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THE U.S. ARMY STABLE SERGEANT'S DUTIES
The Stable Sergeant was in charge of his stable and every stable had one. His job was to know each of his horses and to watch over them, maintaining the condition of the stable and the basic health of his horses. It was also his job to order the feed and to feed the animals. He kept very careful records of his stable and horses and was responsible for all the activity that went on at the stable. He decided what animals were fit for duty as long as there where no medical issues and he issued the animals as needed for each day. Those on stable duty assisted him.
S/Sgt. Tom Sapash, stable sergeant with the Post Veterinary Section. Tom worked with the horses for many years at the Presidio of Monterey.
Note: Before moving over to Fort Ord, S/Sgt. Thomas Sapash was with the 11th Cavalry at the Presidio of Monterey. He is listed in the 1938 roster as being in "A" Troop. He probably wanted to stay in the Monterey area instead of going south with the 11th Cavalry to do border patrol in 1940.
DUTIES OF STABLE SERGEANT AND ENLISTED SPECIALISTS
The stable sergeant is responsible to the organization commander for the efficient care of the animals and stables and vicinity of the picket line. He should be quartered at the stables or in the vicinity. In detail his duties are to:
1. Know the content of this manual (FM 25-5) 1939 and of TM 2140-15).
2. Supervise and control the activities of all enlisted men on duty at the stables.
3. Take charge of the restraint and safekeeping of all animals of the organization when they are not in use.
4. Take charge of the feeding and watering of the animals at the hours and in the amounts specified by the organization commander.
5. Execute the orders of the veterinarian in regard to the treatment of animals sick in stables and, in the absence of a veterinarian to care for sick animals.
6. Receive, check, and care for the forage and bedding issued to the organization; issue the forage and bedding for feeding and bedding purposes and determine its fitness for use. 7. Take charge of the general police and minor repair of the stables and stable fittings.
8. Care for all transportation equipment, tools, etc., which are stored or habitually kept at the stables
9. Keep all the proper records.
10. Enforce the proper handling and care of the animals.
ENLISTED ASSISTANTS OF THE STABLE SERGEANT
The stable sergeant’s assistants are the horseshoers, the stable orderly or orderlies, and such other men as may be detailed for special duty at the stables. The horseshoers and the stable orderlies should, when practicable, be quartered at the stables or in the vicinity.
U.S. Army horse artillery blacksmith and horseshoer at Fort Bragg 1941. At Fort Ord there were 3 horseshoers in each blacksmith shop.
1. Know the contents of this manual (especially those parts pertaining to shoeing animals) and of TM 2140-15.
2. Shoe the animals designated by the stable sergeant.
3. Inspect the feet of animals daily, preferably at “stables” and attend to any that need it.
4. Maintain the shoeing shop in a good state of police.
5. Care for the tools issued for horseshoeing purposes.
The stable orderly or orderlies and other men detailed for special duty at the stables police the stables, make minor repairs to the stables, especially the stall floors, and perform such other duties connected with the animals or stables as the stable sergeant my direct. At least one man must be kept on duty at the stables day and night.
VETERINARY CORPS PERSONNEL
Enlisted men of the Veterinary Corps who may be attached to the organization are under the control of the stable sergeant for administrative purposes, but carry out the instructions of the veterinarian in regard to the care of the sick and injured animals of the organization.
GENERAL RULES FOR STABLE MANAGEMENT FOR THE STABLE SERGEANT
The stable sergeant has immediate charge of the police and sanitary conditions of the stable; picket line, etc., and is the custodian of the forage and stable property generally. The stable is to be kept thoroughly policed, free from smells, and, except portions of stalls that animals can’t reach, should be well lime washed. There must be no accumulation of manure or foul litter inside, nor near the doors or windows without. The feed boxes are washed from time to time, and kept clean. The grounds about the stable and picket line is swept daily, and all dung, etc., carried to the manure heap. He should make a daily inspection of the stables, shops, picket lines, and corrals. He should make a mental note of the work that is being done at the various shops, so that his visits from day to day may serve to determine progress as well as workmanship.
Where practicable to do so without interference with other required work or duties, he should arrange to have all freshly shod animals at or near the blacksmith shop for his inspection when he visits that shop. He should note the lengths of the hoofs of other animals about the corral. An unduly long hoof results when an animal is not shod on time.
He should make sure that bedding for the animals is shaken up and such as may be used again placed loosely under the mangers, to allow the stalls to dry. To make sure the stable is well ventilated, that buckets and barrels for use during fires are filled with clean water and other fire equipment is in order. And that currycombs, brushes, brooms, forks, shovels, rakes, and other tools or equipment, when not in use, are kept in places provided for them. He should satisfy himself that the animals are being properly groomed. The cleanliness may be tested by passing the hands the reverse way of the hair to get a view of the skin if the skin is dirty, gray lines will be left on it and scurf on the finger points. He should require that his notices be called to all sick or injured animals. He should make it a point occasionally to visit the stable at night.
The stable sergeant should make sure the animals are well groomed twice a day. The places most frequently poorly groomed are between the branches of the under jaw, under the head crown piece, the bends of the knees and hocks, under the belly, and between the fore legs and thighs. The currycomb should be applied gently, then brush vigorously, and the grooming quickly done. It is important that the feet of the animals be picked out thoroughly at each grooming and on return from work, both for the sake of cleanliness and in order to detect injuries discernible only when the hoof is clean. Other details occasionally included under grooming are washing of the mane, tail, and sheath.
In the morning the animals are usually fed at or before reveille. The noon feed of hay may be placed in the mangers before the animals return from work. But the grain is not fed until the animals are thoroughly cool. The evening feed is placed in the mangers after the stable has been thoroughly policed for the night. All animals do not require the same amount of forage; the amount given each must be based, therefore, upon his individual requirements. The stable sergeant should know the needs of each of his animals in his care.
Except at night, when the animals are bedded down, no manure or urine is to remain in the stalls; the stable police remove it as it accumulates. If practicable, all woodwork within reach of the animals, and not protected with sheet iron or other metal, should be painted with thin coal tar to prevent it being gnawed. The same precaution may be followed with regard to water toughs, picket posts, and picket lines. It should be thoroughly dried before putting animals near it.
Important points to remember are:
Smoking or striking a light in the stables, or their immediate vicinity, is prohibited or near any forage.
One or more lights will be hung in each stable during the night.
Over each animal’s stall is placed his name.
Clay is the best for earthen floors, Gravel, or sand earth, is not suitable.
Picket lines are established in the immediate vicinity of each stable. The ground about the picket line is to be swept daily and all dung removed.
The sloping of the floor of stalls from the manger to the heel post is injurious and uncomfortable for the animal, making him stand in an unnatural position, with the forelegs higher than the hind ones. When the earthen floors are level, the animal will paw a hollow for his fore feet unless he can elevate his hindquarters by backing out of the stall.
Whenever animals go out of the stable, the windows of their stalls are to be kept open, unless necessary to exclude rain or snow, or when cold drafts affect the animals in continuous or opposite stalls. Stable doors are never closed in the daytime, except to keep out rain, or to exclude cold winds that blows on the animals. If the doors be in a single piece, bars are put across the doorway; if divided into upper and lower halves, it will be sufficient to open the upper part. At night, the entrance to the stables should be secured in such manner as will prevent the escape of the animals.
When circumstances permit, horses and mules should be turned loose in the corral during the daytime, or herded under charge of a guard. When neither is practicable, they should, except in very cold, windy weather, or in very hot weather where there is no shade, stand most of the day at the picket line, as they have better air and are less confined, while the stables become drier and more healthily. In ordinary climates, stables must be kept as cool as possible. If the animals do not stand directly in the draft, the colder the stable the less will they suffer if called suddenly to take to the field. For the same reason, animals should never be blanketed in the stable, except during very cold weather.
The normal temperature of horses or mules ranges from 99 to 100 degrees. The temperature should be taken in the rectum, and should be taken at once if the animal refuses feed or looks sick.
In the Army, animal feed is divided into two general classes – hay and grain. A good feed for a working animal should contain amounts in such proportions that the greatest possible percentage of nourishment can be extracted from it and a sufficient amount of bulk can be consumed to satisfy all requirements; namely, maintain the body temperature, appease the appetite, and produce the required work without upsetting the digestion or loss of flesh. As no one food will answer all demands, the ration should be arranged so that several types of feed create a “well balanced” ration. From a well-balanced ration the animal can extract the largest possible amount of nutriment. The below rations are samples of a well-balance diet for Army animals doing average work:
U.S. Army artillery troopers stacking hay at Fort Bragg 1941
Ration No. 1
6 pounds of oats
4 pounds of corn
2 pounds of wheat bran
4 pounds of alfalfa hay
10 pounds of wheat straw
Ration No. 2
12 pounds of oats
4 pounds of alfalfa hay
10 pounds of timothy hay (For draft or artillery animals)
Ration No. 3
10 pounds of oats
2 pounds of wheat bran
14 pounds of timothy hay
Ration No. 4
10 pounds of oats
2 pounds of wheat bran
14 pounds of prairie hay
When animals begin to gnaw the woodwork and eat dirt and dung, the cause may be looked for in the lack of mineral matter in the food or in the insufficiency of hay in the ration. An animal cannot subsist on a diet of grain alone and the necessity for supplying a certain bulk to the ration cannot be over emphasized. In the field, when hay cannot be obtained, grazing should always be resorted to at every opportunity. The quality of the grass is not relatively of great importance. It is highly necessary; however, that as “roughage” it should be sufficient in bulk to properly distend the intestines. Failing grass, the animal should be permitted to consume any form of roughage, such as straw, bark, leaves, etc., with which his appetite can be tempted.
The manger (feedbox) are to be washed out every week with vinegar; the are to be dry cleaned every day to remove any grain that the animals will not eat and to keep the boxes free from refuse from the grain, such as pebbles, sticks, wild seeds, etc.
PRINCIPLES OF FEEDING
1. Water one hour or more before feeding
2. Feed in small quantities and often
3. Do not work hard after a full feed of grain
4. Feed hay before grain, or feed chop or chaff with grain
The above is the established customs in the Army.
Before feeding hay should be thoroughly shaken up with a fork so as to get rid of the dust and seed; it is advisable to moisten the hay before giving it to the animal. The grain, if possible, should be run through a wire screen so as to take all dust out of it.
According to temperature and work, each animal will require anything from 5 to 15 gallon of good water a day, an average quantity being 8. Hot weather and hard work, or both combined, will nearly double ordinary requirements. Animals do not drink well in the early morning. Only such number of animals as there is ample room for should be watered at a time from a trough. They should be given plenty of time to drink, and not led away the first time they raise their heads from the water.
The object of grooming is cleanliness, prevention of disease, and improvement in condition and appearance. The coat of an animal at work and left ungroomed becomes matted and crusted with dandruff, sweat, and dirt. To this accumulation are added the urine and manure of the stalls when the animal lies down. If this filth is not removed, the skin underneath becomes irritated and forms a ready soil, if infected, for the rapid spread of disease such as mange, and infestation by lice. These conditions become at times the scourge of armies.
The grooming kit consists of the currycomb, with hoof hook, horse brush, and grooming cloth, sometimes augmented by the dandy brush and wisp.
The currycomb is used to remove caked mud, to loosen matted scurf and dirt in the hair, and to clean the horse brush. It produced the best effect when applied gently in small circles. It should never be used on the legs, from the knees or hocks down nor about the head.
The hoof hook is used to clean out the feet.
The horse brush is the principal tool used for grooming. When properly used it reaches the skin, the bristles or fibers of the brush penetrating through the hair of the coat.
The grooming cloth is used to clean out the body orifices and to polish the coat. It is made from old toweling or condemned blankets, and is about 2 feet square.
Grooming tools should be washed and disinfected occasionally as a precaution against the spread of skin diseases.
Artillery stable sergeant clipping a horse, Fort Bragg 1941
As a rule the clipping of working animals is recommended. Whether clipping is advisable depends upon the nature of the coat, the climate conditions, the amount and character of the work to be performed by the animals, the character of the stables, the amount of clothing, the availability of personnel, time for grooming, etc. Clipping is not recommended under field conditions during moderately cool or cold weather. During severe weather in colder climates it is not advisable to clip the legs. Where animals are to receive considerable work under the saddle it is advisable to leave a saddle patch the size of the blanket under the saddle.
If clipping is practiced, it should begin in the fall before the winter coat becomes heavy. Animals should be re-clipped during the winter as often as the length of the coat warrants it. Clipping under most conditions should cease as soon as the spring shedding begins. Clipped animals should be warmly clothed and not exposed to low temperatures in corrals of stables. When animals are re-clipped during cold weather it is advisable to exercise the animals immediately after clipping until a light sweat appears and then dry, groom thoroughly, hand rub the body, and blanket. Clipping lessens the labor of grooming but the clipped animal needs the same thorough and vigorous grooming as an animal in full coat.
Power clippers are the best for clipping animals, though hand clippers will serve the purpose. Clipper heads and blades must be used with care, as they are easily dulled and broken. They can be re-sharpened and should be as often as necessary. Grooming should precede clipping, as many blades are broken by sand and dirt in a dirty animal’s coat. While using power clippers a small pan of kerosene oil should be at hand and the clipper head immersed frequently with the machine running.
DRYING HOT ANIMALS
Sweating animals should be blanketed and walked about until cool, being given a few swallows of water from time to time, then rubbed, and wisped until dry. Returning animals from work wet with sweat may be avoided by allowing them to walk the last mile or so before reaching the stable. Sweaty areas under the saddle should be dried as soon as the saddle is removed, or a covering should be left on the back until cool.
GENERAL RULES FOR THE CARE OF ANIMALS
1. Animals require gentle treatment. Docile but bold animals are apt to retaliate upon those who abuse them, while persistent kindness often reclaims vicious animal.
2. Before entering an animal’s stall and when coming up behind him, speak to him gently, then approach quietly.
3. Never kick an animal, strike him about the head, or otherwise abuse him.
4. Never punish an animal, except at the time he commits an offense, and then only in the proper manner, never in anger.
5. Give an animal an opportunity to drink before leaving the stable or picket line and before putting the bit in his mouth.
6. Never take a rapid gait until the animal has been warmed and circulation in the feet started by gentle exercise.
7. When an animal is brought to the stable or picket line in a heated condition, never allow him to stand uncovered. Put a blanket on him and rub his legs or walk him until he is cool. If he is wet, put him under shelter, not in a draft, and rub him with a wisp until dry.
8. Never feed grain or fresh grass to an animal when heated. Hay will not hurt an animal, however heated he maybe.
9. Never water an animal when heated, unless the exercise or march is to be immediately resumed. Sponging out the mouth and nostrils is refreshing to the heated animal and will not hurt him.
10. Never allow an animal’s back to be cooled suddenly cool the backs of riding animals gradually.
11. Never put an animal up for the night until he is thoroughly cooled off and clean, especially around the legs, pasterns and feet.
12. Individual men returning from mounted duty or pass should report their return to the stable sergeant, who should inspect each animal and see that it is properly cared for.
13. Never mount or ride an animal in a stable.
14. In case of fire in the stables the animals become terrified and have to be led, backed or ridden out, blindfolding the unwilling ones where necessary, and exercising care that none breaked back to the stables. A coat or cloth thrown over the eyes will work as a blind in a pitch.
The following records are kept at each stable by the stable sergeant:
1. List of animals by Preston brand number or a file of copies of the Horse Record Cards (W.D., Q.M.C. form No 125). The original W.D.Q.M.C. Form No 125 for each animal is kept in the unit supply office.
2. Record of stable property
3. Forage record
4. Shoeing record
5. Morning report of animals
6. Sick report of animals
Descriptive cards of animals are made out, one for each animal, on W.D.Q.M.C. Form No 125. The form gives the name and number of the animal, age, sex, color, and markings. It should contain a complete record of the service of the animal from the time of purchase until finally disposed of.
All stable property and equipment are listed in a property record book, showing each class of tool or equipment separately.
An accurate record of all forage received, on hand, and consumed should be kept posted accurately from day to day.
An accurate record of the shoeing of all animals of the organization is kept on the proper form.
A record is kept of all animals in the stables, showing the changes that occur from day to day on its proper form.
An animal sick report is kept at each stable.
DESTRUCTION OF ANIMALS
Certain communicable diseases are incurable, and it is necessary to destroy the animal to prevent the spread of the disease. To shoot an animal, stand close, with the pistol almost touching the forehead and held at right angles to the head. Aim at the center of the forehead, well above the level of the eyes, just below the place where the lowest hairs of the forelock grow.
DISPOSAL OF ANIMAL
All carcasses of animals dying as a result of communicable diseases should be burned. If practicable; otherwise buried at depth and covered with quick lime, if available. Litter should be burned over ground where discharges from the dead have fallen.
Sgt. Reeves, Stable Sergeant, Fort Ord, 1941 76th Field Artillery Regiment. Picture taken at the 4th Avenue stables (Lee Stickler collection)
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