Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Year of the War Horse

John L. MooreGreetings all,
2012 is going to be the year of the War Horse, but to understand this we must first understand what a war horse is. In years past, when cavalries were common, generals would lead their troops into battle mounted on their "chargers." From Bucephalus to Traveler, famous chargers left their marks on history.

Horses have not been widely used in battle since World War I though both horses and mules saw limited use in World War II. They have been barely used since then though Special Forces adapted to the use of horses in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan.

My hometown of Miles City, Montana was historically a famous source for cavalry horses. Fort Keogh, located just west of town, was one of the primary U.S. Remount Stations during World War I. In fact, it can be argued that more horses destined for warfare have been shipped from Miles City, Montana than anywhere. The only other place that could rival us would be Fort Robinson in Nebraska. Fort Keogh was named for Captain Myles Keogh who died with Custer at the Little Big Horn. But, it was Keogh's horse, Comanche, that though severely wounded, was the lone survivor of Custer's Last Stand. Custer's horse, incidentally, was named "Vic."

The U.S. Remount program had a large influence in this area and throughout the West when the government upgraded ranch bloodlines by importing blue-blooded horses from the east to cross on western range mares. The history of the Remount Service is chronicled in the book War Horse by my friend Phil Livingston (co-authored by Ed Roberts). Another book, Horse Soldiers, tells the story of the Special Forces using horses in Afghanistan, and of course, some of you have already seen the Stephen Spielberg film, War Horse, which is adapted from a children's story set during World War I.

Chargers vs. the War Horse
In the photo below is our grandson, Creed Alexander Ferguson, on our retired gelding "Shiloh Glory." Shiloh, as we call him, was born in 1985 during the height of our first home-church ministry. His dam was a registered Quarter Horse mare with famous running bloodlines. This "bottom side" – as the mare's pedigree is called in America – carried the blood of Rocket Bar, Hard Twist, Go Man Go, and other famous sprinters. She had the blood of "chargers."
Shiloh Glory
But, we must understand that a "charger" and a "War Horse" are not necessarily the same thing today.
We all know "Chargers" of sorts. And, if we are humble, many of us can confess to being Chargers. Chargers are warlike, militant, martial, and confident. They rush straight ahead at the slightest hint of battle. Famous battles, including Fetterman's Massacre in Wyoming, have been lost because Chargers charged ahead prematurely.

Chargers are great at arousing the troops, drawing their swords, blowing the bugle, and spurring straight into combat. They are not so great at planned tactics, strategy, and coolness under fire. A Charger often knows only how to charge, but a true War Horse knows how to handle himself in combat.

The "top side" of Shiloh Glory's pedigree is all Remount blood. His sire, Gold N Glory was by Mizpah Glory, and all this blood traces back to a once well-established Remount program south of Miles City.

Years ago we entertained a young woman from ABC Sports. She was a top rider on the east coast jumper circuit. The first time she rode Shiloh, who was a young five-year-old at the time, she called him a "war horse." A good rider, no matter what their discipline, knows it when they are mounted on a war horse. "Shiloh" has many meanings in the Hebrew. It was, of course, a meeting place with God, but the word – derived from its root, Strong's #7951 – can mean "safety, tranquility, happiness, and prosperity." Our Shiloh, the gelding above, was officially retired in 2010. We took him out of retirement briefly this summer for the grandkids, but war horses are not baby-sitters. Even in his advanced years, Shiloh's heart beats for the charge. He listens for bugles, not lullabies.

Actually, I considered putting Shiloh down this fall. His knees are arthritic and he gets thin in cold weather, but it seemed, in spite of all odds, that Shiloh was to see the year 2012. Because 2012 is the year of the War Horse.

All prey animals, but especially horses, have a "fight or flight" instinct. The "charge straight ahead" attitude of many "Chargers," can actually be a flight instinct rather than a fight instinct. It is not uncommon for insecure people to mask their insecurities with aggressiveness. Again, it is not the white-hot charge that is a measure of boldness as it is the calm perseverance of composure under fire.

2012, for the Body of Christ, will be the Year of the War Horse. But make no mistake about it, it will not be the rash and brash who are ridden to victory. It will be the calm, collected, and cooly courageous.
"Sleep, soldiers! still in honored rest
Your truth and valor wearing;
The bravest are the tenderest, --
The loving are the daring."
from The Song of the Camp
by Bayard Taylor.
(These lines are inscribed on the marker of the grave of Capt. Myles Keogh)
John L. Moore

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