View Full Version : an old warhorse

03-29-2015, 11:34 PM
So my gilded age WIP needs a horse as a clue/supporting character. He is being used to transport a wagonload of explosives. I am thinking he may have been an artillery horse during the American Civil War (9 years prior to the story). I need him to have sustained some battle damage but not enough to have been put down and to still be sound though not valuable. I am envisioning a big roan gelding (quarter horse or maybe a hunter-type draft cross?) who is missing part of an ear (so already pretty distinctive) but need to give him a few more scars and such. Also he needs believable behavior - would it make sense for him to be eating calmly in his stall next to a dead body?

03-30-2015, 12:01 AM
A gelding that's over 9 years old is unlikely to be valuable even if he's well-behaved and undamaged. But if he was an artillery horse, maybe he's deaf from all the noise.

03-30-2015, 05:13 AM
Even if he was deaf, that doesn't address the issue of the dead body. I think that a horse that had been exposed to battle would also have been exposed to the smells involved with dead bodies. IMO, I think he wouldn't care.

But I'm no horse expert, so maybe one of the folks who are will chime in.


03-30-2015, 06:11 AM
Be careful on your choice of explosives. Nitroglycerin had a bad habit of exploding during transport. Black powder would be what would be transported.

A wagon with a single horse wasn't able to pull much weight and would be for a very short distance.

If he was in a war, he'd be at least three years old and more likely four or five at a minimum. That would make him 12 at the time of your story, which depending upon how he'd be used would be anywhere from fairly young to very old.

Battle damage would have to be just some minimal cuts as horses that were injured were put down (shoot). Dealing with the injured humans overwhelmed the system and there wasn't much they could do for the horses. Horses can have hearing loss from loud noises, but this may not be very obvious. Blind in one or both eyes would be more serious.

Dead bodies don't bother horses that much. The only dead animal my horse won't approach is a dead skunk. (We have agreement on this policy.) But usually when we find something dead in the woods, he'll be a bit curious. Horses also will carry dead animals out for hunters. Unless the body was so ripe as to annoy everybody around, I doubt a horse would care, beyond maybe some initial hesitancy.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

04-01-2015, 10:56 PM
My grandfather once told me that in the late 20s he'd worked with a cart horse that had a big hole in the bridge of its nose. The horse had been in World War One and had been hit by shrapnel. Apparently the horse was fine, except that on cold mornings it got balky unless you tied a handkerchief over the hole to keep the freezing air from going straight up its nose.