The long barn aisle seems a little quieter today.  One less soft nicker of recognition as the human counterparts of the Mounted Patrol prepare for their day.  Officer John Shoopman turns to a different stall door to be greeted by his new partner, Liberty, with a nostalgic glance over his shoulder towards the stall door shrouded in a black drape.  Officer Shoopman was Willie’s person, a partnership that lasted 10 years of Willie’s 11 years in service.


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At nearly 24 years old, Willie had actually been ready for retirement, but his strength of service was needed during the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland, in July 2016, so he remained active duty.  His warm personality made him a patrol ambassador to all his Columbus area residents, and popular especially with the children.  His imposing size and spacial awareness made him the ideal police partner during crowd control measures.  Willie had undergone additional training above and beyond the standard protocol, making him the “go-to” when public events got out of hand.


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It’s easy to forget, as horse owners and riders, we often ask things of them we’d never think to ask of ourselves.  We ask them to lead, follow, do and be, so many things that don’t seem natural, without question or hesitation.  When faced with a wall of noisy humans in protest, most horses would react with fight or flight instinct.  Police horses not only have to ignore that instinct, they have to have the blind faith in their rider that marching straight into that wall of people is not only okay, but necessary.  They have to hear their rider’s cues above all the din, while staying alert to the chaos surrounding them.  They have a job to do, regardless of their own feelings about it, just like their riders who count on them-they count on their riders in return.  It’s a bond that takes time to develop, and is critical to the success of a police human and horse officer team.


When I spoke with Officer Shoopman about some of their shared experiences, he described how being a Saddlebred, a breed known for their characteristic headset and gaits, worked in their favor.  Willie raising his head up created the impression of an even bigger force, one not to be messed with.  His trust in Officer Shoopman coming in to play when protesters pushed against his shoulder and hips, he felt only the nudge of a heel and knew to push back and hold the line.  In another story, Officer Shoopman shared Willie conveniently “took a relief break” on the head of a drunk spectator who’d been trying to intervene in an arrest during the Arnold Classic several years ago.  I suspect, we could have talked for quite a while longer, reliving many of Willie’s finest moments, but the subject being such a fresh, open wound still, kept our chat short.




Willie’s illustrious career came to a close last Wednesday, when he began to exhibit symptoms of Colic.  A word that despite all medical advances and modern technology, still strikes fear in the heart of every horseman.  Officer Shoopman tried all the usual remedies, but found none to offer any relief to his friend, eventually deciding to transport him to the OSU Veterinary Hospital for further evaluation.  An exploratory surgery presented a large tumor wrapped around his intestinal tract, which they successfully removed.  That as it turns out, was the easy part.  Willie struggled to recover from the surgery, and whatever damage had already been done by the tumor, but eventually lost the battle at 6:20pm that same day, and received the radio call of “End of Service” shortly after.


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Willie is survived by his partner, Officer John Shoopman, his best friend, Glory, and the rest of the Mounted Patrol Officers, two and four-legged.  The Columbus Division of Police shared a moving video tribute to their fallen officer, which can be viewed here:


A formal memorial service, with all due honors befitting a celebrated officer such as Willie, will be held Friday, January 27th, 1:00pm at 2609 McKinley Ave. in Columbus. The public is welcome to attend and pay their respects.




Television and Film award season is upon us.  I used to enjoy watching at least the pre-show, to see what all the fabulous people were wearing, but now that it’s become just another political platform, I’m looking elsewhere for entertainment.  Looking to the past actually, where horses and the beginnings of the motion picture connect.


In 1872, the former governor of California Leland Stanford, a race-horse owner, hired Eadweard Muybridge to undertake some photographic studies. Stanford had reputedly taken a bet on whether all four of a racehorse’s hooves are off the ground simultaneously. On 15 June 1878, Muybridge set up a line of cameras with tripwires, each of which would trigger a picture for a split second as the horse ran past. The results, as shown in this plate, settled the debate.




As told by Travis, credit to the International Museum of the Horse website.  “Muybridge is widely considered the father of the motion picture after having developed a way to capture horses in motion photographically and inventing a machine called a zoopraxiscope to view his images. He received a $50,000 grant to develop moving pictures of animals at the University of Pennsylvania from 1885-1887 and took over 100,000 photos of different animals and people completing a variety of different motions. Muybridge showed his work at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair showing his moving pictures to a paying public and making the first movie theatre.”  A gif of the slides as how they might be seen through the Zoopraxiscope can be found here: The viewer itself can be found at the International Musuem of the Horse, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.


Over time his Zoopraxiscope morphed into the Zoetrope.  Stephen Herbert mapped out the timeline of it’s development, as well as providing a link where you’re able to print and create your own at home (sounds like a fun snow-day activity!).


Muybridge didn’t just focus on horses for his work, here are a few other known collections using the same photography methods…


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Horses have played important roles in many aspects of our American history.  It’s fun to see how something as simple as a gentlemen’s wager and a horse being breezed could launch the beginning of something so widely-enjoyed by us.





When we see celebrities in the news, it’s usually for television and movies, politics, or simply the “famous for being famous” lot.  Often there are notable celebrities that don’t receive the limelight they’re due, despite their place or contribution to society.  This is one such case, where a handsome celebrity is overlooked, forgotten almost, but still very much noteworthy in his own respect.  Using popular social media to reach out, I was able to have an email chat with “Klinger,” a key member of the Caisson team serving at Arlington National Cemetary.  His responses with the aid of CPT Austin N. Hatch, who serves as the Caisson Platoon Leader.


I began by asking for Klinger’s particulars; age, rank, and length of service:

“I’m a 16 year old, black, Percheron cross.  I’ve been serving with the Caisson Platoon for 13 years now and feel honored to serve our nation’s fallen service members.  I’m always on my best behavior for the funeral services to make it special for the family members.  I have the opportunity to honor the children of the fallen as well, as I’m the primary horse used for all TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) events.  There is even a children’s book and beanie baby made about me to help make the children happy.”



The book and plush Klinger may be purchased here:


Was military service a sort of calling, or more a matter of happenstance?

“I’ve always felt like there was a special calling for me to fulfill.  There is no greater honor for a horse than to serve in the Arlington National Cemetery.  I may even be ridden during the inaugural parade ceremony.”


Describe a typical, day-in-the-life?

“We wake up very early around 4am.  The soldiers help wash and clean us for the funeral services.  The leather and brass must be cleaned prior to being put on us.  We leave the barn around 8am and serve in the cemetery all day until 3pm.  We are given hay and grain throughout the day to keep our spirits high, as the wagon can be heavy up the hills at times.  The soldiers clean our stalls every day so when we get back there is nice bedding, hay, and water for us when we return.”


Who all is a part of your team when performing a funeral service, what does each member bring to the table?

“There are always 7 horses minimum as part of our team.  There are two wheel horses which are closest to the wagon and do most of the pulling and stopping.  These are typically the biggest horses, of which I have the pleasure to serve occasionally.  There are two swing horses.  These are the two middle horses, which help with turning and keeping the trace chains tight.  There are two lead horses.  These are the two front horses, which help guide us and keep us at the correct speed for the service.  Then there is the section horse.  He/she is not attached to the wagon, but off to the side close to the lead horses.  This horse is ridden by the most experienced soldiers and leads our team.  I often serve as the section horse as well.

Sometimes there is an eighth horse used which we call the Caparisoned Horse or riderless horse.  This is used for the high ranking soldiers who have passed away.”





You have a pretty serious job, with high expectations, how do you unwind?

“I get a full week of R&R at our 10 acre ranch at Fort Belvoir every month.  I enjoy playing with the other horses and eating as much hay as I like.  When I’m at Fort Myer I like to stick my head out the stall window and breathe the fresh air occasionally.  There are a lot of people who like to visit me in my stall and give me apples and carrots.”


What do you enjoy most about your work?

“Honoring our fallen service members.”


What is something the general public might not know about you/your team, something they might be surprised by?

“I am part of the Washington International Horse Show every year.  I am always there to present the Klinger Perpetual Award.”




What a distinguished gentleman!  His years of dedicated service obviously make a tremendous impact on the lives of those he honors, as well as the lives of those left behind.  Klinger, it’s been an honor to speak with you, though your “interpreter,” CPT Hatch, and I look forward to an in person meeting soon!

For more information about the Platoon, click here:





The holidays are behind us, and the next few cold and gloomy months still loom ahead.  Some of us may use the winter season to take a break from showing and give our horses time off, while others load up the rig and head south.  Anyone in the industry knows, central Florida, and Ocala in particular is where it’s at!




In 2007, Ocala/Marion County was officially named the “Horse Capital of the World™,” a testament to the County’s unique involvement in all things equestrian and its record of producing some of the finest champions in the sport. With a beautiful, mild climate all year long and soil rich with limestone calcium for strong bones, Ocala/Marion County is home to more horses than anywhere else in the country.


Thos interested in the hunter jumper circuit may be following HITS Winter Circuit,



Quarter Horse enthusiasts tend to migrate more toward Tampa, FL at the end of the year, to the Gold Coast Circuit,



For those who aren’t necessarily competitive, but still want to ride year round, there are real estate options available in equine-themed communities like this,



Don’t let dropping temperatures, frozen water buckets, and more time spent walking hot horses under coolers than actually working them, keep you inside this winter. Load up your trailer and head south for more sun and saddle time!