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The Riderless Horse—Ancient Symbol of a Fallen Warrior

The Riderless Horse—Ancient Symbol of a Fallen Warrior

In the funeral procession, a magnificent black gelding, with an empty saddle, saber, and boots reversed in the stirrups, followed the caisson bearing the President’s coffin. The riderless horse is one of the highest military honors bestowed upon the fallen.

The horse, named Black Jack, was from the Army’s oldest active infantry unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard. He alone defied the strict military discipline of the day with his rowdy behavior: prancing, throwing his head, and dancing around his walker, the 19-year-old soldier who was sure he would be sent to Greenland if the horse got loose.

After the funeral, Mrs. Kennedy, an avid horsewoman, expressed an interest in Black Jack. Within hours, the horse’s saddle and blanket, and the boots and saber were delivered to her at the White House. They remain part of the Kennedy Library’s permanent collection and are displayed here for the first time.