Celebrity hero horse stops at Thompson’s Station’s Jaeckle Center | Local News


An American hero made a pit stop at the Jaeckle Center in Thompson’s Station as he traveled to his new home in Missouri.

Mark is a 22-year-old horse who served on the Caisson Platoon for 20 years. A caisson horse is one of the six horses that is hooked to the caisson — the cart that holds the caskets of fallen and ranked soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Caisson Platoon conducts one of the most solemn activities in the United States: carrying the remains of a US serviceman or woman to his or her final resting place.

Juliette Ritzman, a retired Army helicopter pilot whose unit was featured in the series “Tour of Duty,” filled out adoption papers to give Mark a home after he retired. He was the third horse she tried to adopt; the process is very competitive.

Military officers visited her home to see where Mark would stay. Once she found out that she was chosen, Ritzman went to visit him, and it was then that she found out the horse she was adopting was famous.

Mark has been on 7,000 missions and is featured in the book, “Mark’s Special Mission,” documenting his story pulling the caisson with fallen soldiers to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The book has won international awards.

“Mark’s Special Mission” eloquently describes the history, pageantry and ceremonial proceedings of the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment’s (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon and the internment ceremony of the nation’s warriors in Arlington National Cemetery. The book teaches healing through relationships, reverence for the nation’s fallen and dignity for their loved ones.

One of Ritzman’s former colleagues is buried at Arlington, and the book brings up memories for her. Ritzman’s husband was also one the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, and both of Ritzman’s sons served in the military.

She obtained a degree in equine management, and she has ridden horses in cavalry reenactments and competitions.

“The equine community is much like the military,” she said. “In the military, we take care of each other.”

Mark’s journey to his new home began on July 31. Ritzman could see in the eyes of the soldiers who had cared for him how hard saying goodbye was.

Because traveling is so stressful for horses, she arranged for a stay at the Jaeckle Centre. The stable offers layovers for traveling horses who need a little therapy on their journey.

The equine Performax therapy team at the Jaeckle Center was thrilled to treat one of the nation’s heroes. Traveling can be taxing on a horse. Stopping overnight to receive treatment helped his tired muscles on his 20-hour journey.

Jaeckle Center staff hope Mark’s stay inspires others locally to adopt these majestic animals after they retire. Visit www.oldguard.mdw.army.mil to learn more.

“While there are horse hotels all over the country, having the Jaeckle Center to stay at was great, because they truly care about the animals,” Ritzman said. “It gave me peace of mind.”

To learn more about the Jaeckle Centre, visit www.equineperformax.com. It’s located at 100 Saddle Springs Drive in Thompson’s Station.

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