MORE than 60 horses and ponies, large and small - and riders too - braved the showers for a special commemoration service on the Three Counties showground to honour the part horses played during in the First World War.

At the end of the service, the ride past was led by Rangoon, a 30-years-old former Household Cavalry horse now owned by Sally Fairfax-Harrison of Kidderminster. True to his training, the veteran Rangoon, who came to Miss Fairfax- Harrison as a rescue horse after his previous owners didn't want him, behaved impeccably throughout and showed the youngsters how to do it.

The "contributions and sacrifices" event, the only one of its kind in the country, had been organised by the Worcestershire branch of the Countryside Alliance and Worcestershire Armed Forces Community Covenant and the service was led by the Rev. Phillip Jones, rural chaplain of the Worcester Diocese.

In an address, Sir Peter Luff, Mid-Worcestershire MP, said: "Horses have done more to change human history than any other animal. However I feel that not sufficient recognition has been given to the role they have played in conflicts over the years. Certainly without horses we could not have fought and won the First World War."

As well as an array of civic dignitaries and council representatives, there were three standards carried from the Worcester branch of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental Association.

Before the traditional two minutes silence, the Last Post was played by Geoff Sansome of Claines, who burst into Reveille at the close. At the ride past at the end of the service, the salute was taken by Andrew Grant, deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire.

It is estimated that during the four year course of the war, the UK sent more than one million horses to the Western Front, of which 900,000 did not return. One British army equine hospital treated more than 100,000 horses in just one year. Together with mules and donkeys, they were used by all sides in the conflict for a variety of tasks including pulling gun carriages, ambulances and carts, as well mounted transport for the cavalry.