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In case Bambi wasn't traumatic enough, War Horse opens as our little pony Joey is taken away from his mother and sold to a farm. On the farm, Joey is broken in (gently) by a kind-hearted young boy named Albert Narracott. Kind hearts don't run in this family, however, and Albert's drunken father sells Joey to the British army to earn money to keep his farm and family alive—and probably to buy a few bottles of booze, too.
In the army now, Joey is paired up with Captain Nicholls, a cavalry man, and sent to the front lines. Nicholls perishes in battle, and Joey is transferred to a younger, more inexperienced rider named Trooper Warren. Warren is a kind, gentle man, but boy does he stink at riding horses. Joey longs for Albert as he carries Warren into battle. The British lose the battle, and Warren and Joey are captured by the Germans. Not looking good.
The Germans put Joey to work as a cart-puller, hauling injured soldiers to medic tents for treatment. Doing his duty, Joey meets Topthorn, a strong black stallion who becomes his best brony. As the front line moves, and casualties decrease, Joey and Topthorn are left with a kind French farmer and his granddaughter, Emilie, who cares deeply for the two horses. Emilie is a sickly child, but the horses give her strength and a reason to live. Unfortunately, before you can say vive la France!, the war returns, and Joey and Topthorn are commissioned once again by the Germans.
Tasked with pulling a gun, Joey and Topthorn are put into great danger. Two other horses in their unit, Heinie and Coco, perish, along with Joey's new caretaker, Friedrich. Worst of all for Joey, Topthorn also succumbs after many months in cold, harsh conditions with little food.
Finding himself injured and alone, Joey is discovered by the British and taken to their vet tent. There he is reunited with Albert, who has enlisted in the military as a veterinarian. Albert nurses Joey back to health in a touching scene deserving of a sepia-colored montage with heart-tugging violin music. Hope you brought your tissues.
The war ends (yay) and Joey is put up for auction (boo). But Emilie's Grandpapa shows up and wins the auction for Joey (yay again!). Sadly, Emilie has died, so Grandpapa gives Joey to Albert. Albert takes Joey back to England, marries his sweetheart Maisie Brown, and they live happily ever after. Well, except for the fact that Maisie never gives Joey any of her delicious pastries. What's up with that?