I found this picture whilst delving into history. Most particularly I was looking into a part of the history of Eastern Europe where I used to live. One superficial thing that struck me about this picture is the way in which folded blankets are used between horses and saddles, just as I did at my riding centre and still do today. There is a lot to be said for a good army blanket. But that is by far the least important thing to draw from the picture.
A former neighbour told me a little about cavalry engagements during the Second World War, in his case fighting with the Romanian army supporting the Wehrmacht against the Soviet Union. The Eastern Front was a callous brutal business from which few men or horses returned. The Romanian army, so I was told, was so short of resources that the men of his unit needed to provide their own horses. My cavalry veteran informant got as far as the River Don by Summer 1942, over half way from his European home to the Caspian Sea deep in Asia. There at the Don Elbow he was injured sufficiently severely to be invalided out of the army. And that is why he lived. His fellows went on to Stalingrad, from which few returned.
Supposedly a book was written about the Romanian cavalry on the Eastern front, titled (I believe) Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I haven't succeeded in getting hold of a copy.
Most of my trail rides carried me across relics of that war. There were shell craters on the mountains, defensive trenches decaying on high ground, bunkers crumbling in the forest, and the wreckage of bridges blown up in 1944. There were more sights than memories, at least more physical remains than stories that anyone wanted to own up to. From 1945 to 1989 those stories were taboo, and by then much had been forgotten. But one thing was clear enough: there was no glory in any of it. There was none of the swank of Western peacetime cavalry in an aggressive invasion. The stories that I heard were, for the most part, the tales of men who rode out to settle scores both national and ethnic. The accounts of bored, frustrated men seeking adventure. In doing so they brought new defeat upon their people, though that wasn't the way their path seemed to lead in the beginning.
I am sorry for them, deluded as they were (and some still are, to judge by things that were said to me - which is one reason why for a while I fell a little out of sympathy with Romania). However I am more sorry for the horses that those men dragged into that bloody conflict. They at least were innocent.