Today is Beersheba Day. Below is an excerpt from my book about an historical event that gives the day its name. The fact that it's also celebrated as Halloween just helps us to remember.
'It’s team work that makes the dream work. To operate truly as a supreme team, the individual members must care as much about each other’s success as they do about their own. In a team of two, horse and horseman, the leader who is effective in communicating not only direction but a sense of purpose and a clear end goal with tact and empathy can inspire remarkable respect, loyalty and co-operation in a horse.
Consider, for instance, the Walers of the Australian Light Horse who carried their riders on a charge into Beersheba on 31 October 1917.
It was the first cavalry charge in Australian history and the conditions were horrendous. This is how Melbourne writer Frank Dalby Davison described it in his 1933 prose epic, ‘The Wells of Beersheba’.
“Under the saddles there was a world of courage. At that hour, on the plain and in the distant hills, three columns of horses were moving out from camp. The weight of man and gear rested on backs still tender from carrying their burden through the previous night’s march. Twelve extra pounds of rations and corn weighted them down tonight. (They knew the difference!) When the column moved it might be going three miles or thirty, for all the horses knew. Feed, water and rest might be waiting for them at the end – or might not. They had a double hazard to carry as well as a burden. Sustained by comradeship between horse and horse, and by a strange trusting comradeship with the men they carried, they set themselves to the unknown.
… A wave of subtle excitement swept through the mounted ranks and communicated itself to the beasts they rode. Saddle-worn, parched and overloaded, the horses knew by the alert bearing of their riders that unaccustomed action was at hand. Weight might have fallen from their burdened bodies. They tossed their heads and fidgeted nervously from hoof to hoof as if fresh from their home paddocks.
… The pace quickened as horse laboured with horse to gain the lead, and horse laboured to keep stride by stride with his neighbour. Nostrils reddened, eyes widened, jaws gaped, and tossing heads flung spume to the air. Not one of the horses, alone, could have stood the pace and the weight for half the distance; but each, like his rider, was possessed of something beyond himself.”'
From a very early age I have been able to tune in to what horses and ponies were thinking and what they were likely to do next.