Following the deaths of two of its military horses used during military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the U.S. Army had put its use of horses on hold for 45 days to implement a new plan that overhauls how it manages the horses in its care.
The commander of the Army Military District of Washington, Maj. Gen. Allan Pepin, told reporters at a news conference that the horses had fallen victim to a lack of horsemanship and poor management, not neglect or abuse. “The challenges we’re facing in our caisson program stem from a number of cumulative issues resulting from a lack of adequate facilities, pasture space, diet, nutrition, and poor herd management that date back many years, since at least 2010,” he said.
The caisson is the wagon used to haul the coffin during funerals, and even without a casket is said to weigh 2,800 lbs. One of the updates to the program includes building a lighter caisson. But other perhaps even more vital changes will strike a chord with any experienced horse or stable owner. The 49 horses in their care will now receive physical therapy and there will be increased staff, including experienced trainers. The program will also buy new horses that are younger, of a suitable breed and temperament, and properly trained for the task they’re given. New saddles and other equipment will be bought and routinely fitted, and land will be leased to provide proper turnout. It’s hoped that all of these changes will result in healthy horses for the military honour that is bestowed upon America’s fallen soldiers.