JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Dec. 5, 2011) -- Before horses have the distinct honor of transporting a fallen hero to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., they must be fit for duty and trained.
Caisson Platoon Soldiers with 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), ensured their 14 new horses at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., were able to uphold the high standards of this responsibility.
"My job is to catch any issues, big or small, that would put these horses, Soldiers or people around the area at risk," said Maj. Lisa Barden, the regimental veterinarian. "If the injury or sickness is subtle, we need to catch it before we throw a Soldier on its back."
The new horses arrived Oct. 2 and were immediately quarantined from all other horses for a minimum of six weeks.
During quarantine, the veterinarian checks each new horse thoroughly from head to hooves by completing a pre-purchase exam to ensure peak health and fitness.
"We have 60 days to examine each horse to determine whether or not we are going to keep the animal," Barden said. "We check if these horses will be good sound investments for the Army."
When the horses pass the pre-purchase exam, Barden deems them healthy and ready for the next step, training.
"I enjoy working with new horses," said Spc. Daniel Wolff, Caisson platoon horse rider and trainer. "Teaching horses how they should behave during ceremonies can be very difficult, but it also can be the most rewarding experience."
Wolff added a trainer must be extremely patient because of the differences in each horse.
"No two horses are the same, so when they arrived we have to break some of the old habits and develop our standard," said Wolff. "I have never seen a horse ready for ceremonies without good medical treatment and proper training."
Although to some, it may seem like hard work preparing each new horse for a funeral ceremony, for riders like Wolff, it is worth every moment.
"When the families see us and these amazing animals carrying their loved one, you can just tell in their faces how proud they are," said Wolff. "It is all about the families and honoring the fallen."