Booktalking "The Perfect Horse: the Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped During World War II" by Elizabeth Letts

Hitler stole more than 17 million lives, including 6 million Jewish lives. 

He confiscated the mental health of many survivors, and many years of people's lives wondering and worrying about the war.

Adolf Hitler also kidnapped horses. 

Alois Podhajsky, director, rider and riding instructor from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, devoted himself to saving the precious Lipizzaner and Arabian horses that were taken from Austria and shipped off to Czechoslovakia. Numerous military officials, such as Colonel Hank Reed, spent much time trying to save these horses. The equines were moved from farm to farm to attempt to escape the dangers of war. Their handlers did not want the hungry Russian troops to eat the horses, have them shot or otherwise destroyed by war, or simply frightened into dangerous situations or starved to death due to lack of resources. Food was scarce for both humans and equines; grain and hay was rationed. 

Lipizzaners are a rare and fantastic breed, and people did not want this treasure to be lost and the art of dressage to die out. The horses execute high-level dressage movements, which is a delicate dance between horse and rider. All of these moves occur naturally in the wild during play, sex or fighting. Sometimes performed to music, dressage requires the horse to execute physically difficult maneuvers that are subtly cued by the rider. Examples include a piaffe, is a trot in place, and a passage, an extended trot with a distinct pause midair, in which the horse appears to "float." Other moves are pirouettes, hand gallops and leg yields. Airs about ground are courbettes and caprioles.  

The horses were moved from place to place, sometimes by walking them and sometimes by truck. The treks were exhausting for the equines, and many died during the arduous journeys. In some cases, moving the horses was impossible, and the troops simply attempted to protect the horses where they were. Broodmares ready to drop foals and young colts and fillies could not make the journey on foot. Thankfully, the determination of the American military force allowed some of these precious, sweet, and well-trained animals to be preserved. The high-level art of dressage could live on.

The Perfect Horse: the Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped During World War II by Elizabeth Letts, 2019

 

This was a tragic story of the incredible toll that WWII took on non-human animals as well as humans. The suffering that the entire world endured in the early 1940s makes the obstacles that we face today pale in comparison. I have seen the performance of these magnificent creatures live, and it was an awesome sight to behold.

 

Books about Lipizzaners

Spanish Riding School