War Horse is the title of a popular novel, stage production, and Steven Spielberg movie that traces one British horse through its grueling time on the front lines during the First World War. Just recently, and closer to home in Essex, Ontario, the story of a local warhorse has garnered some media attention.
The CBC ran a story about a mare named Kate who wound up at the farm of Ephriam Hensman following the end of the conflict. The man’s granddaughter is 82-year-old Beverly Kelk, who resides in Lakeshore, Ontario, and learned of Kate from her uncle in 1994.
According to the family story, Hensman was known to be good with horses, so when the train arrived in Essex carrying a mare no one seemed to be able to handle, the locals turned to him. “He was able to get the horse off of the train car and they wanted him to take the horse if he would, because they knew the next stop was Windsor, and they would have to euthanize this horse because nobody wanted her,” Kelk told the CBC. She added that her uncle walked the horse back to the family farm using a pocketful of grain as an incentive.
Horses were routinely sent to Halifax to be shipped overseas. It is likely that the war ended before Kate made the trip, as military horses were generally sold off in Europe and not shipped back to Canada.
Kelk says that Kate turned out to be a “good horse” and was ultimately buried on the farm. There is no grave marker or even a photograph of Kate, but Kelk knows the location of the mare’s final resting place in the field behind her home. As a tribute, one of Kate’s shoes is hung up in Kelk’s home office.