What is a knight without his destrier? From the stocky ponies that carried Khan to the world he would conquer, to the brave thoroughbreds that served and died in their millions in World War I, horses have long carried mankind in and out of battles. Some of them have become legends in their own right: names like Bucephalus, Copenhagen, and Babeica have rung down through history for centuries.
It’s commonly thought that the dynasty of the warhorse ended in the First World War, replaced by armoured tanks and battle planes that did not need to be fed and would not bleed or die. But there are many of us living in the twenty-first century who know otherwise.
The famous warhorses are all long gone, but the spirit of the destrier lives on. Occasionally one comes across a horse that has a little more fire, a little more determination, a little more courage. These seldom come clothed in shiny coats or great talent; often they are the scruffy underdogs of the equine world with crooked legs and Roman noses. But there is something in them that makes us stronger, and these have the power to change our lives.
You see, though few of us still lift guns or sabres, we all have battles in our lives. Life itself, on this Earth, is a war through which we strive, battered and bloodied, sometimes triumphant, sometimes retreating; we have glorious victories and ignominious retreats; we all have something to fight for, a banner that we rally around when we can see it through the smoke of the cannons. And often our greatest enemies are ourselves. But some of us – a privileged handful – have a powerful ally in the battles of life. A steadfast friend that has our back in the toughest fight. A reassuring curve of muscle in the circle of our arms when we feel most alone.
I don’t call my old, gold mare “charger” just for the sake of old times when we played at fairytales. For centuries, horses have borne mankind in and out of the fray. And today, in the dark wars of our souls, there are still valiant steeds that gallop into battle, bear us through the fight and, at last, bring us safely home.
Thank You God for the warhorses of today.