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Kids/Big Kids Corner
First Posted: Nov 4,2010
Jan 3, 2015

Riderless Horse (The Caparisoned Horse is the Riderless Horse that walks behind the Casket)

The riderless horse named Sergeant York aka Allaboard Jules, during the funeral procession for the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, with President Reagan's boots reversed in the stirrups.

The riderless horse during the funeral procession for his Majesty King Hussein of Jordan

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 procession. The horse follows the caisson carrying the casket.

The custom is believed to date back to the time of Genghis Khan, 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, the caparisoned horse is part of the military honors given to an Army or Marine Corps officer who was a colonel or above; this includes the President, by virtue of having been the country's commander in chief and the Secretary of Defense, having overseen the armed forces. Abraham Lincoln 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

Old Bob draped in black during Lincoln's funeral procession

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

Black Jack

The most famous riderless horse was "Black Jack," a half-Morgan named for General of the Armies John "Black Jack" Pershing. Black Jack took part in the state funerals of Presidents John F. Kennedy (1963), Herbert Hoover (1964), and Lyndon Johnson (1973), and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (1964).

Black Jack was foaled January 19, 1947, and came to Fort Myer 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

Image: http://www.oddsonracing.com/img/Sgt_York.jpg
Sergeant York and his caretaker

"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, 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.

TAR HEEL p,T1:57 1994 [1948-1982]

A foal of 1948 by the Hanover Shoe Farm sire Billy Direct out of the Volomite mare Leta Long, his first owner was W. N. Reynolds. Tar Heel was known as the "King of Queens" because, for some mysterious reason, the genes he passed along to his daughters were very, very special. As a race horse he was a season's champion at two, a world champion at three and the leading money-winning performer both years. He was retired to stud after taking a lifetime record of 1:57 in a time trial at four. As a sire he is credited with 160 two-minute performers through 1981 and the dams of 400 in 2:00. At the time of his death on June 8, 1982 at age thirty-four, Tar Heel's progeny had earned nearly $36 million. At the dispersal of the Reynolds' horses In November, 1951, Lawrence B. Sheppard bought Solicitor for $100,000 and Tar Heel for $125,000, providing some of the most dramatic moments in the sales company's history as they were the first Standardbreds to bring $100,000 at public auction.

Kids/Big Kids Corner