Of course, after our visit with Klinger at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, we didn’t just turn around and go home.  We enjoyed a long weekend in Arlington, VA and Washington D.C.  The entire trip was fantastic, despite some bad weather on Thursday and Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were perfect!  We even got to chat with some other Honor Flight Guardians and Veterans (we volunteer with Honor Flight Columbus), in from Iowa and Wisconsin.


At Arlington National Cemetery, we found a few Cherry Trees who’s blossoms hadn’t been destroyed by the weather.  The view from President Kennedy’s grave is stunning, and the sheer enormity of the cemetery is overwhelming.  Never having seen it before other than on television, I had no idea how far in every direction it goes…



We even quickly learned how to navigate the area metro system (and made friends, or at least photo-bombers!).



There are so many museums, and no way to jam them all in unless you have a lot more time, but we managed to hit the National Archive, The Museum of Natural History, and the Holocaust Museum (no photos, due to somber nature).  Plus the highlight reel of national monuments…




We also visited the monuments to The Vietnam War, World War II, The Korean War and Iwo Jima…



All in all, we loved the city and the attractions are endless.  We’re already planning another trip soon!  It’s an easy drive from central Ohio, and I believe Southwest usually offers inexpensive flights from their hubs.  Even if your kids already get a field trip there, they won’t get to see it all, so plan a family trip, or one just for yourselves!










Spring in our Nation’s Capital is everything you’re told it should be, unless there are gale force winds, torrential downpours and the odd tornado.  I got my first visit last weekend, and even the weather couldn’t ruin it for me.  We drove in to Arlington, VA leaving early Thursday morning, arriving after lunch at Joint Base Ft. Myer-Henderson Hall, to a rain-soaked Caisson stable.  The spirit of the men inside however, still at full staff.


Shortly before our arrival, the funeral service for John Glenn, United States Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, and United States Senator from Ohio, had just concluded.  I assumed this must explain the buzz of activity we encountered, but quickly learned, it’s just another day for the Caisson Platoon.  Due to the inclimate weather and lightening strikes, their “missions” (funerals) of the day were in a hurry up and wait pattern.  Captain Hatch was detained, but provided a few Sergeants to assist us on our meet and greet with the famed Klinger.  I apologize for not getting their names, but am deeply appreciative of the time they took to make us feel welcome.


While Klinger was pulled from his stall to be tidied up in their three horse wash bay, a young Sergeant walked us through the stable and explained some of the history and tradition.  The stalls are made from dark polished boards and black steel or wrought iron, creating a very elegant and stately looking stable aisle.  Each side of the stable is dedicated to two teams of black horses, or two teams of grey, making up the four squads who run up to 30 missions daily, Monday through Saturday (excluding holidays).  The horses aren’t all work and no play though, on a regular rotation they get turn out time at the nearby farm dedicated to their care.


I asked during our tour, who knows the missions best, horse or handler?  Our guide laughed and said the horses for sure. They may play around and be animals, but when it’s go time, they’re all business.  The weight of their responsibility is one they bear with great seriousness and dignity.  We were shown a spotless tackroom, lined with gleaming McClelland saddles and bridles.  All in order, ready for their next mission.


We were escorted into a larger storage area where the 3,000 pound caissons are kept.  Each caisson is meticulously maintained by it’s squad (usually the low man has the honor!) for each mission.  It’s kept cleaned, polished, and re-painted as needed to maintain the integrity of the vehicle.  On the walls surrounding are photos and memorabilia for the Platoon dating back to the days of Blackjack, the last of the Quartermaster or military-issued horses from the days when horses were just equipment.




As we stepped back into the stable aisle, more squads were preparing for their next missions (still in the rain).



Meeting Klinger was the highlight of my trip.  He’s every bit as handsome and charasmatic as I expected.  I offered the back of my hand for a sniff, and we were old friends.  It’s always nice to see working animals who are still permitted and encouraged to be themselves.  I chatted away to him while he sniffed and snuffled me, he’s a bit of a ladies man I think.  We conducted the autograph session of his book, “Klinger, a Story of Honor and Hope,” and shared an apple.  I say shared as I bit off a few chunks for him, then offered the rest for him to chew up, and turn into applesauce that he very thoughtfully slobbered all over my arms.  His book and plush Klinger I plan to donate to a group that supports families of lost military (currently looking for one, please comment with website/pages).  Admittedly, I have a bit of a crush on the big guy now.



Our tour came to a close when the Sargeant announced he needed to suit up for his next mission.  We thanked him and made our way to the car in time to see one of the grey squads trotting off to work.  We also got to see one or possibly both black squads during our tour of Arlington National Cemetary later in the day.



More information about the Platoon can be found on their website, http://www.oldguard.mdw.army.mil/specialty-platoons/caisson and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CaissonPlatoon/.  If you’re in the area next weekend, April 15th, they’re hosting an open house from 11a to 4p.  There will be hayrides, games, food, prizes, and a surprise guest appearance for two! Fun for all ages!
This event is a rain or shine event and is open to the NCR community. First come, first served on the treats and prizes!










Yesterday marked the 100th birthday of a racing legend, known to his good friend and groom Will Harbut simply as, Big Red.  “He’s got everythin’ a horse ought to have and he’s got it where a horse ought to have it. He’s the mostest horse.”  

-Will Harbut



Man o’ War’s illustrious career in post-WWI America elevated him to hero status in the racing world.  In 1920 he was considered the unofficial horse of the year, and honored along side another sports legend, Babe Ruth, as outstanding athletes of the year by The New York Times.  His racing career was followed up by an equally successful career as a breeding stallion.  Man o’ War’s most successful sons at stud were War Admiral and War Relic, and War Relic’s branch of the male line survives today. Tiznow, Tourist, Honour and Glory, Bal a Bali, Skywalker and Bertrando are all sire-line descendants of Man o’ War.



Man o’ War was retired from stud in 1943 after suffering a heart attack.  He died on November 1, 1947 at age 30 of another apparent heart attack, a short time after Harbut died. His funeral was broadcast live on NBC Radio.  Man o’ War was embalmed and buried in a casket lined with Riddle’s black and gold racing silks.  He was originally interred at Faraway Farm, but in the early 1970s, his remains were moved to a new burial site at the Kentucky Horse Park, where his grave is marked with a statue by American sculptor Herbert Haseltine.


The Kentucky Horse Park has held a celebration in honor of “Big Red,” to commemorate his centennial birthday, including refinishing his memorial statue. https://kyhorsepark.com/news/man-o-wars-100th-birthday-celebration-video



Photo credit, Jamie Newell


Springtime makes for a great visit to Lexington, KY and the Kentucky Horse Park.  Man o’ War greets you near the entrance.  Be sure to stop and wish him a Happy Birthday as you pass by!









-Winston Churchill


Writing has brough me a lot of great connections.  One of whom, Lori Cummings, CEO of Ariel Medial Group, emailed me the other day to share a story on a local equine therapy facility near her.  Even though we’ve not met in person, Lori knows this is my soft spot!


MANE (Montgomery Area Non-Tradational Equestrians) in Pike Road, Alabama is where Lori likes to spend her volunteering time.  MANE is a fully accredited Premier PATH, International facility, that caters to students of all ages and level of ability.  Program Director, Tiffany Atkinson uses her life-long equine experience and 15 years of marketing and management, to help ensure every student receives top-notch service and training.



Three instructors, and a hearty team of volunteers help round out the staff, that caters to 90-100 individuals weekly!  As a non-profit, they often benefit from local events like the Horse N Buddy Obstacle Challenge held earlier in March, and organized by Lori.



If you’ve never witnessed therapeutic horsemanship at work, you’re really missing out.  What horses and the human teams are able to accomplish with their students is nothing short of miraculous.  Whether the student’s diagnosis is physical or non-physical, there’s something in it for everyone.  The MANE website offers great detail on the benefits:


“Therapeutic horseback riding provides extremely important and effective intervention for people with cognitive, emotional, and/or physical disabilities. A rider straddling a horse stretches tight or spastic muscles throughout his or her body. Instructors and therapists use the three-dimensional rhythmic motion of the horse to reduce spasticity and abnormal movements, quicken reflexes, aid in motor planning, and strengthen muscles, joints, and tendons damaged by trauma or illness in their disabled patients. Riders with physical impairments or limited mobility can experience increased balance and muscle control; a wider range of motion; and improved respiration, circulation, appetite, and digestion. Confidence and enhanced self-esteem are positive by-products of therapeutic riding.”


That just addresses the physical benefits!  With their Horses Helping our Heroes program, the interaction with horses, even just on the ground, is sometimes enough to bring even the most traumatized souls “back home” again.  Horses have a way of understanding things within us that sometimes we don’t even fully understand, and making connections that we didn’t know were broken.



I’m so glad Lori brought this program to my attention, and I now have the opportunity to share with you.  This is something we cannot talk enough about, and need to keep the conversations going!  Do you have a therapeutic horsemanship program near you, or volunteer with one?  Tell me about it!  More information about MANE can be found on their website, http://www.maneweb.org/.