to improve the long-term health of military horses at Arlington National Cemetery, the Army is implementing a rehabilitation plan based on lessons learned about horse care over the past year.
The plan is being implemented during a 45-day hiatus in the use of horses at Arlington National Cemetery to pull crates carrying caskets of fallen service members to their final resting place. The pause is a result of advice the Army has received since two caisson platoon horses died within 96 hours of each other in February 2022.
Maj. Gen. Allan Pepin, commander of the Washington Army Military District, said the horses had been mishandled, not mistreated, due to a lack of knowledge about horse care.
“The challenges we face in our box program stem from a series of cumulative problems resulting from a lack of adequate facilities, grazing space, diet, nutrition, and poor herd management going back many years to at least 2010,” Pepin said. reporters on Wednesday.
The rehabilitation plan includes rotating the 49 horses under the care of the US 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard,” through physical therapy, increasing the number of hired staff and trainers, and purchasing new ones. horses with the skills, age and training.
The Army Military District of Washington is also considering reducing the weight of the crate, which is about 2,800 pounds without the casket. The Army is exploring the possibility of building caissons with lighter materials and possibly installing an automatic braking system, so the horses don’t have to carry as much load as they go down the hills in Arlington.
The Army also plans to purchase new equipment, such as saddles, for a better fit and to reduce injuries. To expand the space for the horses, the Army will lease land through agreements with other federal agencies.
The pause and development of the plan for the long-term health of the horses was prompted by input from a new herd manager, hired in August 2022, and the hiring of additional equine experts.
“If we didn’t halt, we were going to increase the risk of mission failure, because there would be no more horses available and potentially unrecoverable,” Pepin said.
Funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery continue during horse break.
During the 45-day recess, 200 families were scheduled to have their loved ones receive military funeral honors and burial at Arlington National Cemetery. So far, 199 families have been contacted about the suspension of horse use, and of these, six have requested to reschedule their funerals to a date when a caisson can be provided, Pepin told reporters on Wednesday.