War Horses

After Thursday’s class, I began looking at more war posters. While most follow the same persuasion of calling out a horse posterman’s honor and duty, there were some that were a bit more obscure. One recurring set of posters that kept showing up had to do with helping wounded or shell shocked horses. Though we usually only think about the men that were killed, wounded, or contracted PTSD, there was also a vast amount of animals that were also subjected to the horrors of the great war. I thought that this was interesting, mainly because it was something I had never even considered; WWI still required men to ride horses. It is estimated that over 1.2 million horses and mules were used in world war 1, of which nearly half of them died. The “Blue Cross” was an organization that helped greatly with the treatment of horses that had been sent to the hellish trenches. In this poster, I thought it was interesting that it shows war as a horror, rather than the usual honor and duty propaganda. The horse appears to be greatly distressed, as you can see through his expression. There also seems to be a raging and chaotic battle behind him that he only wants to escape. This poster, more than any other that I saw, was actually the most true. War is truly a horror, but not just to the horses. What the poster did not show was the man riding him who is most likely just as scared as the horse. Both are either about to die or at least never be the same. While this poster shows war in its true colors, it is also a reminder that it was not just men that went through it. I can not even fathom how traumatic it would be for both men and horses to be in those trenches. The explosions, machine guns, trenches, and every other PTSD causing thing on the battlefield was just as hard on the horses. The famous painting below, called “Goodbye Old Man” is a perfect example. The horse in the painting is dying terrified on the battlefield, with only his rider to comfort him in his last moments. The horse does not want to be there. The other soldiers are yelling for the man to just leave him, probably because there are more important things going on than a dying horse. In a matter of moments the horse will be nothing more than a prop in this battle torn  wasteland. These posters are very significant because they are a reminder that man is not the only species that can be harmed physically or psychologically in war. Goodbye old mate 3


One thought on “War Horses

  1. Timmy, Your post makes an important contribution to the contexts of WWI. It strikes me that you might be inclined toward looking into some of the emerging scholarship on animals and ethics. Lauren Berlant and Martha Nussbaum are both ethicists who have done some work on the representation of animals.


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