Horses

Following the French Revolution the Royal stud in France was in a dreadful state. What had not been destroyed had been neglected and abandoned, and mounts for the cavalry could only be obtained from private contractors at exorbitant prices.

In 1806 the Emperor Napoleon re-established the national stud .In 1807 France purchased 17000 horses from the Rhineland. By 1811 the stables in France held 1356 stallions from which 60,000 mares were bornThe Imperial stables held 720 horses in 1810 and this had been increased to more than 800 two years later.

In 1812, 157,000 horses crossed the Niemen into Russia,107,000 of them were cavalry mounts for the 1812 campaign .Privation, fatigue as a result of long marches and the weather soon began to impact on the cavalry and by the end of the retreat less than 300 were left. This was a disaster for the cavalry who could not in the short term replace this catastrophic loss The effects of this also contribute to Napoleons difficulties in the 1813 campaign. However by August of that year the Army had amassed 149.000 horses of which 108,000 were saddle horses.

The Imperial Decree of 6th April creating the Polish Light-Horse stated that horses had to be between 4ft 6in and 4ft 9 in in height [Art5]

De Brack stated that the perfect light cavalry horse had the following characteristics “chiefly a short body, good chest, strong limbs and healthy hooves” He did not see that German horses were better than French ones commenting that the German horses… are perhaps more active and easier trained, but their limbs are not so good and they have less endurance and steadiness”

At first Polish horses went with the formed squadrons to France and these were later replaced by German and French mounts. Horses for the regiment were Arabs and were to cost no more than 400 francs each.

The regiments stables were at the barracks within the Palace of Chantilly which had been the home of the Equerry to the King of France before the Revolution. This magnificent complex could stable up to horses ..As well as purchasing horses from Dajon near Caen those unfit for further military service were sold here in public auctions by the regiment.

Prior to the Russian campaign of 1812 squadrons were distinguished by the colour of their mounts. The I Squadron rode on chestnuts, the II Squadron on bays, the III Squadron on blacks and the IV Squadron on dark greys. Trumpeters were to ride dapple greys or white horses only. During wartime however they accepted whatever good horses they could get, regardless of their colour.1810 Regulations stated that horses were to be 5-7 yrs in age not full blooded of which at least 1/3 were to be mares. Mounts were to be between 14 1/4 and 14 1/2 hands tall in “uniform groups of chestnuts, bay, black and dark grey.” In 1813 the Polish Guard Lancers rode on superb horses contributed by the German princes and 600 horses were purchased by the regiment in Hanover.

Regulations stated that officers from the rank of Capitaine to Chef d’escadron were to have three horses and Lieutenants two.

Stanislaw Hempel purchased in Spain an ‘English bred’ mare which had been bought in France, a swift lancer’s horse purchased at Wagram and a mare who in truth could lift up two polish country dwellings!

Dezydery Chłapowski had 9 horses.

Officers were forbidden to give troopers horse management duties and instead had to appoint and pay for a horse groom out of their personal finances.

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