The Army’s premier ceremonial horses will move to Lorton


The Old Guard's Caisson Platoon rides through Arlington National Cemetery in April 2022 (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

The horses that help transport military service members to their final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery will soon find a temporary home just off Gunston Road in Lorton.

On Dec. 15, the U.S. Army and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that the Caisson Platoon horses of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment — also known as The Old Guard — will be housed at the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area on a rotational basis through December 2027. A dozen horses at a time will rest and recuperate at Meadowood, grazing on approximately 14 acres of land near the former Belmont House on Belmont Boulevard.

While the horses won’t be visible from Gunston Road, they should be viewable from the Coyote Trail, Wood Thrush Loop and the Hidden Pond Trail at Meadowood, according to a spokesperson from the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (MDW).

Trail map of Meadowood Recreation Area in Lorton, Virginia (Credit: BLM)

The horses are expected to arrive at their new home in early 2023 from their current lodging at the Caisson Stables on Colchester Road, which is part of Fort Belvoir. That facility has a smaller grazing area that was deemed insufficient in size for the number of horses being kept there, according to an Army report published earlier this year. Four horses from the Caisson Platoon, which also spend part of their time at a stable facility at Fort Myer in Arlington County, have died this past year.

In coming months, the Army will be determining its long-term care plan for the horses. The Army and BLM are “exploring all options,” said the MDW spokesperson, “including working with Congress on a legislated solution, while maintaining public land values and uses that the public enjoys at Meadowood.”

“We will keep the community informed of any developments on a possible longer-term partnership at Meadowood,” the spokesperson added.

For now, the Army is preparing the new site for the arrival of the horses. Fencing for the paddocks has been installed at Meadowood, and other facilities soon will be put in place, including run-in shelters, water troughs and a temporary housing unit for Army personnel.

Horses at Meadowood Stables in Lorton, Virginia

The horses that join The Old Guard typically come from Virginia, Illinois, Texas or Maryland, but also from other states, according to MDW. During military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, a guide horse with rider accompanies six matching- colored horses — three with riders — that pull an artillery caisson bearing the casket. The Caisson Platoon also participates in Twilight Tattoos, presidential inaugurations and funerals.

“The BLM understands how important these horses are for the country and the entire military community,” said BLM Eastern States State Director Mitchell Leverette in a joint Army/BLM press release. “Their safety and well-being are a top priority, and we are happy to help the Army provide high-quality pasture for the Caisson horses to rest and recover while not on duty at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area, which is situated on public lands managed by BLM, is located at 10406 Gunston Road. The area offers 13.4 miles of hiking trails, 7 miles of horseback riding trails and 6.6 miles of mountain biking trails.

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