“The drivers are now driving and riding every day,” wrote Gordon Brown from Witley on November 18, 1916. (1)
Field Artillery Training is adamant that “horsemanship and horsemastership are as essential to [artillery] success as good eye-sight or a knowledge of gunnery.” (2) It is impossible to be an efficient artillery unit if you cannot manoeuvre the guns into position and bring up the ammunition wagons — and the speed and accuracy of those manoeuvres depends on the skill of the drivers and the condition of the horses.
“One tired horse in a gun team puts more work on the other five, and may necessitate extra weight being put on some other vehicle. (3)
All that riding and driving, therefore, was not only a matter of drilling but of conditioning horses and their riders “to cover long distances with the least possible fatigue” to both. (3)
This photograph from Archie Wills’ album (4) clearly shows a horse who fulfils at least one stated requirement of a useful artillery horse: “He must be a quiet ride, and capable of conveying a heavy weight over long distances, without undue fatigue.”(3) We can hope that he was not asked to carry those men any distance, but we can be sure that he was a very patient beast.
(1) Brown, Robert Gordon. Letter to his mother, November 18, 1916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(2) Field Artillery Training. HMSO. 1914.54.
(3) FAT. 55
(4) Wills, Archie. All in a Lifetime [photograph album]. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.