In the tradition begun by Black Beauty, the hero and narrator of this story is a horse. He cares about horse things: water, grass, doing his work well, and a kind master to work for.
He does not know what the different colored uniforms mean; he does not care if the person he is working for speaks English, French or German. He does not understand the forces in the human world that compel men to fight and kill one another.
This is the story of Joey, a Thoroughbred/draft horse cross who began life working for the son of a British farmer. Young Albert copes with his difficult and drunken father by training the young horse that his father bought at auction to spite a neighbor. Under Albert's loving tutelage, Joey learns to carry a rider and pull a plow.
But when war comes, Albert's father needs the money so Joey is sold to the army. And so begins the adventure of a lifetime for Joey. That first separation from Albert is the harbinger of many partings: the fortunes and misfortunes of war sweep Joey helplessly along. He's a horse caught in a world where machines are replacing horses and bringing new horrors and perils into the world. But while cavalry charges become discredited, horses are still needed to pull the big guns, the supply wagons and the ambulances. Machines can't cope with the mud and primitive roads of the era. Horses are also still needed by farmers.
Joey's story brings to life the hardship and suffering of the estimated six million horses that were pressed into service during World War I. It's a powerful, gut wrenching story because most of those horses never made it back to their original homes.
Some people would consider WAR HORSE by Michael Morpurgo to be an anti-war story. However, I found this story to be uplifting--Joey, despite all he suffers, retains his trust and love for human beings. He doesn't understand the war or any of the causes of his suffering, but he responds to the people who treat him kindly with love and loyalty. And he meets with many people who do their best to ease his suffering and to take care of him. In humanity and horsemanship, the world is redeemed. This is a wonderful story. Highly recommended. Soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.