20 Apr 2024

Is There Anything This Administration Cannot F-Up?

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Way back, almost a year ago, Federal News announced that military funerals carrying the casket on the traditional horse-drawn artillery caisson were being suspended temporarily, for just a month and a half, 45 days.

Why?

The cause was absolutely appalling.

The Army will make changes to the long care of its Old Guard horses, including expanding their pastures, allowing them rest and rehabilitation, and purchasing new horses. It also plans to improve the equipment and possibly use lighter caissons to ease the load for the horses. An Army report last year found poor management practices and unsatisfactory sanitation in caring for the caisson horses.

Horses were being overworked, underfed, neglected, used with ill-fitting tack, and actually dying.

That 45-day suspension continued right up to the present day, just about a year later, and the Army has announced that it expects it will be roughly one more year before replacement horses can be purchased and proper equipment and care put into place.

“more than half of the 48-member herd had muscle, joint or hoof issues.”

The original suspension followed a string of military working horse deaths, reports of unsanitary and potentially life-threatening living conditions, as well as congressional scrutiny directed at the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard” — the service’s premier ceremonial unit, which is in charge of conducting the horse-drawn services. …

Officials could not give an estimate of when that suspension would lift, though Bredenkamp said that the decision to resume operations would be “conditions-based” and did not expect the extension to last multiple years. Those conditions include factors like how many new horses the unit can procure to replace those who have retired, aged out or were adopted.

It also centers around fine-tuning training and rest cycles, which officials said were overburdened before experts and lawmakers leveled scrutiny at the unit. Before April 2023, the caisson horses were doing 6-8 funerals per day, every two hours, according to officials.

“What we’ve learned is that the more appropriate work-rest cycle is no more than five hours under saddle and tack in a day,” Bredenkamp said. “So, that reduces the amount of funerals we can support with those squads.”

In 2022, CNN reported that two horses died within just days of each other and that the herd was living in small, unsanitary conditions, consuming low-quality feed and suffering from parasites. Within nine months of those deaths, two other horses died, totalling four in less than a year.

Following those deaths, the unit started rotating horses to a larger plot of land in Virginia in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management. One of the challenges that officials and soldiers who care for the horses have grappled with is the lack of organic space at Fort Myer and Fort Belvoir, where the horses live and train. In 2022, the Army said the then-60-member herd was living in less than 20% of the space equine experts recommend.

“It just became very cost-prohibitive to be able to expand the relatively small facility we had at Fort Belvoir to accommodate a larger herd,” Bredenkamp said. “And we’re not going to get any more in Fort Myer.”

Over the last year, the number of horses began to dwindle as some were adopted out of the unit, which meant those remaining had more space as the unit looked for alternatives to the tiny six-acre pasture complex at Belvoir. Two years ago, the herd numbered around 60, which crowded the limited space they occupied at the two bases. Now, the herd totals at 42, which includes 18 new horses since June 2023.

The people in charge of those horses were members of he U.S. Army’s ultra-elite “Old Guard” Third U.S. Infantry Regiment which is used to guard the President of the United States and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and for other important ceremonial functions.

Some elite!

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5 Feedbacks on "Is There Anything This Administration Cannot F-Up?"

ruralcounsel

There was a time when the US Army knew how to care for horses because their lives depended on it.

My great-grandfather served in the 3rd West Virginia Mounted Infantry (later the 6th) from 1861-1865, spending most of that time in the Shenandoah Valley campaigns.



SteveS

That is sad. And also worrisome. An army that cannot manage simple things in peacetime is unlikely to do large, complex things under war conditions.



rocdoctom

This all happened on whose watch? Some mandatory retirements ahead? How many stars required to take care of a horse? too many questions.



Seattle Sam

Horses can’t vote. They rank way below illegal immigrants, who Democrats expect to be able to vote shortly.



McChuck

The members of the Old Guard aren’t chosen for their equine experience. They know absolutely nothing about horses. Of course, most of the Army knows next to nothing about successfully prosecuting a war, either.



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