The Old Guard Riderless Horse Image Courtesy U.S. Navy Public Domain Wiki media
The 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) conducts memorial affairs to honor our fallen comrades, and ceremonies and special events to represent the Army, communicating its story to our Nation’s citizens and the world.
On order, conducts defense support of civil authorities in the National Capital Region.
One of the Hidden Gems you will visit on this Interlude Washington DC Guided Vacation is the Cassion Platoon. Most of us have witnessed via TV the silent procession of honor to Arlington National Cemetery. The eerie silence of the procession is broken only by the rhythmic sound of the hooves of seven handsome horses. Soldiers sit ramrod straight astride four of these well-trained horses with their taut and controlled bodies and erect heads; military bearing continuing from rider to steed. Both horses and riders train constantly for this duty and the honor of being a part of the “The Old Guard”. Interestingly most of the riders come to Virginia as trained infantry men, skilled and tactically proficient in their respective fields, not as horsemen. All must undergo arduous training on a riding style the Army hasn’t used anywhere else since 1948!
Along with caring for the horses, each rider is instructed to ride in the erect posture of solemn military attention and sit in a McClellan saddle. Riders must also maintain the ceremonial uniform of an Old Guard Soldier and as Caisson Soldiers, learn to use, clean, and maintain the ceremonial tack and harness that is unique for use in Arlington Cemetery. Horse and rider drill, train and live together until both are deemed qualified to accomplish their honorable mission.
Six of the horses pull a flag draped casket on a black artillery caisson and both horses and riders share the honor of carrying a fallen comrade on his last ride to rest in peace and honor. The horses are matched gray or black and are paired into three teams; the lead team in front, followed by the swing team and nearest the caisson is the wheel team. While all six horses are saddled, only those on the left have mounted riders. This, once again, is tradition which began in the early days when one horse was mounted while the other carried feed and extra provisions.
In addition to their duties in military funerals, the Caisson Platoon participates in numerous historic pageants performed by the Old Guard, among these are “Spirit of America,” and “Twilight Tattoo.” The Caisson Platoon has been included in Presidential Inaugural Parades, and participates in various historic events in the greater Military District of Washington, D.C. Always and moving and emotional experience. This
Who can ever forget watching the funeral procession of John F. Kennedy and witnessing one of the oldest military traditions in a full honor funeral: the riderless, caparisoned horse. The horse is led behind the caisson wearing an empty saddle with the rider’s boots reversed in the stirrups, indicating the warrior will never ride again. A haunting and honored tradition.
I found it fascinating to learn that military tradition allows a caparisoned horse to follow the casket of any Army or Marine Corps commissioned officer holding the rank of Colonel or above. Of course, Presidents of our nation, as Commander in Chief, are accorded the same honor. Besides President Kennedy, caissons have borne the flag draped caskets of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson. In each ceremony the caisson was followed by the caparisoned horse.
There are many of these Hidden Gems tucked into this Washington DC guided vacation – just waiting for you to discover them! Please read the complete itinerary and plan to learn more about our Washington DC guided vacation and the treasures it holds.
Eadie, Interlude Blog Team
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