A Horse With No Rider

by L-Johnson

The custom is believed to date back to the time of Genghis Khan, when a horse was sacrificed to serve the fallen warrior in the next world. The caparisoned horse later came to symbolize a warrior who would ride no more.

A riderless horse, also known as a caparisoned horse, is a horse that accompanies a funeral procession. It has no rider, and has a pair of boots in the stirrups facing backwards. The horse follows the caisson carrying the casket. In the US, the caparisoned horse is part of the military honors given to an Army or Marine Corps officer who was a colonel or above, as well as state funerals for presidents.

The riding boots reversed in the stirrups represent a fallen leader looking back on his troops for the last time. The first to be officially honored with the riderless horse at his funeral procession was Abraham Lincoln. The most famous riderless horse was “Black Jack”; it took part in the state funerals of President John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, and Lyndon Johnson, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. More recently, the horse “Sergeant York” served as the riderless horse in President Ronald Reagan’s funeral procession, walking behind the caisson that carried Reagan’s flag-draped casket.

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Riderless Horse

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