21 Cavalry Photos You Have to See to Believe

It’s official: People in the cavalry were INSANE–and we’ve got proof. Check out this craziness….

At cavalry school, riders learned many important skills, like jumping while holding a lance overhead…


Look ma, no hands! A German cavalry officer in training, 1914. [warhorsegazette.blogspot.com]

…or jumping a four-foot fence with two horses and a loaded machine gun pack–that doesn’t seem unsafe AT ALL!


Capt. Joel L. Stokes with “Demon” and “Winnie Winkle” at Fort Knox in 1931. Stokes commanded the Kentucky Army National Guard’s Troop K, 123rd Cavalry Regiment. [kentuckyguard.wordpress.com]

Sometimes, if actual jumps weren’t available, the cavalry had to get creative.


“Hey Walt, betcha can’t jump that jeep!” Walter J. Schweitzer, Troop “C” 107th Cavalry NG, jumping his horse “Big Cain” over a jeep at Fort Ord, Calif., in 1942. [freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com]

3 115th Jumping a Jeep

Not to be one-upped… an officer of the 115th Cavalry jumping a Jeep. Courtesy Wyoming State Archives. [tamara-linse.blogspot.com]


This horse does NOT look happy to be jumping a picnic table–or maybe it has something to do with his rider? He might have to repeat a grade in Cavalry School. [prints.national-army-museum.ac.uk]


The original cross-country “table.” Fort Riley, Kansas. [Public Domain: Library of Congress]

Sometimes, they had to jump live humans…

Fort Sheridan Horse Show Stunt LCDM 92-24-255-1

Crotchbuster! A horse-show stunt exhibition at the U.S. Army post Fort Sheridan in 1930. [lakecountyhistory.blogspot.com]

Fort Sheridan Horse Show Stunt_LCDM 92-24-1175

Another bad idea being brought to life at Fort Sheridan, 6th Signal Corps, in 1930. [lakecountyhistory.blogspot.com]


Whiskey, the famed Army horse at Fort Snelling, in 1930. [jumpinghorse.blogfa.com]


Make it stop! Fort Sheridan, 1920. [idaillinois.org]

…Or even other horses!



In cavalry school when your instructor says “Jump,” you ask “How far down?” 


Every officer of the Italian Cavalry School in Pinerolo was required to go down “the descent of Mombrone” before they left the school. The 20-foot drop from the window of a ruined castle about three miles from Pinerolo was considered a test of nerve. [lrgaf.org]


More cliff-jump training. [Pinterest]


These guys are just jumping off a house, no big. From “Riding Forward: Modern Horsemanship for Beginners” written in 1934 by Vladimir Littauer, Captain, 1st Hussars, Russian Imperial Cavalry. [imh.org]

You also had to learn to ride while standing up, a skill important for photo ops…


Fort Myer, Virginia, circa 1914. Cpl. Coffey, C Troop. [Shorpy.com]

 …Dramatic entrances…

Fort Sheridan Cavalry_LCDM 92-24-1187

The 14th Cavalry entering U.S. Army post Fort Sheridan’s parade grounds in1925. Ekmark photograph.[lakecountyhistory.blogspot.com]

 …And pulverizing the enemy.


German cavalry firing from the standing saddle position, 1935. [photosofwar.net]

If you had the honor of being sent to represent your country in competition, well, good luck with that! 


Are they seriously supposed to jump that whole thing? [needasweetdistraction.tumblr.com]


And who can forget Chilean army officer Captain Alberto Larraguibel, who guided his stallion Huaso over an 8’1″ jump in 1949, setting a world high jump record that still stands today. [horsenation.com]

Forget blue ribbons–just try not to die.


The winner of the silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Captain Thomson (U.S.A.) on “Jenny Camp”, takes the 35th obstacle during the cross-country competition. Out of 50 entries, 27 horses completed the course, three were fatally injured, and two horses were unable to finish on account of lameness. [fotosochi.ru]

All things considered, though, it could be worse. You could be in the camel cavalry–imagine trying to steer one of those things around a battlefield! No thanks.


The Imperial Camel Corp Brigade was a camel-mounted infantry brigade that the British Empire raised in 1916 during the World War I for service in the Middle East. [wikipedia.org]

In honor of all those cavalrymen who served their country honorably and left the world a better place, GO RIDING.

Leave a Comment


62 thoughts on “21 Cavalry Photos You Have to See to Believe

  1. Awesome, awesome, awesome photos. And they do support the notion that eventing is supposed to mimic what those crazy b*stards used to do in the cavalry. Thanks for the awesome photos.

  2. wylie says:

    I had a blast compiling them!! Thanks for reading:)

  3. Bill Smirnow says:

    Are you the Sally Eckhoff that graduated Cold Spring Harbor High School circa 1973?

  4. Yes, I am! Former eventer (may pick it up again if horse can stand it), forever saddle tramp. I ride a little Morgan/Paint cross that jumps picnic tables with benches.

  5. californianinkansas says:

    I love these! The 6th photo (of the horse jumping over a fully-set dining table) was taken at Fort Riley, Kansas.

  6. wylie says:

    Ah, thanks! I added it in!

  7. Louise Armstrong says:

    Wow just wow just unreal jump on the roof of the house and jump off OMG…. down a 20 foot cliff good lord

  8. wylie says:

    I would LOVE to know what the story is behind the roof-jumping photo!

  9. Eileen says:

    There is a gentleman on Facebook who is *extremely* knowledgable in the field of calvary, and specifically the Hungarian calvary and Riding School. He’s posted that image before, with indepth information. Give me a shout if you would like to contact him.

  10. Love these! And some of the captions are hilarious, too. Makes me proud knowing my great grandfather broke horses for the Cavalry.

  11. wylie says:

    So, being an equestrian must be in your genes!

  12. robert says:

    Working with and teaching a horse is more appropriate than “Breaking” a horse. With my experience with horses (twenty years) it was building a relationship of trust and respect.

  13. Jenny says:

    These are awesome! What brave horses!! My grandfather raised Arabians and thought they were the ideal horse for the Cavalry. He even wrote a book about it… Of course, Arabs in the early 1900’s were much different from today’s, but still!!!!

  14. wylie says:

    A book?!? What is it? I think this stuff is fascinating–I’d love to read it!!

  15. jeri says:

    The Hungarians also thought Arabians would make good Cavalry mounts. So they imported some desertbred Arabian stallions, and developed a breed called the Shagya Arabian. As some of these pictures are of European horse/rider pairs, it’s entirely possible that one of the horses is a Shagya. They are brave and self-confident enough to do those things.

  16. Anisah says:

    In the Aramco Magazine there is a well researched article on the Arabian Horse’s impact on the European military. I can’t remember if it was just about them or about Arabians in Western history or what. I just remember we were amazed at the wonderful history and how many including the Polish Calvary sought Arabians to improve their lines. I think if you contacted Aramco Magazine, they’d send a copy of that issue. They give out the magazine for free to those interested. Might even be able to just ask for “every issue” regarding horses and get a Treasure trove of material sent to you

  17. Evelyn says:

    Enter the Warmblood!

  18. Kate says:

    While these photos are breathtaking, I also must add that we 21st century riders take many more precautions to keep both ourselves AND our mounts safe. For example, in the 1936 Olympics 3 horses were fatally injured and 2 went lame. We simply don’t incur that kind of harm on our horses anymore and for that I am thankful. My horses are my teammates; it is their responsibility to navigate a course safely and my responsible to protect them from undue danger.

  19. Ricky Rogers says:

    NO these days we are more kinder we just open up horse slaughter houses

  20. wylie says:

    Absolutely–safety has come SUCH a long way. I mean, they weren’t even wearing helmets! Geez.

  21. Anisah says:

    My dad served in WWII and initially they placed him in the barns to handle the horses, but he managed to get himself reassigned. Katie, my dad wasn’t ignorant of the needs of the horses. He and his generation LOVED their horses. My grandfathers loved their horses too! They weren’t toys or play things or Tools. They were like pets who those men worked with each day to make a living. You assume far too much about the care or lack there of. Horses still get injured in Stupid sporting events that the horse is only in because a human ego demands it. So plz don’t assume MODERN day riders are more responsible. SCIENCE has come a long way in noticing hairline fractures & the like because MEN and WOMEN of previous generations pushed to have better care available to their prized animals.

  22. kristina says:

    I was thinking the same thing!!! So very gkad you posted that.

  23. Kate says:

    Correction: *responsibility*

  24. MaryLou says:

    There’s always a ‘Kate’ around to make sure no one has any fun, even vicariously. Then was then and now is now. We got it, Mum.

    That duly noted, these men were phenominol riders who laid the foundation for everything we do today. We owe them a debt we can never repay. And they deserve our respect. Thank you for this great tribute to them.

  25. MaryLou says:

    *phenomenal :)

  26. karen says:

    how many of the horses suffered broken legs from these stunts??

  27. susan says:

    quite a few Karen…these animals were in training to carry their riders into battle…not a sporting event. They had to jump over mine fields, trenches and tanks to get their riders thru. Most mounts never made it home alive. They were blown up by bombs or shot by the enemy of the rider.

  28. MaryLou says:

    BTW, a horse was killed in the last Grand National and I’m sure I could turn up some recent e enters. I’m as interested in keeping our horses safe and sound as anyone. But let’s not act so superior.

  29. Mary Tobey says:

    My 2nd instructor Captain Franks put his advanced riders through something similar. No houses. I am sure that if he had known a home owner crazy enough to allow it he would have given it a shot. On that water jump, you are expected to get over the turf and if you land in the water scramble out as best you can. No falling off no whimping out. And yes, when he thought we were ready we had to jump over a person. (Him). He would go out in the forest preserve after storms and have the clean up crew drag suitable logs, branches and all into various places across the side trails and take us out and over with only a “Watch for new jumps” to give us a heads up that something had been added. Of course those of us who knew him expected it after any major storms.! It gave me the confidence to face many obstacles in my life, most of the hardest off the trails and off any horse. You must remember that in an army the objective is to field the toughest soldiers and horses to win the fight. It is a sad fact now as it was then that a times people die in training exercises . But the tougher you are going into the battle, better trained you are, the better your chance of not only surviving but winning in the shortest time with the fewest casualties. That is the goal of all military training. Just be happy that horses have been replaced and God willing some day war will be gone forever also. ! Please when you look at the past remember the context as well as the years. And yes I have jumped picnic tables, a cot with flapping blankets, upside down canoes and other things as well in horse shows. They called them obstacle classes and they were great fun to enter and to ride in.

  30. Mary Tobey says:

    A few died in the ‘goodwill’ games because of a very difficult jump easily as tough as one of these. Anne Windsor, the Princess Royal sister of HRH Prince Charles made it over that one. She fell further on, NOT OFF her horse as some reported but WITH her horse. Guts and horses run in the Windsor blood.!

  31. Mary Tobey says:

    The ‘Good Will’ games were in the USSR. Ancient history to some of you.

  32. Mary Tobey says:

    I do not have any pictures of an obstacle class. My Mother had her eyes covered every time I entered one.!

  33. wylie says:

    All interesting stuff–I’m not familiar with the Goodwill Games; I’ll have to look it up. I admire tough-as-nails riders and it sounds like you are one:)

  34. eventer79 says:

    Wow! I recently did a clinic with a retired Irish cavalry officer and international eventer. I would love to have the opportunity to talk “shop” with him about this stuff. What an incredible experience (you know, if you lived).

  35. RJade says:

    I don’t want to sound like a grinch, but these photos almost sicken me. I feel it’s like looking at animal abuse. The movie “War Horse” was bad enough, and it was just Hollywood. But these photos show just how cruelly we can treat these sentient animals.

  36. Carol Derks says:

    Looking at these it should be obvious that lives of the riders depended on these horses haveing experienced and coped with these trials to be deemed “suitable” for the cavalry who risked their lives to give us the current lives we enjoy. In those times it was life of death of the human race at stake. My own Great Grandfather broke in everything for miles around when in residence at the Coast Hopital for around 50 years.. He was ex British Cavalry, he bred & (Prince Henry Hospital – now re-located), broke in all the ambulance horses and Cavalry / Harness and the re-mounts were stationed there during the first world war. I’t no wonder my Grandmother said ” He was in the saddle all day, you didn’t know where the man ended and the horse began!”

  37. Thank you, Carol, for this excellent post. The pictures prove that war is demanding, and the creative and athletic efforts of horses and humans blended to keep us safe to ride on Sunday, as I am about to do. Blessings.

  38. Lori says:

    All I can say is Wow! What heart! I have great respect for the horses and their riders. If you want to talk about “partnership” this is the REAL $h!t ! These horses trusted their riders enough to take on anything in front of them, and the riders trusted their horses to give them everything the horse had. I have great admiration for these “teams” and a bit of jealousy. I have a mare that will take on almost everything. It is a fantastic feeling to have a horse like that. I understand what my instructor is saying now when he says I have a “war horse”! To those naysayers and “horse lovers” I say this: When was the last time you approached something you were not sure of, and your horse said to you “we can do it” and together, you did? Quit whining about the “inhumane” and appreciate and respect the athleticism and heart. “War” horses are rare, and warriors too, most don’t have the “heart”. Thank you Mary Tobey for sharing your story with us. It is awesome and I have the utmost respect and admiration for you and the horses you have ridden.

  39. Horsing says:

    How many horses were injured or died doing these things humans wanted to do?

  40. susan says:

    100% of horses die because of something a human has done or will do….

  41. C. Hill says:

    Good pictures and tales.My father joined the British Cavalry in 1926 and remained until he went into the tanks at the start of WW2.He told me so many things that they did with the horses,i wasn`t always sure if he meant it,but after seeing these pictures i know he was right.I`m proud to say that my own son is also in the Household Cavalry.how that would have pleased my father.Good luck to all riders and horses.

  42. Patti says:

    My first horse and I jumped picnic tables, (with my friends eating), we jumped a small convertible , and I used to get him cantering in a circle,(15 or 20 m.) then stand up on him while he was cantering. He was a great horse!! We were undefeated in Jumping Classes.

  43. terri says:

    unreal.i cant belive how smart horses can be.

  44. Peter Shepherd says:

    Great photos, but does not show all the riding skills performed by he Household Cavalry, such as jumping over a series of jumps while removing ones tunic and replacing it, vaulting on and off at the gallop, doing head stands, helmets were not worn, I personally do not see the need of them. I am a former member of the Household Cavalry, The Life Guards Regt.

  45. Don says:

    And to think that everybody called us helicopter pilots in the CAV crazy. Now I know that it was hereditary. Doing whatever necessary to get the job done. Scout Out!

  46. Mary says:

    Wow awesome, crazy, but great

  47. Cindy Crank says:

    The guy jumping the white horse who looks so unhappy is using the old fashioned way of jumping before Federico Caprilli got the forward seat sorted out. My article explains the history behind the Caprilli revolution and why we can all thank him today for it!

  48. Cora says:

    The next time you are training to go to war on a horse, or the next time you have to escape from enemy territory with bullets rushing by and canons firing from afar. The next time you think there may be a possibility that you and your horse may need to be so well prepared to take on anything that can be thought of….. THEN, and only then, do you get to post about how cruel you think these pictures are. Personally, I would not want to go to war with anything but the heart and soul of the horses in these pictures….. Would you? I’ll be willing to bet, that you naysayers, negative commenter’s are also not military of any kind. Would you send your kids to battle on backyard horses that shy at the slightest line on the ground…. or with the horse that is going to scale anything thrown before them to get themselves and their beloved rider out of harms way? Good grief, people! These guys weren’t training for play! Good on ya, gentlemen! Brave and noble horses, I salute you!

  49. Matt Paine says:

    Fantastic Pics! pity you didn’t have any of the Australian Lighthorse in WW1. They did a full cavalry charge against the turks at Beersheba. at the end of the war, none of the horses could be brought back to Australia, and were left overseas

  50. Erika H Gilson says:

    My father was a German cavalry officer serving the Ottoman forces, on camelback, in Beersheba. When WWII came around, he was again called up and served – on horse back – in different European theaters. Never talked about the wars to his little kiddies, to my regret!

  51. These photos, and of course the clever captions, really elevated my absolute awe of these wonderful and powerful animals. I can’t imagine how a rider (and I’m some cases I’d call them pilots..) Withstood the momumental impact of landing and remaining seated. Just marvelous!!! Plus the trust the horse must have had to follow the orders of a obviously totally nods one rider… Such skill is I’m certain is beyond my abilities. Thank you for sharing these riviting photos…

  52. jo anderson says:

    bold, brave and trusting horses. bold brave and trusting riders. and it wasn’t the horses or the riders who started the conflicts; they were just the ones that got sent out to secure our freedoms. and look at those positions of the riders (grey jumping picnic table excepted). in the middle of those impossible jumps they sit there quietly keeping out of their horses’ way. no wonder their horses trusted them. modern riders could take a look at them and learn.

  53. Dale Jones says:

    The jumping off a house photo is actually a glorified drop. The windows and doors are painted on.
    Still, wouldnt catch me doing it!

  54. josie says:

    Comments. Sadly there are those who have not grasped the situation. These men were not at play, they were working hard to get in form to fight a war for our freedom and life today. To those who have made silly comments against these pictures please please think before you write. Look again at these strong wonderful horses and their riders. Do you RELLY think they would be doing this for fun. Yes I know we have our competitions today and before you go on about horses in competition today getting killed over fences etc far more horses and ponies die on the roads when a stupid ignorant driver rams his car around a corner and up the rear end of a horse and rider killing the animal and sometimes the rider. Horses also get broken legs etc and have to be put down simply when running around in a field ‘having fun’ Today accidents still happen but those men in the photos were training for combat. sorry I could go on……

  55. carole says:

    they were all true heroes

  56. tina says:

    These are amazing, love finding old video footage of the training exercises too. They trained hard and their animals were tough and look bred to be tough, I almost wish I was riding back then instead of now because it looks like they were having a lot more fun. Who wouldn’t want to jump a dining room table? And they have plenty of clearance over most of these props too, look what they were all capable of!

  57. Lisa says:

    I had a Pinto mare in the 80’s when I was in high school (back when both of us were invincible) that was an absolute fearless jumper. She would go wherever I pointed her and one of our summer fun pastimes was running and jumping off the riverbank in a place where it was a straight down drop of somewhere between 15-20′ depending on water level. She would launch out and land belly flop in the river like a water dog. We also lived close to a rock quarry and would ride to the top of those massive 100′ tall piles of fine gravel and slide down “Man From Snowy River” style. Oh I miss those days…

  58. patty says:


  59. Let’s not forget – often the Cav deployed sans horses, and had to quickly train locally acquired mounts. The 5th US Cavalry left their stock in San Francisco in their rush to the Philippines in 1898, yet had a full complement of horses purchased and trained within just a few months. Later, they were fighting dismounted due to terrain, but the horses were available when they were needed.
    Another point – we are still fighting mounted in Afghanistan. Several US actions by Rangers and Special Forces have utilized horses and mules to get from point A to point B, and then to prosecute the battle, if need be. I also used horses and mules in Central America during the ’80s, and found them more loyal and trustworthy than some of our “allies.” It helped that my father was Cavalry (124th Regt) in the ’30s, so I could still tie a diamond hitch over a load atop a Shaw pack saddle. And, no, we weren’t wearing helmets.

  60. Keith Herrin says:

    Amazing pictures! We are training veterans, western/military/custer fans for military riding of the 1876. We use Cooke’s Cavalry Manual to improve all levels of horsemanship. From beginners to experienced; we find ourselves traversing coulees and mountainsides, crossing rivers, riding in parades with Crow natives, chasing down semi wild indian ponies, engaging in tactics and finally in 3 days of Custer’s Last Stand/Little Bighorn Battlefield. Graduates are even more impressed in what they learn, when we tell them many horse owners have never crossed a river on a horse and you’ve been doing all week!!! Hokey Hey! Garryowen !

  61. Keith Herrin says:

    Check out: http://www.uscavalryschool.com for the best horse adventure around!!!

  62. Jayne Wilson says:

    Great photos! Many years ago I took riding lessons from an ex cavalry officer. He used to enjoy throwing little things into our lessons like jumping through a grid with no reins or stirrups and used to entertain us with stories of the things the young cavalry officers had to to.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *