Cavalry Horse : History of Horses


John Reismiller
Patricia Crane logo A tribute to the Cavalry's last war horse, written by John Reismiller.
Last Cavalry horse's burial monument

At the foot of the monument of Old Trooper is the grave of "Chief," who died in 1968. He was the last of all cavalry horses to be carried on Army rolls. He is interred upright in a special casket constructed by the Post Engineers that allowed him to be buried in this manner.

By John Reismiller

The last cavalry mount was originally trained to herd cattle on a Nebraska ranch. He was a half-breed and had roamed the bluffs of his native land when a colt. After becoming  fully mature, he was trained to be a cowboy's mount to herd cattle on a ranch. At the age of 8, and for reasons unknown, he was sold to the U.S. Army for the sum of $163. With that sale, his destiny as a cavalry horse had begun.

In April of 1941, he reported for duty at Fort Riley, Kansas. He was assigned to the 10th Cavalry for military training. A few months later, he was moved to the 9th Cavalry where he was taught to respond to bugle calls and to move in rank with other horses. He was also trained to stand still when untied and to jump at least 3 feet. As a cavalry troop horse, he slept in a stable with 70 other horses, two to a stall with a kicking bar between them. He was given oats at 5:30 each morning, watered at 7 and then curried and brushed down 30 minutes later.

After a year, he was sent to Cavalry School to help train officer candidates as Cavalry officers. During his year there, he rose to the rank of Advanced Cavalry Charger. He was cared for by a trooper whom he carried in mounted drill until 11 in the morning when he was brought back to his corral and tied to a picket line to be given another grooming, watered and given his noon meal, after which he was turned out to graze and rest until the next morning.

Many young cavalry officers rode Chief, as he was then known, reining him to climb up and down rough terrain, jump over high fences and barricades, swim across rivers and taking him on night and long cross-country rides. He was a wonderfully obedient mount, they remarked.

Chief served faithfully for 8 years as a U.S. Cavalry mount. Old stable hands remember that he was so gentle that anyone could ride him. He was retired because of age. He lived out his retirement in a beautiful pasture until he died on May 24th at the age of thirty-six, the last remaining mount of the U.S. Cavalry. He was buried on the parade grounds to the music of the Cavalry marches he knew so well. A military funeral with full honors was held for Chief. It was attended by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army. The Color Guard brought all troops to Attention and then to Present Arms in honor of this last mount of the U.S. Cavalry.

He was encased in a marble vault, his body standing up as though to carry his last trooper, while the band played the traditional Gary Owen march, so dear to the hearts of cavalrymen and familiar to the ears of Chief who had heard it so often. He was buried near the "Old Trooper" statue and the remains of "Comanche", the only survivor of Custer's troops and mounts at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

As the band played and the troops stood at attention, a plaque was unveiled over his grave.

Nearly two centuries of U.S. Cavalry glory and tradition had passed into History.

Hail to the Chief!

Notes of Interest:

All copyrights to "Hail to the Chief", written by Jack Reismiller, remain with the author.

"Tales of the Horse" is hosted by

Information courtesy of Fort Riley, Kansas

Banner image above is from Trumpeter, plate from Carrousels, course de tetes et de bagues, Paris, 1727/43

© All Photos and Sculpture Copyright 2000 - 2017, Patricia Crane.