Revisiting the Remount

Modern military missions rely heavily on high-tech helicopters and convoys of mechanized all-terrain vehicles to transport soldiers and supplies to the front lines of combat.

If you’ve studied military history or the works of western artists Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, you know that for thousands of years, horses were the military’s primary means of transportation and, in fact, were often the edge that enabled warriors to defeat their enemies. But you might not know that military mounts contributed to foundation stock-horse bloodlines, such as Doc Bar, Jesse James, Oklahoma Star, Joe Reed II, Skipper W and Sugar Bars, which contemporary ranchers and horsemen revere today. Throughout history, one problem persisted, though: How could armies produce steady supplies of resilient, steadfast mounts suitable for war?

Since its inception in 1775, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department has obtained and trained horses and mules for military use. In 1776, according to the Quartermaster Department, to perform his operations, the first Quartermaster General, Thomas Mifflin, requested “200 wagons with four horses each, 50 ox teams with two oxen each and 50 drays with one horse each, besides 100 strong horses for the artillery, and 50 for expresses and commissary.”

Mifflin’s request was honored, but finding the stock, equipment and feed to replenish the existing supply was a problem that plagued the Quartermaster Department.

Enter a group of resolute, forward-thinking military men who, at the turn of the 20th century, established the U.S. Army Remount Service. This revolutionary program increased the number of quality mounts available for the cavalry and civilians, and helped pave the way for present-day stock-horse sires and breed associations.

To provide an overview of the remount program, including its inception, ranching ties, demise and more, we sifted through WH archives and contacted Ed Roberts, retired executive secretary of the American Paint Horse Association and co-author of the book War Horse, a comprehensive chronicle of the remount program. We also asked a present-day rancher and breeder to share his recollections of the remount program and how it’s influenced his current saddle string.

Read the rest of this feature in the November 2004 issue of Western Horseman magazine. Subscribe by calling 800-877-5278, or click on the “subscribe” link at the top left of this page.

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