Arabians in the U.S. Army

Arabians in the U.S. Army? You bet!

Early in the history of the Arabian horse in America, directors of the Arabian Horse Registry were sure that the best way to promote the Arabian Horse in the United States was to get the Army interested in using and breeding Arabians. They spent a lot of time, money, and energy proving to cavalry majors that Arabians made the best cavalry horses.

In 1919, W.R. Brown, then President of the Arabian Horse Registry, organized the first Cavalry Endurance Ride. The U.S. Remount Service had just been established by the government and there were only 362 registered Arabian horses in the country. It was a prime time to convince the government to breed Arabians. With so few Arabian horses, it was no easy task to find enough to adequately represent the breed in the endurance ride. However, the Arabs made a superior showing taking most of the prizes including first. Mr. Brown won first place on his purebred Arabian mare RAMLA #347. RAMLA carried 200 pounds on the ride

The second Cavalry Endurance Ride was held in 1920. The U.S. Remount Service, representing the Army, became much more involved in the ride this year. The Army wanted to increase the weight carried to 245 pounds and the Arabian owners agreed. The horses traveled sixty miles a day for five days with a minimum time of nine hours each day. The highest average points of any breed entered went to Arabians, although a grade Thoroughbred entered by the Army won first.

According to Albert Harris (Arabian Horse Registry Director 1924-1949), the (Thoroughbred) Jockey Club gave the Army $50,000 in 1921 to purchase the best Thoroughbreds they could find for that year’s endurance ride. Mr. Harris wrote: “With two endurance rides to the credit of Arabian horses in 1919 and 1920, the U.S. Remount, and incidentally the Jockey Club, felt something had to be done to beat these little horses in the next ride…” The Army selected all Thoroughbreds or grade Thoroughbreds which were all ridden by Cavalry majors. The Army also wanted to lower the weight carried to 200 pounds, but the Arabian people, having proved their horses at 245 pounds, objected. A compromise was reached at 225.

In spite of the Army’s efforts, the first prize in the 1921 Cavalry Endurance Ride went to W.R. Brown’s purebred Arabian gelding *CRABBET #309. Mr. Brown won the trophy once again in 1923 with his Anglo-Arab gelding GOUYA.

Having won the race three times on his Arabians, Mr. Brown gained permanent possession of the U.S. Mounted Service Cup. Albert Harris wrote in his history of the Arabian Horse Registry that after 1923, the Arabian people decided not to enter their horses in the ride. This was done “so that the Army would have a chance of winning the cup the next time.”

There was one exception. EL SABOK #276, an Arabian stallion owned by the U.S. Remount, finished first in 1925. He was not given the trophy because of a small welt raised under the cantle of his saddle. However, the U.S. Department of Animal Husbandry noted that of all stallions of various breeds entered in all of the rides, EL SABOK was the first and only one to finish a ride.

By this time the Army was convinced that Arabian horses had tremendous endurance ability and should be used to develop a supply of saddle horses that could be called to service if needed. Unfortunately, Arabians were scarce and difficult to obtain at that time. The Army breeding program was given a big boost in 1941 when the Arabian Horse Registry directors decided to donate the nucleus of an Arabian stud to the U.S. Remount. Each director and Mr. W.K. Kellogg (of the Kellogg cereal company) personally donated one or more horses. A total of one stallion seven broodmares (six in foal), one suckling filly, and three two-year-old fillies were placed at the Fort Robinson Remount Depot in Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

By 1943, the Army owned more Arabian horses than any other breed except Thoroughbreds. While Thoroughbreds were relatively easy to obtain because of the racing market, there were only 2,621 registered Arabians in the United States at that time!

That same year, Mr. W.K. Kellogg, a Registry Director from 1927 to 1940, and Albert Harris, helped the U.S. Remount Service to gain possession of Mr. Kellogg’s Arabian stud in Pomona, California. Mr. Kellogg had originally given the stud to the state of California, but during World War II the Remount Service wanted it and they got it (including 97 purebred Arabians).

Only a few years later the Army decided to dispose of all its horse operations to the highest bidder. Mr. Kellogg, with much public support, arranged to have the ranch given to California Polytechnic College which continues to maintain an Arabian breeding program today.