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Riderless horse

Riderless horse

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A riderless horse or caparisoned horse (in reference to its ornamental coverings, which have a detailed protocol of their own) is a single horse, without a rider, and with boots reversed in the stirrups, which sometimes accompanies a funeral
Funeral
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...

 procession. The horse follows the caisson carrying the casket
Coffin
A coffin is a funerary box used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial or cremation.Contemporary North American English makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket", which...

.

History


The custom is believed to date back to the time of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

, when a horse was sacrificed to serve the fallen warrior in the next world. The caparisoned horse later came to symbolize a warrior who would ride no more. Others suggest that this tradition hailed from over a thousand years before Genghis Khan, when the Afghan people represented the Buddha as a riderless horse.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the caparisoned horse is part of the military honors given to an Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 or Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 officer who was a colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 or above; this includes the President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

, by virtue of having been the country's commander in chief and the Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

, having overseen the armed forces. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 was the first president of the United States to be officially honored by the inclusion of the caparisoned horse in his funeral cortege, although a letter from George Washington's personal secretary recorded the president's horse was part of the president's funeral, carrying his saddle, pistols, and holsters.
Traditionally, simple black riding boots are reversed in the stirrups to represent a fallen leader looking back on his troops for the last time.

Old Bob


In 1865, Abraham Lincoln was honored by the inclusion of a caparisoned horse at his funeral. When Lincoln's funeral train reached Springfield Illinois his horse Old Bob, who was draped in a black mourning blanket, followed the procession and led mourners to Lincoln's burial spot.

Black Jack


The most famous riderless horse was "Black Jack," a half-Morgan
Morgan horse
The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the stallion Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, the breed excels in many disciplines, and is known for its versatility....

 named for General of the Armies
General of the Armies
General of the Armies of the United States, or more commonly referred to as General of the Armies, is the highest possible officer rank of the United States Army.Only two soldiers have been granted the rank of General of the Armies; John J...

 John "Black Jack" Pershing. Black Jack took part in the state funerals of Presidents John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 (1963),
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

 (1964), and Lyndon Johnson (1973), and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 (1964).

Black Jack was foaled January 19, 1947, and came to Fort Myer
Fort Myer
Fort Myer is a U.S. Army post adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is a small post by U.S...

 from Fort Reno, Oklahoma, on November 22, 1952. Black Jack was the last of the Quartermaster-issue horses branded with the Army's U.S. brand (on the left shoulder) and his Army serial number 2V56 (on the left side of his neck). He died on February 6, 1976, and was buried on the parade ground of Fort Myer's Summerall Field with full military honors, one of only two US Army horses to be given that honor.

Sergeant York


"Sergeant York" was formerly known as "Allaboard Jules", a racing standardbred gelding. He was renamed (in honor of famous WWI soldier Alvin C. York) when he was accepted into the military in 1997. He served as the riderless horse in President Ronald Reagan's funeral procession
Death and state funeral of Ronald Reagan
On June 5, 2004, Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, died after having suffered from Alzheimer's disease for nearly a decade. His seven-day state funeral followed, spanning June 5–11...

, walking behind the caisson bearing Reagan's flag-draped casket.

He was foaled in 1991, sired by Royce and out of the mare Amtrak Collins sired by Computer. He is a descendant of the great standardbred racing stallions Albatross, Tar Heel and Adios.

See also

  • Black Jack (horse)
  • Honor guard
    Honor guard
    An honor guard, or ceremonial guard, is a ceremonial unit, usually military in nature and composed of volunteers who are carefully screened for their physical ability and dexterity...

  • Military funeral
    Military funeral
    A military funeral is a specially orchestrated funeral given by a country's military for a soldier, sailor, marine or airman who died in battle, a veteran, or other prominent military figures or heads of state. A military funeral may feature guards of honor, the firing of volley shots as a salute,...

  • Military rites
    Military rites
    Military rites are honors presented at a funeral for a member of a military or police force. These rites, which are performed at the burial, include the firing of rifles, presenting of a flag and or bugle calls. In Australia and New Zealand a Poppy Service is often held for members of the Armed...

  • State funeral
    State funeral
    A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...