Topthorn is everything you would look for in a horse—or a sports car: a "shining black stallion" (5.16) and "an eight-horsepower horse" (5.19). He and Joey become BFFs through circumstance (Topthorn's rider, Captain Stewart is best friends with Joey's rider, Captain Nicholls), but mutual admiration is on the scene, too.
Up until he meets Topthorn, Joey never has a friend of the same species. Sure, there was gentle old Zoey back on the farm, but those two were merely work buddies. We get the impression that Topthorn and Joey are much more than that. Why? Because they complement each other perfectly and there's "never any jealousy" (11.3) between them. They recognize one another's weaknesses and help compensate for them.
Topthorn inspires Joey to be a better, stronger, faster war horse when he first finds himself on the front lines. And then Joey returns the favor: he helps Topthorn when they're captured by the Germans and put on cart duty. Joey, as a farm horse, knows all about pulling, and he's able "to help him, to lead, to compensate, and to reassure him" (9.10). To top it off, Joey shows remarkable compassion when Topthorn is ill, doing all he can to comfort him. How? By "nuzzling him and licking him to try to keep him warm and to reassure him that he was not alone in his pain" (12.11). It's so sweet, we can't stand it—not that we recommend nuzzling or licking your BFF when they're in pain.
Unfortunately for Topthorn, all the labor and the horrible working conditions get to be too much for him. As we know, any book about animals wouldn't be a true tearjerker if it weren't for one or two significant deaths for our four-legged friends, so it's vaya con dios, Topthorn, on the battlefield. And although Joey doesn't cry (neither did we, we swear), he feels his own kind of powerful grief over the loss of his best friend.Topthorn's Timeline