By Farrah Rahm (Fort Sam Houston)January 29, 2009
For one former U.S. Army Garrison Caisson horse, military service is far from over, "Herb" as he is referred to by the Fort Sam Houston Equestrian staff, may not don ceremonial tack anymore, but that has not stopped him from continuing to serve the military community. The 16 hands black Percheron has recently acquired the new, unofficial title as the "Wounded Warrior" horse. "We have had a number of Warriors in Transition volunteering out here since the beginning of last summer," Fort Sam Houston Equestrian Center Manager Cindy Tripoli said. "Herb was acquired from the Caisson unit and needed to learn the ropes of being a trail horse so that we could use him in our recreational riding program. It seemed like a perfect fit to have some of the Soldiers take him under their wing." Throughout the summer, several wounded warriors started caring for and working with the 1,400-pound horse, formerly known as "Preston" after Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston. Each day they [wounded warriors] were responsible for feeding, grooming and riding Herb, as well as the less popular chore of cleaning his paddock. "Most of the guys didn't have a whole lot of experience with horses but they learned quickly," Tripoli said. "Herb can be a lot to handle, so it was great having the Soldiers there to help get him adjusted to his new life." Most recently, Herb's care is in the hands of retired Sgt. 1st Class Roger Clark. A former wounded warrior himself, Clark is responsible for all of Herb's needs. For the former 82nd Airborne military policeman, horses are a family affair. He, along with his wife and four sons, have an established presence at the Equestrian Center. At one time, Clark owned eight horses at the facility. One of his former horses "Big Dawg" was also a retired Caisson horse but when he passed away last year, Clark was short of a horse that could accommodate his 6 foot, 6 inch frame. "You should have seen Mr. Clark's eyes light up when Herb came over from the Caisson," Tripoli said. "I knew it wouldn't be long before he would want to help take care of him." Tripoli was right. Herb and Clark are picturesque together, making their most recent appearance in the Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Commemoration on Jan. 19. "Riding Herb in that parade was just like floating down under a parachute-smooth," said Clark. Whether it is parades or trail rides, Herb will continue to fulfill his military commitment for years to come under his new name and position as the "Wounded Warrior" horse, a title he seems to wear proudly.