The War horses

The vast majority of horses in the European conflicts of WWI and WWII were not European, they were American.

The war quickly used up the supply of European horses. US contracts were made to supply American and Allied forces. The horses in the area now known as the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was one of the most well documented areas where “war horses” were taken from to serve in the conflicts.

It is estimated every day and half, a shipment of 500 American horses left to supply American and allied troops during World War I.  It is estimated that nearly eight million horses died in World War I alone.

The United States government released domestic horses into the Sheldon herds to influence the predominantly Standardbred bloodlines. Thoroughbred racing studs, many with impressive pedigrees, and draft breeds were released onto the range to create a bigger, faster “war horse.”

The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect wild horses on federal land was signed into law. However the United States Fish and Wildlife Service felt the Sheldon herds were exempt from these protections and a majority of the remnants of those “war horses” were shipped off to slaughter.  


By 2014, the remaining Sheldon horses were “zeroed out” and the historic three herds of Sheldon are no more.   A rare few of the Sheldon War Horses were relocated to various private sanctuaries.

The beautiful War Horses, named Warrior, Lieutenant, Sarge and Chief are now living in a world filled with peace and love at Nature's Gate Farm in Stillwater.  

Their lives have been filled with failed promises, one after another, as people who have been responsible for their care and well-being have abandoned and neglected them.  Until now.  They are ours and we are theirs.

There are no words to describe the feeling of taking responsibility, for doing the right thing, for joining up with this whole community who has decided that we will not let them fail.  Or maybe there is a word for it…love.

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This Old Horse logo designed by Sue Shadow.  Principle photography on this site is by Toni Thomas.   Additional photography by Ronnie Hartman Images.