Friday, May 22, 2009

Army Farriers Help Retiring Military Horses Hang Up Their Horseshoes in Colorado

by Fran Jurga | 22 May 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Fort Carson, Colorado hosted a ceremony this week that you don't often hear about. Sgt. 1st Class Possum and Master Sgt. Houdini officially retired from service in the US Army. And they went out in style. Horses are not considered just inventory in the Army, they even have rank and can be promoted (or demoted). But they needed the help of Sgt. Jon Husby and Cpl. John Slatton before they could head out to greener pastures.

The official retirement ceremony for two long-serving and hard-working ceremonial color guard horses meant that a single shoe was tacked onto the foot of each horse and it was saddled up for (according to these photos) what looks like an expedition to go after Pancho Villa.

The horses were then led into the arena and ceremoniously unsaddled. The two farriers then pulled the nails and removed the ceremonial shoes. (Note the shoe pullers in Sgt. Husby's hind pocket.)

Tracking down this story meant interviewing sources at Fort Carson who obviously had never been interrogated about their horseshoeing services before, and there is probably a red terrorism alert in the area this weekend because of unprecedented questions asked about military horse hoofcare. You can blame this blog.

Suffice to say, the military press service was very generous to allow the use of these photos but did not want the farriers to be interviewed. They did say that the farriers get to wear blue jeans instead of government-issue uniform pants, and that Sgt. Husby attended farrier school last year in Oklahoma so he could take care of the fort's color guard's horses' hooves.

Sgts. Possum and Houdini, meanwhile, are headed to Florida, where they will live out their days at Mill Creek Farm in Alachua, which is home to many retired military and police horses.

Both horses have been champions or placed over the years in the National Cavalry Competition on behalf of Fort Carson's honor and glory. Fort Carson is named for the legendary frontier scout, Kit Carson.

The farriers will still have six horses at Fort Carson to shoe, and I hope that keeps them busy.

Along the same lines, here's a brief video supplied by the US Army about the hoof preparation of the horses from the Fort Riley, Kansas color guard who participated in the Inaugural Parade in Washington, DC back in January of this year.

Fort Riley was the longtime western capital of horseshoeing in America, as it was the home of the US Army's cavalry school of horseshoeing. I have often wondered if the reason there are so many horseshoeing schools in Oklahoma is because of the psychic presence of that huge and powerful school in the Midwest for so many years. I hope there is a big plaque somewhere on that military base to remember all those farriers, and I hope to get there one of these days to find out!

Photos for this article provided by the United States Army.

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