By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)September 8, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Master Sgt. Murphy viewed the retirement ceremony from the sidelines of Manhart Field Aug. 31. Standing at parade rest with his handler, Spc. Eric Joiner, Murphy turned his head to watch as four horses with the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard marched onto the field, their riders presenting flags. As the Ivy Division Band played the national anthem, he swished his tail.
Thirteen retiring Soldiers and their spouses lined the parade field, receiving certificates, American flags and other tokens of appreciation for their years of service.
Finally, Joiner led Murphy to the front, removing his saddle and leading the bay quarter horse from the field as Brig. Gen. James H. Doty, acting senior commander, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, took the podium.
"Friends and family," Doty said, addressing the crowd. "Today we come together to honor the careers of 13 Soldiers and one horse."
The ceremony marked the first time in Fort Carson's history a horse has been retired in a formal Mountain Post Retirement Ceremony, said Spc. Jonathan Rumsey, mounted color guard.
Murphy devoted more than 11 years to the mounted color guard, participating in more than 1,350 formal ceremonies, parades and other activities. He competed in six national cavalry competitions and won "Top Cavalry Horse" in 2005 at Fort Riley, Kan.
Murphy's handlers said the gelding wanted to continue performing his duties as a military working horse, but the inward curvature of his spine, called "swayback," forced him into retirement.
"He has the mentality to keep doing what we do, but his body can't handle it," Joiner said.
"When we load up the other horses for ceremonies, he's waiting at the gate," Rumsey said.
Murphy's handlers described the horse as "extremely laid back, but ready to go" and "willing to please."
Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Roy, mounted color guard and fellow retiree, said it was an honor to have served with Murphy and retire at the same ceremony as his equine friend.
"He was the first horse I rode at the National Cavalry Competition in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 2008," Roy said.
In his retirement, Murphy will travel to the Retirement Home for Horses in Alachua, Fla., which specializes in caring for horses retired from government service.