AN AMAZING FACT: Ten million soldiers died in World War I, along with eight million military horses.
Historians believe that horses have been used in warfare since as far back as 5,000 years ago. Along the way, their utility has increased with the creation of the saddle, stirrup, horse collar, harness, and chariot. Some were ridden in cavalry charges, while others merely pulled wagons or artillery.
World War I was a transition in the use of the horse. Because of the advancement of machine guns, they were used less and less on the battlefield, but they began to be used more for carrying messengers and pulling supply wagons and ambulances. They could often get through deep mud and over rough terrain better than motorized vehicles.
War is especially brutal on horses. They are struck by gunfire and are often left on the battlefield to die. During the American Civil War, injured horses were often used by soldiers to shield themselves from bullets as they advanced forward. Horses during World War I were worked till they dropped, and many were poisoned by gas. Horses are often the unsung heroes in war.
Today we mostly see warhorses in reenactments of battle scenes or in parades. But even in biblical times, it was a great advantage to have horses as part of your armament. The Egyptians pursued the Israelites using horses and chariots at the time of the exodus. Solomon was known to have 4,000 horse stalls and 12,000 horsemen (2 Chronicles 9:25).
Even though having horses was thought to greatly increase your odds in warfare, Solomon tells us that without God on our side, it doesn’t matter how much military might we have. The Bible is filled with examples where God’s people went into the battle trusting the Lord and were victorious over larger forces that included horses and chariots. That’s why the weakest saint kneeling in a gutter is mightier than the proudest person riding on the tallest horse. The tipping point is whether you have the Lord’s power in your arsenal.
Solomon’s father wrote, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). And also, “A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength” (Psalm 33:17). Though we have a responsibility to prepare for battling the enemy, the ultimate deliverance comes only from the power of God.
Additional reading: Proverbs 21:16–31
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD. Proverbs 21:315