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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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Military Horses


PhilB

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Recent controversy on whipping racehorses makes me wonder what atitudes were in WW1 towards the use of the whip. I don`t recall seeing whips in the hands of cavalry troopers on the march - would they be used in a charge? I do recall seeing whips on drivers of horse transport but mainly longer whips, maybe for guidance. Cavalry officers would often carry whips rather than swagger sticks but were they for practical or decorative use? What was the army`s attitude to whips?

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I wondered if you are asking about just British cavalry? It was a standard piece of equipment for cossacks to carry a short whip, mainly for use in a full charge.

Regards...Andy

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Cavalry wouldn't have had a hand free for a riding crop - left to control the horse and right for lance/sword. Usually both hands needed for the reins when going across country.

RFA and RFA Drivers used a riding crop at times.

Depends on how the men and the horse were trained and how long they had worked together as much as anything else.

Apart from Jockeys using the whip to get a horse to keep going, it is also to keep them running straight.

Difference between a racecourse and a battlefield.

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Cavalry wouldn't have had a hand free for a riding crop - left to control the horse and right for lance/sword. Usually both hands needed for the reins when going across country.

RFA and RFA Drivers used a riding crop at times.

Depends on how the men and the horse were trained and how long they had worked together as much as anything else.

Apart from Jockeys using the whip to get a horse to keep going, it is also to keep them running straight.

Difference between a racecourse and a battlefield.

Cossacks used either a wrist-loop or shoulder strap so the whip could be released or grabbed as necessary, others also tended to stuff them down the side of their boot too but as stated before it was used for the intial spurring on (cossacks don't wear spurs by the way), also the sword was usually drawn after the charge was instigated so the free hand is there for the whip initially. Usual tactic was to spread formation at a canter, start the charge, use rifles at a distance, then shoulder & draw sabres on nearing the enemy. Same principal with lancing with it being held on a shoulder & foot loop until full charge enabled.

I've only ever needed one hand on the reins at full gallop cross country even when negotiating obstacles

regards....andy

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Hello Phil

Andy has put his finger on the essential point - jockeys need whips because (like Cossacks) they do not wear spurs. British cavalry troopers did, and they did not carry whips. Drivers of all kinds of British military carts and wagons carried whips, whether driving from the box or riding postillion. These whips were used for guidance purposes and not, in general, to inflict a stimulus.

Ron

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So, if a whip`s for guidance, how did the cavalryman manage without? Or is guidance only necessary for a team of horses?

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So, if a whip`s for guidance, how did the cavalryman manage without? Or is guidance only necessary for a team of horses?

The whip used by a cavalryman was really for 'gee'ing' the horse up into moving as you couldn't kick it on to a fast start without spurs (as in the term spurring someone on), once moving you would guide with your legs & reins.

Andy

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The whip used by a cavalryman was really for 'gee'ing' the horse up into moving as you couldn't kick it on to a fast start without spurs (as in the term spurring someone on), once moving you would guide with your legs & reins.

Andy

But British servicemen who rode or handled horses wore spurs. We often use that as an aid to identification.

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But British servicemen who rode or handled horses wore spurs. We often use that as an aid to identification.

I totally agree with you, just answering the whip question - either way, they would still use legs & reins to manouver the horse.

As you say, it's a good way to identify them, it's the little things that help. For example on Ebay you see tons of pictures of Russian infantry identified wrongly as Cossacks purely for the fact they are wearing a fur hat!

One thing most people don't know is that Cossacks wear their rifles slung over the right shoulder, it is the opposite for all the other branches of Russian cavalry :thumbsup:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Whips were issued in the cavalry to Other Ranks for 'walking out' (lots of studio photographs showing this) and in the school. However they would/are an hindrance when weapons come into the scenario so are not used in such situations.

Spurs are a poor indicator of someone being in the Cavalry as, before mechanisation even the catering corp were expected to be able to keep up with the army on horseback. This led to corps who never saw a horse sporting spurs.

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For example on Ebay you see tons of pictures of Russian infantry identified wrongly as Cossacks purely for the fact they are wearing a fur hat!

Hello Cossack Wolf

The order of battle for 1914 shows eighteen battalions of Kuban Cossack infantry - IIRC, six each of first, second and third line. They were based in the Caucasus.

Ron

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Hello Cossack Wolf

The order of battle for 1914 shows eighteen battalions of Kuban Cossack infantry - IIRC, six each of first, second and third line. They were based in the Caucasus.

Ron

Hi Ron,

Yes, it was an unusual thing that was brought in as normally all cossacks were mounted - these unmounted cossacks were called Plastuni & heralded back to a much earlier time when they were used as scouting parties that would sneak up on the enemies by crawling along the ground - Plast means earth :)

regards......Andy

Also, the Plastuni were identified by having crimson facings on their uniforms (shoulder-straps etc as opposed to the scarlet ones of the Kuban Cossack Cavalry).

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