Summer Editorial: These Stories Matter – Just Ask The Horses

Riding HallWARBIRD RADIO – During a recent visit to the United States Military Academy at West Point I wanted to see Thayer Hall.  Named in honor of Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer (known as the father of West Point) it’s one of the USMA’s most prominent buildings.

What’s interesting about Thayer Hall is that it hasn’t always been Thayer Hall.  Inside its walls, the building once housed the world’s largest indoor equestrian arena.  Before flying machines, wars were fought and won by men on horseback and West Point’s indoor riding arena was where future officers of the United States Army learned horsemanship.  During its peak the campus housed well over 500 horses (some say over 700).   Equestrian courses were a key part of the curriculum until being removed during WWII.  In 1959 the world’s largest riding arena was converted into the present day academic building.

To add some perspective, flying machines have been used by the military for a little over 100 years, horses have been used in battle for over 5000 years (more, depending on your source).  So imagine my surprise when I stood there on the doorstep of Thayer Hall, the building that used to be the world’s largest indoor training facility for horses and soldiers, only to see no mention of this history.  Once discovering this, I toured the West Point museum to see what I could learn.  To my surprise I couldn’t find anything.  I even asked the director of the museum and he said there was a picture but when I went back I still couldn’t find it.

The museum is great, so don’t think this is a negative reflection on them, it’s not.  It’s a reflection on each of us and our human nature.  In 56 years the history of this equestrian training facility (the world’s largest indoor training center) has all but evaporated.  The stables that housed the war horses have been remodeled into offices and a bowling alley.  They serve a nice pulled pork sandwich, but no history lessons.  Today, only the old stable’s exterior tell the story.

When I see something like this my heart sinks for the great warriors who trained here.  I always imagine what they would think if they came back for a look.  Maybe I’m just sentimental.  The stories we’re working to preserve here at Warbird Radio matter–moreso, the men and women who made those stories matter must not be forgotten.  We’re not dealing with 5000 years of equestrian warfare history, we’re only dealing with 100+ years of military aviation.  So while you’re busting your knuckles in the hangar know that the aircraft and more importantly the stories you’re working hard to save are critical.  Someday, they may be the only thing left to remind people of the history they represent.

As the summer continues we’ll be working hard on programming.  We have some wonderful stories to share as the days get warmer and longer.  For me, I’ll be reading something about the Horse Soldiers and someday soon visiting their museum in Arizona.

Matt Jolley
Host of Warbird Radio LIVE!

Top image courtesy of West Point Library

QUICK LINK:  Museum of the Horse Soldier




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