After Arlington National Cemetery Horse Deaths, Army Makes Changes

May 12, 2023by Tara Copp, Associated Press
After Arlington National Cemetery Horse Deaths, Army Makes Changes
A U.S. Army Caisson team carries the casket of Army Capt. Stephanie Rader, during a full military honors conducted by the Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment through Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., June 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army announced changes Wednesday to the way it will care for the gray and black horses that carry service members’ flag-draped caskets to their final resting places in Arlington National Cemetery after the deaths of horses in the ceremonial unit exposed their poor living conditions.

The horses are part of the caisson platoon of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the Old Guard, which is best known for guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the cemetery, located just across the river from Washington.

Two Old Guard platoon horses, Mickey and Tony, had to be euthanized within days of each other in February 2022. Both died from colon impaction, a “dry, firm mass of feed, or foreign material, such as dirt or sand,” and in Tony’s case, he had to be euthanized because the sand and gravel impaction was so extensive it could not be surgically removed, according to an Army investigation.

After the deaths of the two horses, both in their 20s, veterinarians found sediment in the manure of other horses, likely because they had so little grass in their turnout fields and consumed sand and gravel from the ground as they ate hay, the investigation found.

Compounding the problem, the hay was so low quality that it could not be easily digested by older horses like Tony as they nosed it around on the ground looking for edible feed. Army veterinarians noted the issue six months before the horses’ deaths but did not raise their concerns past the platoon leadership. And the platoon had no way to force the hay supplier to provide higher-quality hay because the Army contract did not specify the nutritional value required.

When the horses did get to graze outdoors, those small turnout fields were also littered with construction debris and manure, and even if they had been in proper condition, would only have been large enough to support six or seven horses, the investigation found. At the time of the horse deaths, the field was used for a herd of 64.

The commanding general of the Military District of Washington, Army Maj. Gen. Allan Pepin, said the conditions were a result of mismanagement, not soldier abuse. Pepin said the conditions reflected a lack of full understanding by Army managers of the horses’ needs and the training needed for the soldiers to care for them, and also a lack of resources.

“The platoon took it personal because nobody wanted this outcome,” Pepin told reporters on Wednesday. “Every time you went by and saw the missions, we never saw a horse that looked like it was lame. We never saw a horse that looked like it was having issues. What we saw was expert soldiers and horses that looked great. So it kind of masked the underlying problem.”

In the months since, the Army has retired older horses, some as old as 20 that were still part of the group pulling the more than 2,500-pound caissons, which date back to 1918. It has also begun the process of buying new horses, and will no longer purchase gray horses, because they are likelier to develop skin cancer. The unit has also leased additional pasture land and received funding from Congress to improve the stables.

The Army is also working on obtaining a lighter caisson to put less strain on the horses and developing new saddles and other tack to better prevent horse injuries, Pepin said.

Since the euthanizations, the Army has brought on a full-time herd manager and been able to improve the horses’ diets, Pepin said, and regular veterinary bloodwork shows they are making progress. However, two additional horses have had to be euthanized since, one due to a leg fracture and one due to intestinal issues.

Last week. the Army decided caisson operations would be suspended for 45 days to give the horses time to recover from any injuries.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Animal Care

Another Michigan Dairy Worker Has Bird Flu, the Third US Case This Year

Another Michigan farmworker has been diagnosed with bird flu, the third human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy... Read More

Another Michigan farmworker has been diagnosed with bird flu, the third human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows, health officials said Thursday. The dairy worker reported a cough, congestion, sore throat and watery eyes. The other two patients had only eye symptoms, health... Read More

Two New Giant Pandas Returning to Washington's National Zoo From China

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two giant pandas are coming to Washington’s National Zoo from China by the end of the year.... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two giant pandas are coming to Washington’s National Zoo from China by the end of the year. The zoo made the announcement Wednesday, about half a year after it sent its three pandas back to China. Other American zoos also have sent pandas back... Read More

Inside a Makeshift Shelter Saving Hundreds of Dogs From Floods in Southern Brazil

CANOAS, Brazil (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers have set up a makeshift dog shelter in an abandoned, roofless warehouse in... Read More

CANOAS, Brazil (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers have set up a makeshift dog shelter in an abandoned, roofless warehouse in the city of Canoas, one of the hardest hit by floods in southern Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state. They treat and feed sick, hungry or... Read More

Dogs Entering US Must Be Six Months Old and Microchipped to Prevent Spread of Rabies

NEW YORK (AP) — All dogs coming into the U.S. from other countries must be at least 6 months old... Read More

NEW YORK (AP) — All dogs coming into the U.S. from other countries must be at least 6 months old and microchipped to help prevent the spread of rabies, according to new government rules published Wednesday. The new rules require vaccination for dogs that have been in countries... Read More

Plan for $400M Monkey-Breeding Facility in SW Georgia Draws Protest

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (AP) — Some local residents and an animal-rights group are protesting plans for a monkey-breeding facility in southwest... Read More

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (AP) — Some local residents and an animal-rights group are protesting plans for a monkey-breeding facility in southwest Georgia. Opponents on Tuesday urged the Bainbridge City Council to block plans by a company called Safer Human Medicine to build a $396 million complex that... Read More

Newest Breed to Join the American Kennel Club, a Little Dog With a Big Smile

NEW YORK (AP) — It's small in stature, big on activity and known for a “smile,” and it's ready to... Read More

NEW YORK (AP) — It's small in stature, big on activity and known for a “smile,” and it's ready to compete with 200 other dog breeds. Say hello to the Lancashire heeler, the latest breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. The organization announced Wednesday that... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top