Churchill’s horses

There are so many amazing people in history to share about. Today I am celebrating Sir Winston Churchill. I most certainly do not profess to have learned and understood everything there is to know about the man who was Winston Churchill. However in researching ‘horses’ for a couple of my recent posts, I spent over a dozen hours reading about him. I learned about this amazing icon and was moved to tears by what he did to help save hard-working yet neglected horses.

.A little history about the man himself: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, (November 30, 1874 – January 24, 1965) was a British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century, he served as Prime Minister twice (1940–45 and 1951–55). A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. He is the only British prime minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.

In 1951, he again became Prime Minister, before retiring in 1955. Upon his death, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history. Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential persons in British history.  Wikipedia 

Recently discovered photograph: Sitting astride his grey mount in 1899, the 26-year-old future Prime Minister is shown wearing a suit and tie and a wide-brimmed hat. It shows him with men of The South African Light Horse Regiment and on the back of the photo is written: ‘Winston Churchill after Escape’

In preparing my two recent posts about horses, I wanted to find out more about Winston Churchill’s quotes, especially the one about the outside of a horse being good for the inside of us humans. I discovered there is some debate regarding whether this statement was actually made by SWC because it has not been documented as being anything Sir Winston Churchill actually said. (see

However there is no doubt whatsoever that the man loved horses. During World War I, Britain purchased over one million horses to assist with the war effort by carrying soldiers, supplies, and artillery. However, after the war, many horses abroad were in danger of horrible neglect and even death. It was awe-inspiring when I learned that Winston Churchill went out of his way, and at risk to his political career, to help save the horses of war after World War I. As a story in the Daily Mail stated:

“He secured their speedy return after firing off angry memos to officials within his own department and at the Ministry of Shipping, who had promised to return 12,000 horses a week but were struggling to get a quarter of that number back.”

One person definitely makes a difference. He certainly did for thousands of war horses after the war ended. This is from another article:

Winston Churchill was incensed at the treatment of Britain’s war-horses in 1919. War Office documents recently found in the National Archives at Kew show that tens of thousands of the animals were at risk of disease, hunger and even death because bungling officials couldn’t get them home when hostilities drew to a close.

Churchill, then aged 44 and Secretary of State for War, reacted with fury when he was informed of their treatment and took a personal interest in their plight after the 1914-1918 war.

In a strongly worded missive dated February 13, 1919, Churchill told Lieutenant-General Sir Travers Clarke, then Quartermaster-General: ‘If it is so serious, what have you been doing about it? The letter of the Commander-In-Chief discloses a complete failure on the part of the Ministry of Shipping to meet its obligations and scores of thousands of horses will be left in France under extremely disadvantageous conditions.’

Churchill’s intervention led to extra vessels being used for repatriation, and the number of horses being returned rose to 9,000 a week. [source]

His story ignites a fire in my heart! He took a risk because his heart demanded it. I imagine that in his mind there was no argument. Something simply had to be done, and so he spoke up. He did something. I’m incredibly thankful for the example this amazing man shared with us. When we learn of an injustice in the world that really moves us, we need to follow his lead and do something. Even writing a strongly worded letter can ripple outwards and do more good than we may have thought. Let’s listen to our hearts, and do what we can.

Horse Power

Source: Facebook/HayHouseRadio

“I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh it was. My very heart leapt with the sound.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

“God forbid that I should go to any heaven where there are no horses.” ~R. B. Cunningham-Graham 
(in a 1917 letter to Theodore Roosevelt)

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.” ~William Shakespeare, Henry V

“No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.” ~Herman Melville

“Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same.” ~John Tyler’s epitaph for his horse

“When you are on a great horse, you have the best seat you will ever have.” ~Winston Churchill

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” ~Winston Churchill

From Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams & David Carson: 

“Stealing horses is stealing power” was a statement made in historical native America and a reference to the esteemed role which Horse played in the native cultures. Horse is physical power and unearthly power. In shamanic practices throughout the world, Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven.

Humanity made a great leap forward when Horse was domesticated, a discovery akin to that of fire. Before Horse, humans were earthbound, heavy-laden, and slow creatures indeed. Once humans climbed on Horse’s back, they were as free and fleet as the wind. They could carry burdens for great distances with ease. Through their special relationship with Horse, humans altered their self-concept beyond measure. Horse was the first animal medicine of civilization. Humanity owes an incalculable debt to Horse and to the new medicine it brought. It would be a long walk to see one’s brother or sister if Horse had not welcomed the two-legged rider upon its back. Today we measure the capacity of engines with the term “horsepower,” a reminder of the days when Horse was an honored and highly-prized partner with humanity. Horse is related especially with the power of knowledge and wisdom and with communication and sharing.

Communicate. Stand tall. Use your talents. Own who you are becoming.


Animals, Trust and Respect

I woke just now from a fitful sleep like so often lately, but this time it was a nice dream. I was riding a massive brown horse, walking slowly as I patted his neck and watched the ears. Taking my time to know this gentle giant, and he was granting me respect.

In my dream, riding this horse, all my worries vanished. My senses were filled with the steady squeak of saddle leathers, rhythm of hoof-beats, flicker of ears, wave of mane and smell of horse. I love the smell of horses, and I woke up from this short but vivid dream with that light aroma still in my senses. I felt happy. How incredibly therapeutic, even if only enjoyed while sleeping.

I have been lucky throughout my life to be gifted with animals, something that comes easily due to my inherent respect for them. It’s as if animals notice this about me and are relieved to interact with a human who values their intelligence.

One of the many aspects of horse-care I’ve always adored is grooming. I believe in its value as a training aid, even if only for building trust. I find that horses enjoy human hands along their necks, chests and saddle-areas as much as we enjoy offering the attention. I choose to stroke with my hands and use brushes that are comfortable to horses. No unforgiving metal brushes for me. Regular grooming teaches horses to be at ease with hands all over them. Building a memory of safety allows a horse to remain calm around those frequently alarming things like flapping bags, bicycles, honking horns and banging sounds. A quality riding horse is one that feels secure and trustful. It trusts its environment and its humans. These invaluable horses are unflappable and unafraid of surprises.

I interact with all animals this way, and my cat of a dozen years is calm, friendly and playful. One summer day a few years ago I was chatting casually with my neighbours over the fence as I hose-watered my garden. Suddenly the wife voiced how she was astounded that my cat was just laying in the sun as I watered around it. Myself, I was not surprised. My cat has no fear since she has never been abused. I wouldn’t dream of sprinkling water on my cat.

When a person decides to use force or cruel behavior with an animal, they lose its trust and respect. Unfortunately, most abused animals learn to mistrust all humans. Anyone who has met and worked with a head-shy horse knows how entrenched those old hurts are. Anyone who has adopted an abused rescue dog knows how some of those emotional scars never heal.

My beloved rescue dog has been my constant companion for years, but her first years of life in an abusive environment permanently affected her. In her past she learned that humans are unpredictable and dangerous. Her life with me is the opposite of that tragic past but the damage is done. She does lavish me with the loyalty of her constantly loving presence, but during those moments in our family life with loud boisterous laughter or unexpected movements, she still lowers her head and looks worried. Trust is fragile and once damaged is often lost forever.

Respect and trust are too precious to risk damaging with poor behavior. Just as in our personal relationships, once these hard-earned qualities of trust and respect are betrayed they are practically impossible to regain.

© March 2009 ~ Gina’s Professions