Horse News

Memorial Day thanks to military & tribute to war horses

Wild Horse Freedom Federation thanks all Americans who have served our country in the military.  We’d also like to pay tribute to war horses.

SOURCE:  The Equus Foundation

Military Horses Saluted As Humanitarians of Horse Stars Hall of Fame

In keeping with the spirit of Memorial Day, as it pays tribute to United States men and women who have died serving their country in the military and expresses gratitude to all servicemen and women, two military horses, Staff Sergeant Reckless (1949-1968) and Klinger (2000- ), are likewise garnering accolades. Both noted for exemplary service in the United States armed forces, they have been honored by the horse world as members of the Horse Stars Hall of Fame, a joint program of the EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation.


Staff Sergeant Reckless
Photo courtesy of United States Marine Corps

Reckless, a Korean pony who stood 11 hands one inch, and Klinger, a Morgan-Percheron cross that towers above all his human associates at a height of 17 hands, are a contrast not only of size, but of time and place, their years of military service separated by more than half a century and thousands of miles.

Both horses have inspired writers to tell their stories. In 2004, Betsy Beard, devastated when her son, Army Specialist Bradley Beard, was killed in action in Iraq, came to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and began channeling her grief into writing, subsequently becoming the editor of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Magazine. She later researched the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors mascot and wrote a fictional children’s book, Klinger, a Story of Honor and Hope, for the organization. Published in 2010, the book is given to children in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors program, along with a stuffed horse modeled after Klinger.

Now Janet Barrett’s new book, They Called Her Reckless–A True Story of War, Love And One Extraordinary Horse, is making Marines proud and winning a host of new fans for this real-life warhorse. The first full-length biography of the amazing Staff Sergeant Reckless, it tells of the powerful bond between her and her fellow Marines and what it achieved.

Staff Sergeant Reckless (1949-1968)

Beginning in October 1952, Reckless was a valued presence to the members of the Marine Fifth Regiment fighting the Korean War, who acquired the Jeju pony to haul ammunition to the front lines. Specifically charged with transporting the heavy shells to the 75mm recoilless rifles, she did that and so much more: packing ammo beyond what anyone thought possible, saving lives, raising spirits, and winning the love and respect of all who knew her.

Quickly becoming the revered warhorse of the regiment, the courageous Reckless, the Marines were fond of saying, was the only horse that came out of the war with fame and a name. Given the rank of private first class soon after she came to the Marines, she rose through the ranks, finally promoted to staff sergeant before being retired in 1960 at Camp Pendleton, California. A statue of her was dedicated at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Virginia in 2013, and this past March she joined Klinger as only the second military member of the Horse Stars Hall of Fame. To read more about Staff Sergeant Reckless, click here.
 (Photo from Patti Gross/TAPS)

Photo courtesy of Patti Gross/TAPS

Klinger (2000- )

At age 13, Klinger, the oft-described gentle giant, is still a working member of the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon. In ten years of service, his various ceremonial duties have included being part of the team that pulled the caisson in more than 5,000 full-honor military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.

The kind, steady Klinger also provides another type of comfort, helping young children to cope with the death of a loved one in the armed forces. As the unofficial mascot of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national nonprofit veterans service organization, Klinger is often on hand for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors events, where his gentleness is evident as he obligingly lowers his head for even the littlest child to pet his muzzle.

This past year, the Washington International Horse Show recognized Klinger for his induction into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame with a special ceremony at center ring on Military Night. The Washington International Horse Show also honored Klinger with a special award to be presented annually at the Washington International Horse Show in his name. The Klinger Perpetual Award for Honor and Service presented by Ariat International and EQUUS Foundation will recognize a horse, individual or organization each year that best demonstrates the values of honor and service as embodied by Klinger. To read more about Klinger, click here.

Inducted into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame as humanitarian horses, the category overseen by the EQUUS Foundation, Klinger and Reckless show the diversity of what horses can accomplish. Though the role of a warhorse has virtually disappeared from combat, the work Klinger does with the Army and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors goes on. While the public generally knows more about sport horses, and many of the finest are selected by the United States Equestrian Federation for membership in the Hall of Fame, the EQUUS Foundation focuses on promoting the other avenues open to horses.

“They are incredible animals,” says Lynn Coakley, the foundation’s president, “and we want people to understand just how much value they have beyond the role of sport horse, exciting as that can be.” In fact, she adds, “Many horses can go on to other careers after they leave the riding ring,” noting the growing field of therapeutic riding. Through its Equine Welfare Network, the EQUUS Foundation works with over 800 equine organizations, among them therapeutic riding centers and rescue organizations, providing financial support, or working with volunteers and staff to improve the delivery of services.

Partnering with the United States Equestrian Federation to create the Horse Stars Hall of Fame, Coakley believes, is a simple and direct way to let people know the scope of what horses can do.


12 replies »

  1. Here’s another memorial to Reckless written by myself and Sharon Anderson.
    She was truly a war horse and a remarkable one at that.
    May you always have green grass, cool fresh water and thank you, for your service.


  2. Thank You !!!!! Debbie Coffee for the Beautiful tribute to all who Served to keep this Country FREE !!!!!! Such a Beautiful Little Race Horse with the Courage to do all She Did and the many other Animals who there when needed !!!!! Our Horses have always been there for us, we as Americans should always keep them close and safe they are our Heros, Our Icons, Our Treasures , Our Gift !!!!!!


  3. Our service horses, dogs and other animals deserve our respect and undying loyalty. When you realize that they endure frightening, perilous and impossible situations as our companions, understanding only our love as their reward, it makes them all the more courageous.


    • Well said, Susan. The fearless Sgt. Reckless and the gentle giant Klinger are two examples of what wonderful companions and heros they became.


  4. This really doesn’t have anything to do with Memorial Day (have read about Reckless many times).
    I just finished a book by H. Alan Day – The Horse Lover. It certainly tells a tale of exactly how a man who wanted to give UNADOPTABLE wild horses a chance to be free.
    AND exactly how he was treated in the end by the BLM & DOI. This was in 1993. His sanctuary was set up at the same time Dayton Hydes was. For anyone who cares about the wild horses – this should be required reading. If there was any doubt in my mind about the way the BLM’s bureaucracy deals with people who actually want to save wild horses (which there isn’t) this would seal the deal.
    This really should be publicized!


  5. wow rt and debbie , you may as well call our wild ones pow’s because they are still looking into the eyes of the enemy everyday . and have gone straight into enemy firing that has ended their lives , i am crying for each and every one that has been placed in that position . as it has been called the war with no cause, the korean war, many of our young men deserted and would not face those guns . the only gift given is remembrance and our pride that were on our side . staff sgt. reckless and klinger and our lost wilds one will no longer have to worry about enemies . i only hope now to find the words to help the ones in the enemy camps. hopiman what a wonderful video.


  6. The Sheldon War Horses. They deserve better than this:

    September 2, 2012 The final “Comprehensive Conservation Plan” released on Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which manages the Sheldon Refuge, calls for the fast-track removal of an estimated 800 wild horses and 90 burros using helicopter stampedes to capture and remove the animals
    America’s War Horses: History of the Sheldon Mustangs

    The wild horses on the Sheldon Refuge are descendants of cavalry stock and breeds that helped develop the area in the 1800’s prior to the land being sold to the federal government. At the turn of the century, the Boer War in South Africa and later the Spanish-American War created a large demand for military mounts. Many wild horses from the area that is now the Sheldon Refuge were rounded up and shipped overseas as cavalry remounts. During World War I, a rancher named Harry Wilson went into business with the federal government. The horses Miller provided for the Army ran from High Rock Canyon north to the Oregon border, across all of what is now the Sheldon Refuge.

    The presence of wild horses and burros on the land pre-dates the 1931 creation of the Sheldon Refuge by over a half century. The Sheldon horses are part of a lager wild horse population in the tri-state area (California-Oregon-Nevada), which is known as “mustang country.” The area includes the Bureau of Land Management’s Calico and High Rock Complexes.


    INSIGHTS: Wild Horses in the Wild – Targets of Ruthless Exploiters
    By Craig C. Downer

    The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge had a long-standing agreement with Wild Horse Annie’s organization to allow for a healthy, balanced herd of wild horses in perpetuity, but has just cruelly removed 300 horses during the foaling season. This removal resulted in much suffering among the horses, abortion by mares and social disruption of the bands and their herd.

    Repeating the same old biased justifications and betraying its earlier agreement, Sheldon Refuge officials have announced their intention to eliminate all wild horses from the reserve, in spite of widespread public support for the horses and scientific studies indicating that they co-exist harmoniously with antelope, sage grouse and other native species.

    I could fill a book with such injustices


  8. Fish and Wildlife Service allows Sheldon Wild Horses to be sold to slaughter middleman:

    Posted on November 7, 2013 at 8:7 PM
    By Clarion-Ledger

    In October, Sheldon began shipping wild horses captured the previous month from refuge lands, to Mississippi, the campaign says. Horses began leaving the Palmer property by the truckload, the campaign said.

    The horses were captured from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada; the campaign calls Palmer a “slaughter middleman in Mississippi.” Sheldon officials sent the last of the horses to Mississippi on Monday, “despite warnings that the middleman, government contractor Stan Palmer of J&S Associates, was giving away horses by the truckload,” the campaign’s release says.

    The government pays Palmer more than $1,000 per horse “to take the horses off the government’s hands, despite the department’s own internal investigation that showed wild horses previously sent to Palmer have ended up in the slaughter pipeline,” the campaign says.

    The ancestors of the Sheldon horses fought in battles as cavalry mounts through World War I, the campaign says.

    In a letter to the chair and members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over FWS refuges, the campaign wrote, “The FWS has gone to great lengths to continue its relationship with J&S in order to continue the laundering of wild horses captured from the Sheldon Refuge. The FWS has spent nearly $1 million tax dollars in this scheme that has placed the fate of hundreds of mustangs in jeopardy.

    The FWS continued to contract with Palmer in 2013 despite an internal investigation documenting that Palmer could not verify the whereabouts of as many as 200 of the 262 horses placed with him between 2010 and 2013, the campaign says.


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