Equine Rescue

Army’s Old Guard horses suffer poor living conditions, report finds after 2 died

as published in the Army Times

An Army report covered by CNN this week revealed that military horses serving as pall-bearers for Arlington National Cemetery have been suffering poor-living conditions, with one horse recently dying in February with 44 pounds of gravel and sand in his stomach.

A caisson carries the remains of Army Pfc. Tramaine J. Billingsley, Nov. 2, 2010, during burial services at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The horse-drawn caisson is provided by the U.S. military for veterans who are eligible for full-honors funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

The report was compiled in February by the U.S. Army’s Public Health Command-Atlantic after two horses with the Old Guard — known for guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — died within days of each other.

A lack of space, inadequate funding and the turnover of unit commanders were noted as the primary issues. The horses were fed poor-quality feed, suffered parasite infestations and lived in excrement-filled mud lots.

More than a dozen inspections conducted between 2019 and 2022 gave the horse facilities “unsatisfactory” sanitary ratings, despite supposed efforts made by the soldiers of Caisson Platoon, who train and care for the horses, the report found, according to CNN.

There are more than 60 horses attached to the Old Guard, all of which are rotated between stables at Fort Meyer and a six-acre pasture complex at Fort Belvoir, both near Washington, D.C.

Tony, the horse with 44 pounds of sediment in his gut, died of sand colic, the result of being fed in inappropriate feeding areas.

Dr. Gabriele Landolt, an assistant professor of equine medicine at Colorado State University’s veterinary college, told CNN that the amount of sediment found in Tony’s stomach was definitely outside the norm.

“No, that is a lot,” he said. “That should not be in the colon.”

Mickey, the other horse that died in February, died of septic colic, which was caused by an untreated gastrointestinal illness or injury. Manure and bacteria made their way into his bloodstream, causing an infection.

Following Mickey and Tony’s deaths, stool samples were collected from 25 other horses in the unit, with the report showing that 80% of the horses had “moderate to high levels of sediment in their stool,” according to CNN.

The report also revealed the horses were being fed low-nutritional hay, CNN reported. The “color is yellow-brown with large amounts of thick stems and few leaves; dry, dusty, and brittle,” the report showed.

A senior leader with the Old Guard interviewed by CNN reportedly said that “short-term fixes” were already underway, including the purchase of mats for the feeding areas and contract changes to improve the quality of hay fed to the horses.

Longer-term improvements, though, like those needed at the facilities at Fort Belvoir and Fort Myer, rely on increased or re-purposed funding and “may take multiple years to fix,” the senior leader said.

11 replies »

    • What has happened to the US Army? The US Army “can’t.” What happened to the Army that could?

      Why aren’t senior leaders held accountable? Why aren’t we reading about the relief for cause of the first Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel in the change of command? Retire the Lieutenant Colonel as a Major and the Colonel as a Lieutenant Colonel.

      There is the failure in Afghanistan – lives and billions wasted and no Colonels, Generals, or those Senior Executive Service held accountable. Homes were destroyed at Fort A.P. Hill. Now, in peacetime, the senior leaders are so busy that they don’t look after horses? Don’t check on the food and living conditions? I wonder who is looking after the Soldiers?

      The Military District of Washington? Peacetime? Leaders in the Army are paid a lot, and we as a country should expect more. A Colonel with twenty years of service is making more than $10,081 per month. He or she has a lot of people working for him or her. The Commander of the Old Guard / 3rd Infantry or the Commanding General Military District of Washington could call in the very best. Yet, we see a failure and an Army that can’t?

      Perhaps the US Army should ask the US Navy for some Seabees to help fix the buildings. Maybe the US Air Force would be willing to lead a hand? I just can’t believe something so basic, and NO ONE IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE. NO SENIOR OFFICER WAS FIRED – NO ONE RETIRED AT A LOWER GRADE – NO SENIOR OFFICER WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE.


  1. This report is appalling. These horses don’t have time for the Army to take “multiple years to fix,” ?? There is no excuse for feeding these poor animals poor quality hay and for them to be living in their own filth and be given proper basic vet care. These horses deserved at the minimum good hay and clean corrals. It’s obvious their quality of life wasn’t given any sort of priority. If the Army can’t get the funding just to give these horses a good quality of life, which is just basic needs, then they need to give those horses to rescues or good homes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. People don’t care about animals that have served them well. People all suck! Horses are so mistreated all over this sad country! I don’t know how anyone can abuse these beautiful & innocent creatures! Same with dogs who have been so abused. It has to stop! These animals love you unconditionally whether you’re mean to them or not. Wish we could save them all!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’d like to remind people, or tell those who don’t know, that a group of horse advocates are setting up rallies in every state capital on Apr 23 to save our wild horses. They are not an organization, but they’re all horse advocates. The rally is named as National freedom for wild horses. I am going to the one in Oregon. I don’t know why the formal organizations for horse advocacy are not advertising this on their websites, but they should be. I think that public visibility is something that is sorely lacking among these organizations. They seem to think all you have to do is keep emailing Congress, filing court cases and donating to their organizations. They clearly do not recognize the power of actually seeing people on the street. Please go in your state if you can, and spread the word to others.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I looked and couldn’t find it with any of the groups. I even emailed them about it, but none responded. The group setting the rallies up said they wrote to everyone about it, but the only group that responded was the Cloud Foundation in Virginia.

        If you found something on it, that’s great. Not sure why I couldn’t find it.


  4. I hate to feel this way but our government does a crappy job of most everything. These horses suffered immensely and more will follow. If they are not given proper care they should be given to people who WILL take care of them!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I shouldn’t be appalled by any mistreatment of any animal, but I still am. I just don’t understand how people can abuse innocent animals.
    They haven’t done anything wrong yet are treated heartlessly. Our government is supposed to be such a good one, but I cannot believe the things that they let happen to our Wild Horses & Burros! Money talks & I know this is true, so our animals suffer the consequences. Makes me sick!
    I agree that the public needs to know more about this problem so they can add their voices That’s one thing that is really needed. Once you get a lot of people involved, they finally listen. After all we do vote! Let them hear your feelings by e-mailing, writing, Facebook them and calling their offices. That gets their attention, MORE people need to help!

    Liked by 1 person

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