Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

For the improvement of the breed of horse: Thoroughbred racing and national security in the age of horsepower, 1776-1945
by Redkey, Elizabeth, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2014, 366; 3620628
Abstract (Summary)

From Biblical times through the mid-twentieth century, humans relied on horses as a critical vehicle of war. But horses, unlike modern machines, could not simply be manufactured to the necessary specifications, in the necessary numbers, at the necessary times. In addition, cavalry warfare was the most physically demanding of all tasks to which humans have put horses, and required horses of exceptional endurance and athletic ability. Creating a pool of such horses to be drawn from in times of military need took careful breeding and planning. But the United States, with its fear of a standing military, and its decentralized government structure, did not have the political will or ability to create a military horse breeding program, while most European powers did. Instead, for its horse supply, the United States relied on the one group of horsemen in the nation who had systematized programs to breed uniformly superb horses with the ability to pass their best qualities on to their offspring, even when crossed with horses of different breeding. These were the thoroughbred racing men who performance tested their bloodstock and bred for generations for uniform, measurable qualities, and whose animals the common American horse owner sought out to improve his own workaday stock. This work argues that the demands on a cavalry mount were more than the average horse could withstand, and that for the United States to succeed militarily without its own central breeding program, it needed thoroughbred breeders to provide horses capable of meeting those demands. It also traces the government's response to the decline of usable thoroughbred stock after the Civil War decimated the nation's saddle horse population, and as political reformers attacked thoroughbred racing, and therefore the nation's ability to replenish that stock. Faced with a critical shortage of suitable cavalry mounts at the onset of World War I, military and civilian horsemen were finally able to create a path through the decentralized structure of the government, via the Department of Agriculture, to create a thoroughbred-based breeding program for the Army that rapidly began to produce some of the best equine athletes in the world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hamm, Richard F.
Commitee: MurrellTaylor, Amy, Zahavi, Gerald
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history
Keywords: Breeding, Cavalry, Horsepower, Racing, Remount, Thoroughbred
Publication Number: 3620628
ISBN: 978-1-303-91176-7
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