the Tower of London is installing 888,246 ceramic poppies in the dry moat to commemorate the Allies who lost their lives in that battle and on August 4th Britain turned out it’s lights and lit candles to in an act of remembrance.
Anniversary events will continue throughout the year, but one of the largest undertakings has to be Ride the Retreat – Mons to the Marne.
To commemorate the opening actions of the British Army in the Great War, Ian Woodbridge and Dr David Kenyon are riding the retreat from Mons in Belgium to the River Marne in France for The Horse Trust and the Army Benevolent Fund. You can read about the Great Retreat here.
The ride will take place over two weeks covering over 200 miles in eleven separate stages and will visit all the major cavalry engagements coinciding with the 100th anniversaries of each event. They hope to help people experience the opening actions of the Great War and to explain the role of the cavalry during the great retreat conducted by the Cavalry Division of the British Expeditionary Force during late August and early September 1914.
For more information and regular updates, please visit and like the Retreat’s Facebook page.
The Horse Trust, one of the charities that will benefit from funds raised for the Ride, is the oldest horse charity in the world, founded in 1886 to help working horses in London.
From The Horse Trust website:
In 1877, English author Anna Sewell published a groundbreaking ‘autobiography’, the story of a working horse told through the horse’s own eyes. Black Beauty went on to sell over 50 million copies and become one of the best-selling books of all time. A few years later, a Miss Ann Lindo of North London
read Black Beauty and was inspired. A working horse had no rest in those days – their owners depended on the horse to earn money to feed their families. Horses pulled taxi cabs and delivery wagons until they dropped. Ann Lindo’s idea was to provide a place where sick and exhausted horses could rest and recover – lending in their place healthy animals so the owners could still earn a living.
he Home of Rest for Horses was founded on 10th May 1886. Horses were bought or donated as loan horses, and demand was immediately high. Miss Lindo saw her idea become a great success and attract prestigious supporters, but sadly died only five years later, at the age of just 52.
In 1900, London needed some 300,000 horses to keep it moving. Most of them, and most of our earliest patients – were the horses of cabmen. The others worked for traders like laundrymen, grocers or rag-and-bone men.
There were 11,000 horse-drawn cabs working London’s streets in 1900. An owner-driver would take the best care he could of the horse on which he depended, but some horses were rented by the day, and each driver would work the horse as hard as possible. A horse’s life was relentless, hard, hard work.
A steady stream of exhausted horses came to the Home for treatment. The charge for hiring a replacement was set at 25 shillings per week (about two days earnings). Feed for the rental horse was included, to make sure the hired animal was well-fed while out working.
An early object of the charity was to provide a home for “Old Favourites,” giving them in return for a remunerative charge a pleasant home and every comfort and attention during their declining years.”
In 1916 the charity temporarily stopped admitting Old Favourites due to the continued increase in price of forage during WWI. The cost of oats increased from 23s to 39s, and hay increased from £3 19s to £5 15s. Admissions were resumed in 1919 only to be suspended once more in 1943. The effects of rationing were so severe that Old Favourites could not be admitted again until 1951, 6 years after the end of WWII.
These Old Favourites included War Horses who’s Officers paid for them to enjoy a peaceful retirement when they returned from the battlefield. One such Old Favourite was Holly, a grey German charger captured in Italy at the end of the war. She was admitted after several years useful riding school work in this country. “The owner having stated that Holly was extremely nervous of explosions caused the Secretary and his wife to take turns at visiting the mare’s box on the fifth of November.”
Many horses like Holly were ‘sold down the chain’ being passed from owner to owner as they became older or were injured and their value declined. Sadly, some of these horses ended up being neglected or overworked as a result. A story that is still all too common today. For the lucky few a kind owner paid for them to enjoy a gentle retirement at The Home of Rest for Horses.
The First World War (1914-1918) saw millions of men and horses bogged down in horrific conditions in the muddy trenches of Belgium and Northern France. As Britain’s men were called away to war – including staff from The Home of Rest for Horses – and as shortages began to bite, The Home faced a threefold problem.
Demand rose for our services as healthier animals were requisitioned for the war effort, leaving only older and sicker horses to cope with regular work. The men working the horses – and indeed caring for them at The Home of Rest – were often older or less experienced, and prices rose dramatically as supplies grew scarce. On top of this, the demands of war pulled financial support in other directions.
In spite of all these difficulties, the War drove the charity to new heights. Annual donations were made to RSPCA appeals in support of Russian Army Horses. In 1914, the Committee made an inspired gift to the Army Veterinary Service of the first ever motorised horse ambulance. This proved so useful in moving injured horses from the battlefields for treatment that 13 more were procured and, by the end of the war, over 2 million horses had been successfully treated and returned to duty.
The War had a major impact on everyday life, making it harder to get supplies as labour grew scarce and transport more difficult.
At the end of the Great War we began taking in the first of our military veterans. The tradition continues to this day. With the generosity of our supporters we are able to provide a dignified retirement to some of the horses who have given so much for our country.
OF THESE OLD FAVOURITES