The horses used by the Light Dragoons were typically medium sized or small by today’s standards ( 15 hands or less) and about 1000 lbs. Some effort was made to use only dark colored horses for the troopers, but when remounts were scarce, bays, chestnuts, and gray, horses were better than no horse at all.
As part of a large body of cavalry, a horse in good condition could cover 20-25 miles per day carrying 250 lbs (or more) of rider and equipment. A distance of 40-45 miles a day would constitute a forced march. The smaller the body of cavalry involved, the quicker the rate of march could be. Whatever distance had to be covered, cavalry had to be prepared to go into action at once and deliver a charge. The charge might then be followed by an even faster pursuit of the retreating enemy. Cavalry regiments were often supported by a baggage train-horse or ox drawn wagons that carried supplies. However, part of the usefulness of cavalry lay in its ability to act independently of the slower components of the army. Therefore, dragoons were also issued other equipment, including a feed bag, saddle bags, canteen, blanket roll, & picket line, which enabled them to be relatively self-sufficient. The dragoon horse might easily carry more than 250 pounds in rider and equipment.In the 18th century, the horses of the 17th LD were property of the Crown. Each dragoon was issued a horse along with the other accoutrements of the regiment. Officers were expected to provide their own horses and saddler. As re-enactors, each dragoon in the 17th provides their own horse, but aside from that we strive to maintain accuracy without sacrificing safety and humane treatment. With few exceptions, the horses used in our regiment are appropriate in type, color, size and temperament for their roles in the re-creation of 18th century cavalry. Our horses vary in breed from Quarterhorses, Morgans, Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and warmbloods
Warfare is not kind to people…or horses. Before they even got to the battlefield, many horses were lost to injuries and diseases. It has been estimated that only a third of the horses sent as remounts from England survived the long sea journey to America. When it comes to actual fighting, horses instinctively fear things like loud noises, confusion, smoke, crowds of people rushing around, flapping flags, not to mention blood, that are regularly encountered in battle. The fact that horses can be used in warfare at all testifies to the trust that can develop between a horse and its rider.
At a modern reenactment there is no live ammunition, but there are gun shots, cannons, black powder smoke, flapping flags, and crowds of people. The horses who help us recreate the 17th LD have to learn to tolerate all of that. Part of the fun of our recreation is learning how to work with our horses, much as the original 17th Light Dragoons would have done.