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Governor of Orleans / The American Remount Association

Registered stallion leased to Almanzo Wilder 1923-1925.

It was the brown Morgan horses… All their slender legs were moving swiftly, their hoofs raising little explosions of dust. Their glossy shoulders glistened, their black manes and tails blew shining in the wind. Their ears pricked forward, and their glancing bright eyes saw everything gaily. – Little Town on the Prairie, Chapter 13, “School Days”

     
governor of orleans

Governor of Orleans was a registered Morgan stallion owned by the American Remount Association and leased out through their facility at Fort Robinson, in Crawford, Nebraska. Foaled in 1914, his sire was Ben Lamond 3000 (by General Gates 666) and his dam was Maid of Orleans (by Norris M. 5225). The breeder was Joseph Bartell of Middlebury, Vermont. Governor of Orleans was a bay, with one white ankle (his nigh hind, or back left). In the photo, Laura Ingalls Wilder is shown with Governor of Orleans at Rocky Ridge Farm.

In 1923, Governor of Orleans was leased by Almanzo Wilder of Mansfield, Missouri; Wilder made the stallion available for stud services for two years. In 1925, Governor of Orleans was then leased to Harold Bailey of Cassville, Missouri; in 1927 to A.B. Summers of West Plains, Missouri; and in 1928 to Len Raser in Jetmore, Kansas. The stallion’s fate is not yet known beyond this point.

The American Remount Program was begun during World War I; its purpose was to supply fit animals for the Army and to replace horses injured, killed, or retired from service. The program originated at a time of decline in the quality and number of finer breeds of American horses. In fact, it has been said that Americans were the worst mounted troops in World War I. While increased use of motor-driven vehicles lessened the demand for light duty horses, they were still best suited for greater mobility of cavalry and light artillery.

There were plenty of horses in the United States, but they included large numbers of draft horses and mustangs, both considered unsuitable, and at least 200,000 horses were required, even during peacetime. The plan adopted by the United States Government and overseen by the Bureau of Animal Industry was, for a nominal fee, to place stallions with responsible farmers and ranchers owning suitable mares in order to encourage the production of more – and better bred – light horses, especially military types. Colts would then be made available for purchase by the U.S. Army if they met certain standards.

governor of orleansThe plan was implemented with the breeding season of 1913. Thoroughbred, American Saddle, Standardbred, and Morgan stallions were placed in Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, with other states added over the years. (Originally, Morgans were offered only to the states of Vermont and New Hampshire.) Only stallions of merit were used. They must be good, sound horses and registered in the proper studbooks. Stake and winning show-ring winners were obtained if possible, but they were selected more for confirming to saddle or artillery types than their pedigree. Three Morgan horses were purchased for use the first season: Daniel Webster Lambert 6529, Madison Lambert 6530, and Donlyn 5849. In addition, some Morgan horses had been donated from the United States Morgan Horse Farm in Middlebury, Vermont, including Bennington 5693, Castor 5833, Red Oak 5249, Snoqualmie 5783, and Troubadour of Willowmoor 6459.

Terms of Participation in the American Remount Program. The owner of the mare(s) agreed – in writing – to give the Government the option of buying any resultant colt as a 3-year-old at a stated price (at the time, it was $150). No service fee was charged unless the owner of a colt wished to be released from the option, in which case it cost $25 for use of the stallion. If a colt was offered to the Government, but was refused, no service fee was charged. No fee was paid if a colt died, was deformed, or was seriously injured during its first three years. Filly foals were retained by the mare owners without payment of a service fee, and stallions were rotated in order that any 3-year-old fillies sired by remount stallions could be bred to other remount stallions. This assured a process of “grading up” of particular types of horses.

Mares could not be bred to remount stallions if they suffered from certain diseases or partial or complete blindness, and they had to conform to cavalry or light artillery standards, as follows:

Mature cavalry horses and saddle horses for mountain artillery, Signal Corps, Engineer Corps, infantry, and other purposes: The mature horse must be sound, well bred, of a superior class, and have quality; gentle and of a kind disposition; well broken to the saddle, with light and elastic mouth, easy gaits, and free and prompt action at the walk, trot, and gallop; free from vicious habits, without material blemish or defect. A gelding of specified color, in good condition, from 5 to 8 years old at time of purchase; weighing from 950 to 1,200 pounds, depending on height, which should be from 15 to 16 hands, and otherwise to conform to general description for horses.

The artillery horse for light and horse batteries must be sound, well bred, of a superior class, and have quality; of a kind disposition, well broken to harness, and gentle under the saddle, with easy mouth and gaits, and free and prompt action at the walk, trot, and gallop; and free from vicious habits; without material blemish or defect.

A gelding of specified color, in good condition, from 5 to 8 years old at time of purchase; height from 15-1/2 to 16-1/2 hands; weight from 1,150 to 1,300 pounds, depending on height, and otherwise to conform to general description for horses, except that the next and shoulders of the artillery horse should be somewhat more heavily muscled than the cavalry horse, and shoulders so formed as to properly support the collar.

Horses otherwise satisfactory which fall short of or exceed these limits of weight by not more than 50 pounds, due to temporary conditions, may be accepted.

The artillery horse for light and horse batteries is required for quick draft purposes, and should be heavy enough to move the carriage ordinarily by weight thrown into the collar rather than by muscular exertion. Long-legged, loose-jointed, long-bodied, narrow-chested, coarse, and cold-blooded horses, as well as those which are restive, vicious, or too free in the harness, or which do not upon rigid inspection meet the above requirements in every respect, will be rejected.

The average remount stallion was bred forty to sixty times per season; 3,089 colts were born during the first five years of the program. The War Department purchased its first remount offspring in 1917, one hundred seventy-four colts. The program was hugely successful, even during World War II, when technical warfare was increasing. The program was discontinued in 1948, however, at which time many of the former remount facilities were adapted to agricultural research.

While the main purpose of the program was to provide remounts, it also served to improve local stock in agriculture-based society. Larger draft horses and mules were largely in use on farms, but it was found that strong, robust, light horses were preferred for farm work and were desired as saddle horses. While it is believed that Almanzo Wilder did supply some horses to the Army, it is known that he participated in the program largely in order to improve the quality and bloodline of farm horses in the Ozarks.

Fort Robinson first issued stallions to civilians in 1923, with twelve animals available. One of these was Governor of Orleans, sent at government expense to the Wilders. Almanzo had been required to provide proof that he was a responsible farmer or rancher and could provide suitable mares for breeding. In exchange for providing food and medical care for Governor of Orleans while the horse was in his care, Almanzo was allowed to charge ten dollars for each mare bred to Governor of Orleans. He was required to report both the number of mares bred each season, and the number of foals produced. While Almanzo was required to offer colts from his own mares to the Army, other breeders paying him for Governor of Orleans’ services were under no obligation to do so. However, remount officials occasionally bought offspring that met the remount’s strict standards.

     

Governor of Orleans