Klinger

Photo courtesy of Patti Gross/TAPS
(2000 – )
Owned by United States Army
Inducted: 2013

Photos

Photo courtesy of Alden Corrigan
Photo courtesy of United States Army
Photo courtesy of Alden Corrigan
Photo courtesy of United States Army
Photo courtesy of United States Army
Photo courtesy of TAPS
Klinger has touched the lives of many people in his life of service with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Old Guard Caisson Platoon. Among his duties, he has served as the official Escort to the President of the United States and as a member of our nation's premier Memorial Affairs and Ceremonial Unit. Klinger has also worked with wounded veterans and been a comfort to the children of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national nonprofit Veterans Service Organization that brings hope and healing to the families of our nation's fallen heroes.

Unlike most other horses, Klinger has had an award-winning children's book written about him. He also participates in community service events throughout the National Capitol Region, including appearing for the past three years as the guest of honor at the Washington International Horse Show Kids' Day. The Washington International Horse Show established the Klinger Award in his honor in 2012.

A Morgan Percheron cross, Klinger arrived at the home of the Caisson Platoon when he was three years old. He has participated in more than 5,000 full honor military funerals, providing the nation's heroes with their last ride to their final resting ground in Arlington National Cemetery. The solemn dignity which the men and horses lend to this ceremony is neither accidental nor instinctive. Both men and horses train constantly for this duty.

The seven horses which form the team to pull the caisson through the quiet lanes of Arlington National Cemetery consist of one Section Horse, two Lead Horses, two Swing Horses, and two Wheel Horses. Although all seven animals are saddled, only those on the left and the Section Horse have mounted riders, following the tradition when caissons were used during war. Klinger has served as a Section Horse, leading the others through the cemetery, and as a Wheel Horse closest to the caisson.

Klinger is a compassionate gentle giant who is comfortable and well behaved with the soldiers who work with him daily, as well as with wounded warriors undergoing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and civilians who visit him in the barn. Early on, Klinger worked to rehabilitate wounded warriors as a therapy horse for the Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. During the lessons, Caisson Platoon soldiers serve as horse leaders and side walkers. Soldiers helping fellow soldiers is a key strength of the program.

Klinger may stand head and shoulders above any crowd and weigh more than a ton, but this midnight black horse is helping some of the tiniest people left behind following the death of a service member. For years, Klinger has touched the hearts of hurting children attending the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Good Grief Camp over the Memorial Day weekend. The children visit the stable to learn how America honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Because of Klinger's work with the Good Grief Camp, TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll, who holds a degree in Equine Science from Springfield College, wanted a children's book written to showcase Klinger's connection to the courageous children of fallen heroes. TAPS Magazine editor Betsy Beard, whose only son Army Specialist Bradley Beard was killed in action in Iraq, researched and wrote Klinger, a Story of Honor and Hope in 2010.

The fictional account of Klinger's life is an award-winning children's book that has earned gold medals from Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, Young Voices Foundation, and Military Writers Society of America. In addition, the book was gifted to the Queen of England by Admiral Mullen, when he was the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.

The story follows a young horse whose dream of fame as a racehorse is disrupted when he must leave his parents and start a new life. Fame and significance seem unattainable, but in the story, as in real life, Klinger finds fulfillment in honoring fallen heroes and bringing comfort to their families.

"As I researched and began writing," said Beard, "I was overwhelmed by the enormity of what the soldiers and horses of the Caisson Platoon do for those of us who have lost a loved one in service to America."

Klinger proudly wears a TAPS cooler at special events and honors the organization while educating and informing people about the work Army horses do. Whether attending the Washington International Horse Show or leading the Presidential Inauguration Parade, Klinger is a very special horse who has touched the lives of tens of thousands of people and stands tall representing all military horses.