Heinz Donates Horse Hitch To Arlington Cemetery


The eight Percheron horses will be used to pay homage to fallen soldiers in ceremonies.


The H. J. Heinz Company announced today that it has donated the eight Percheron horses formerly used as part of the Heinz Hitch program to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) where they will be used to pay homage to fallen soldiers in the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

This donation will ensure that the horses are well cared for the rest of their lives while honoring our country’s fallen soldiers and veterans,” said Michael Mullen, Director of Global Corporate Affairs for the H. J. Heinz Company.

The Heinz horses will participate in some of the eight full-honor military funerals per day at Arlington.


The new posts also have their perks. Each of the eight Percheron horses will a have full-time, dedicated caretaker and veterinarian and they will join the more than 50 horses already stationed at Fort Myer, VA.

“It’s fitting that our country’s finest will be carried to rest by such a noble breed of horses, the same that once carried knights into battle,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeremy Light, Caisson Platoon leader with The Old Guard. “We’re truly grateful for Heinz’s unique gift.”

The Percherons will be members of the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), which is the United States Army’s official ceremonial unit.

During a funeral procession, six horses form a team that pulls a flag-draped coffin upon a caisson throughout Arlington National Cemetery.

Historic Hooves
The eight Percheron horses are more than up to this task, generating more than 16,000 pounds of raw horsepower. On several occasions, they’ve been known to pull a 30,000-pound Rose Parade float with no complaints.

Originally from the Perche region of France, Percherons are the only line of heavy horses not originally bred as draft horses. The horses first appeared more than 1,000 years ago and are a cross between Arabian Stallions and Flemish Plow Mares.

They were bred specifically to blend power, agility and speed. These attributes made the Percherons favored horses for carrying knights confidently into battle.

Today, Percherons are enjoying a renewed popularity among horsemen for their gentle nature, power and control.

Regal Relic Retired
Heinz discontinued the traveling Heinz Hitch program in early 2006 as it switched its focus to more contemporary consumer marketing. In July, the Heinz Hitch wagon, a replica of a historic 1800s-era horse-drawn grocery cart, was donated to the Senator John Heinz History Center, and is currently on long-term display in the Center’s first-floor Great Hall.

The Hitch was showcased at parades, fairs and expositions throughout the United States and Canada, including high-profile events like the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day Parade.

It is with a great sense of pride for all of American as these eight Percherons assume their Duty with the Department of the Army to pay tribute to our country’s heroes.

Earlier Post:  Famed Heinz Hitch Now History


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36 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. To bad that my husband has been working at Caisson for 4 years and the horses are not treated so nicely as it is worded in this story. I wish they were but they are not. Horses that need special feed and foot work done dont recieve either. There is no special caretaker for each horse there, most of the soldiers could care less about the horses. The tack they have is ill-fitting and rubs the larger horses raw in some spots yet they will not make new fitting tack for them. People never see the real picture of what goes on in the Caisson Platoon, only what they want to see.

  2. Hello Caisson Soldiers Wife,

    How dreadfully upsetting it is to read this information you have sent. If what you are saying is the situation, this is sad, indeed.

  3. I am another Caisson wife, and I know for a fact that those horses are treated very well. There is special feed for the horses that need it, and they are currently in the process of having another special grain mixed for the horses instead of store bought grain. Tack is currently being built for the larger horses since 8 more were acquired.

    There are only 2 other horses in the barn that are as large as the Heinz horses, and they are in perfect health. They also have tack that has been adjusted to meet the needs for their size.

    Before someone comes on here writing about Caisson, they need to get their story straight and get the facts. Maybe she doesn’t get the entire story because her husband doesn’t have all of the knowledge and rank to know.

    When you have 50 + soldiers in a platoon, not all of them are going to be good and mistakes will be made. That is why there is a ranking system, and the upper ranks coach and help take care of the problem. We forget that not everyone is perfect and things happen. If some soldiers paid more attention on adjusting the tack, the horses might not have these rub marks, but there has not been one single horse this summer that has been down for sore withers. Summer is usually the time for this because of the heat and humidity in D.C.

    The Caisson and tack is checked every morning before they roll out for any adjustments. The Caisson horses are far from being neglected for care and upkeep. How many horses are washed almost daily? I can tell you that very few people wash their horses daily and not even weekly. Anyone can walk in to that barn daily and see how loved and well kept they are and the barn is. The barn is open for tours 7 days a week to the public, so it not a kept secret how well Caisson horses and the barn are maintained.

    There is a small museum inside the historic barn that honors Blackjack, the famous riderless horse. Caisson has their own private Veterinarian and a Vet Tech assigned to the Platoon to take care of the horses as well besides the 50+ soldiers that are assigned to the barn.

    The Caisson also has a civilian Farrier and a military Farrier for shoes for the horses that is stationed right at the main barn. The ratio to horses and soldiers assigned to Caisson is almost 1/1. There isn’t a soldier assigned to each horse, but that is impossible since not every soldier is there everyday. Also, Caisson does Hippo Therapy for injured soldiers that are at Walter Reed to include amputees and brain injuries.

    The horses and soldiers help with the therapy and help those soldiers regain their balance and confidence. I am personally in that barn at least once a week, and have more personal knowledge of what goes on more than the Caisson wife above.

    Some parts of the media and the press are in the barn almost once a week already, and they are in the news all the time. Maybe the wife above needs to get all the facts before she starts writing her “knowledge.” Maybe she is not seeing the real picture of what goes on in the Caisson Platoon, only what she wants to hear.

    If anyone has a question on this, please make sure you are getting the information from the correct person and not from someone that doesn’t have all the facts and knowledge.

  4. I also want to add that the people that were the caretakers of the Heinz Hitch came out and visited the barn before they were donated.

    Caisson does take great pride on what they do and what their mission is, burying military veterans. Old Guard soldiers have such a great honor and duty for their country. Some of the soldiers in the Old Guard including some in Caisson have been to war and have the medals and honors to prove it, but many have not seen what the Army is like outside of The Old Guard since it is their first duty station. Maybe since her husband has been in the platoon for so long, he doesn’t know what the other side of the Army is like.

    I know from personal experience what it is like since I have been without my husband for months and years at a time while he was over in a war zone. I know that my heart would practically stop when someone knocked at the door that wasn’t expected. I have been through many overseas deployments, TDY’s, and countless moves across country.

    If those few not so great soldiers in Caisson had a better idea of what the families of the fallen go through, then I think maybe the ugly gossip and comments above from Caisson soldiers wife would not happen.

    Most soldiers in Caisson that do have empathy for the families, so they know how important it is and how important the horses are. The horses are a national treasure and are treated as so.

  5. Hello “another Caisson’s wife”
    Thank you,thank you for your information ! I am greatly relieved.

    I especially appreciate your giving us these positive details. I have done considerable research about the Caisson horses and have been most impressed by the reports.

    Many thanks for your clarification. It gives me great peace of mind.

    We thank you for your service being the one left to wait, and we are grateful to all those who have have served our country in every capacity.

    The horses add dignity as we honor soldiers who have given their lives. It is a proud moment that the Heinz team will now be a part of that history.

  6. I would like to comment on the negative message about the Caisson Unit.
    My family visits the Caisson Platoon 3-4 times yearly when visiting DC area. I am appalled by the negative comments from Caisson Soldier’s Wife. We have never gone into the Caisson Platoon that the horses were not treated with “special” care, like they deserve to be treated. Our visits are never announced, so I know that the horses are not just treated that way for our visit.
    It is my opinion, that the husband of this Caisson wife, must not be doing his job.If she thinks, that this is truly the condition of the horses, and he works there, what is stopping him from caring for the horses properly?
    Of course, I know for a fact this is not true. I do know that this soldier may need to put a stop to his chattering wife and her untrue tales of mistreatment before she becomes or creates a problem for him. It is my opinion, that this soldier should keep his wife and his wife’s tales in check.

  7. Hello Sheldon Williams,
    Thank you very much for your comments.

  8. Do the horses have a place to graze? Are they allowed to graze every day? How much space do they have?

    Thank you.

  9. Hello Gary,
    Unfortunately, I’ve never personally been to the Ft.Myer stables, so do not know the answers to your questions.

    If anyone reading this has the information, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

    As for the “show” horses on the West Coast, most horses are kept in Equestrian Centers with large stalls. They are worked and turned out into large paddocks every day. However, few situations have the luxury of “grazing”…sad to say.

  10. The horses are rotated to be outside pretty much everyday if they are not working that week.

    They have 3 different lots on Ft. Myer to get some exercise in and a 10 acre farm on Ft. Belvoir that they are rotated to as well.

    The Old Guard horses are also exercised as well. Only one of the lots on Ft Myer is a somewhat of a grazing lot, but the horses have hay to graze on at all times and all the water they want. They are also receive a grain/oat mixture twice a day.

    I don’t believe they were ever turned out to graze before they were donated to the Old Guard before. I saw the Heinz horses this past week, and they were loving all over us, and they look fantastic! They love my 2 year old and 3 year old kids and are very gentle with them.

    The Ft. Myer stable and lots are going through a remodeling right now and are being redone. The barns date that Caisson occupies date back to 1896.

    The floor of the museum in the main barn is made out of old hitching posts that use to be used around Ft. Myer, and it is waxed and buffed daily.

    Come check them out! They are open for tours 7 days a week, and you can visit the horses up close and personal.

  11. If the horses cannot graze, and are confined to stalls their whole lives (when they are not working), then I would have to say the horses are not treated well, no matter how often they are groomed and visited by a vet. Grazing is important to horses, and so is reasonable freedom of movement. A lifetime of confinement is a poor life.

    Furthermore, since the “utility” purpose of these horses is tradition and show, not anything essential, I don’t think it’s ethical to inflict this confinement upon them. Tradition and aesthetics are not sufficient justifications for animal cruelty; and preventing a horse form such a core activity – which nearly every horse enjoys and engages in daily if given the opportunity, since horses are natural grazers – is a form of cruelty, even if done by people who have genuine concern for the horses’ welfare.

    I know this sounds harsh, but if the horses cannot graze, and are confined in stables merely to be available for our pleasure, then they are nohing more than well-kept slaves, and we should abandon the program. I say this with respect for the 3rd Infantry Regiment, the Caisson Platoon, and the beauty and superb execution of the caisson events. I still remember being transfixed by President Kennedy’s procession, and I get a lump in my throat when I see the riderless horse.

    We can easily modify the caisson tradition so that it doesn’t involve animals, or at least animal exploitation. Traditions evolve. What – and who – do we honor when we needlesly exploit animals? I think of President Reagan: According to actress Doris Day, who remained his friend for decades, he used to feed the squirrels on the White House lawn and had a soft spot for animals generally. I suspect he would be proud and not disappointed if we upgraded the caisson program so that it did not require lifetime confinement of animals who love freedom.

    I live not that far from Arlington National Cemetery, and I’m interested in visiting the facilities now. (I was at a military funeral there not that long ago, and my 14-year old niece asked about the caisson horses’ living conditions, which is how my train of thought about this subject got started.) It could be that the horses actually do have opportunities to graze, in which case the rest of this comment would be mostly moot.

  12. Hello Gary,
    Thank you very much for your comments. You have pointed out several important issues.

    I wish all people were as concerned about the care and treatment of horses as you clearly are.

    I would be most interested in your observations after you visit the Ft. Myer stables.

  13. Hi Another Caisson Wife,
    Thanks for your information about the care of the horses at Ft.Myer. I was especially pleased to know about their rotation to the 10 acre farm on Ft. Belvoir.

    Regarding the Heinz horses prior life, in the Pittsburg Post Gazette it said that the horses had been under the care of John Dryer in excess of 20 years and were stabled at his Washington County Farm. I would assume and hope that his farm included pasture time for the horses.

    Also, I’d be interested in knowing about the new work being done on the facilities at Ft.Myer.

    From your description, the horses sound wonderful.
    I look forward to visiting there sometime soon.

    Pittsburg Post Gazette:

    Earlier Post: Famed Heinz Team Now History

  14. I can promise you that these horses are given the opportunity to graze and excercise. They are not confined at all times if they are not working. The 10 acre farm is beautiful and a perfect setting for horses. They get their chances to play and just be horses. If anyone has any question to the treatment and living conditions of the Old Guard horses, please call 703-696-3018.

    • Curious to know what the number above is to…’Another Caisson Wife’s’ personal number or the barn or the gate or where?

      I’ve enjoyed all the comments here thus far, looking forward to seeing the Caisson Platoon in person one day soon!

  15. Hi Another Caisson Wife,
    Thanks for your info. Sounds great for the horses.
    I look forward to visiting there sometime, soon.

  16. I have followed the career of Just Incredible for a while now, and have wished him the best of luck after the Heinz hitch announced the dissolution of their hitch program. I would love to visit him, now that he is moved to this new chapter in life. Is there a website where one can go to find out more information about this stables, how to register for a tour, etc? Thanks.

  17. Hello Kirstin,
    I checked with Ft.Myer and they have a Heinz Hitch horse called “Justin”. Hopefully, that might be the “Just Incredible” you are looking for.

    The hours for visiting the horses are everyday from 12:00 – 4:00.

    In an earlier comment listed above from “Another Caisson Wife”, she gives the phone number as:

    If you visit the horses, we’d love to hear back from you. Hope this information helps.

  18. HI Kristin,

    Justin is such a sweet boy, as well as all of the other horses. I played and loved on him just 2 days ago. Here is the link to the Caisson website.


  19. Yes, it helps tremendously! I’m positive it is the same horse – a couple of years ago we saw the Heinz hitch and I fell in love with Justin (I know that’s the same horse as the Dryer’s and their hitch man were calling him Justin). He is what got me started thinking Percherons were a great breed, and now I own a 9 year old stallion and soon, with any luck, a Justin daughter. He sired many colts and fillies and every one I’ve seen is just gorgeous with his temperment. Thanks much, I’ll be in DC first weekend in November and will make a special trip to see him and report back!

  20. Kristin,
    So glad you now have the info you were looking for. And with the help from “Another Caisson Wife” you are set to go! Will be waiting to hear all the details of both your trip. Lucky you, a Percheron!

    Another Caisson Wife:
    Thanks AGAIN for your help. I’m sure Kristin appreciates it very much. Perhaps you will meet her. Justin certainly sounds like something special.

    Having a big black Percheron is on my wish list, so if you don’t mind, give that big boy a pat for me. Thanks.

  21. Simply Marvelous, good job writing about the Arlington Horses! I’ve been to three Cassion funerals and it was a beautiful sight. (We even had the Riderless horse — the winter sun was setting as the horse galloped out across the knoll.)

    This farm is not open to the public very often, but when it is, it’s worth the visit.

    Finally, about CA “show horses.” I did happen to spend some time at a very large and well known professional training & Boarding facility for “show horses” up in Rescue, CA last summer. These horses had 75+ acres to graze. Here’s the link http://www.equineunl.com/PhotoAlbum.htm

    Hi Shopping Maven,
    What a memorable sight and experience that must have been at Arlington.

  22. I visited the Ft. Myer stables yesterday. I saw the Heinz Percherons and all of the other horses. They are in excellent care, have a gorgeous, spotless, fan cooled, barn, rubber matted stalls, clean with beautiful wood shavings which is very expensive. I saw the speciality feeds, the vet instructions, the special feed instructions and work instructions. Many horses were out in the paddocks where they can graze and run, lots of shade as well. The Heinz horses were munching on their lovely timothy hay although one did come over to get a carrot from me.

    The horses were beautifully groomed, had excellent feet (very important for horses), fresh water, and lovely hay.

    The young PFC showing me around obviously adored ‘his’ horses. Go Caisson!

    Hi Horse Woman,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful report on the horses at Fort Myer. There is nothing more rewarding than … good news! How terrific that you were able to visit. Must have been a great experience. Thanks again for the update!


  23. One other comment about the Ft. Myer stables, there is a lovely barn cat ‘working’ there. His name is Sam and he has a lovely life and is a very friendly fellow! Orange tabby with bluish/green eyes.

    Well, how great to hear about “Sam”. I’m sure he has the perfect life. No stable is complete without a cat or two.

  24. I have been in the Caisson Platoon since March of 2006. No, the system is not perfect, but do we live in a perfect world? We currently have Justin and Gerrit down at Ft. Belvoir, and they are helping us teach the new soldiers coming into the platoon. They were a valuabe find for us, even if they are a little bigger than the standard “molded horse” that we try to have. The “Shire” barn is done with the overhaul, and is very nice looking, and great for the horses! Also our ten acre farm will be increasing in size, and we will have more room, so we can have more of the horses down there so they can graze. Also we will be getting a indoor riding arena, and many more upgrades, thanks to our great PL!

    No, the horses are not abused, but they are like big children, and at times it is required to discipline them such as you would with a child. I mean you can’t have a 2,000 pound horse trying to drag you all over the place, or kick or bite at you.

    If you have any questions about the barn, or if I can help in anyway, feel free to email me personally, and I will try to help. The more people that we can get involved in our great tradition, the better!

    I love my job, and have been around horses all my life….ours are not any worse off than any others I have been around. 🙂


    Caisson Soldier,
    Sergeant Type
    Hi Caisson Soldier,
    Thanks so much for the update and info on your life with these great horses! I’m sure you’ll be hearing from many people about these magnificent horses. What a fantastic job you have!
    All the best,

  25. We had the privilege of producing a TV program on the Heinz Hitch in 2006 before Heinz chose to disband them. We have on the drawing boards an episode at Arlington National Cemetery, but if anyone is interested in learning about their history and heritage, and how Heinz used Percherons at the turn of the century to deliver goods in Pittsburgh, and how they had currently covered over 50,000 miles a year in North America as Ambassadors for Heinz, under the care and stewardship of John Dryer and his family, the DVD may be ordered from http://www.JustHorseVideos.com.

    The episode received an Aegis Award of Excellence. It’s a fascinating look at the role the horses played in the early days of Heinz in Pittsburgh. Any questions anyone may have about the production can be answered by contacting us at HorseFlicks@aol.com

    Creating this episode was a special experience.

    Best regards-


    • Hello Jon,
      Thank you for this information. I’m sure many people will be very interested !

  26. I just visited the Caisson personally for a media article. I went in knowing these are working horses and soldiers on assignment. But being a lifelong horse person means your eye automatically scans each and every inch of the horses looking for any signs of ill treatment, conformational issues, or potential health problems. I saw none.

    The horses were beautifully cared for, well-fed, and in excellent shape physically. They appeared happy to do their jobs.

    My visit was during early morning prep time, before most of the horses were even bathed yet. It was on the last day of that work week, so if there were any raw spots from ill-fitting harness or sore legs from overwork I would have seen them.

    Ditto their temperament–mistreated horses are very quick to be distrustful. Anyone with horse experience will tell you that is one of the most obvious warning flags you’ll see. The Caisson horses I saw were friendly and actively sought contact with the soldiers.

    The soldiers were genuinely affectionate to the horses. I even remarked about the absence of ‘white hairs’ from harness fit, and the horses’ good condition, and in reply the Section Sergeant told me that his men were proud to be responsible as a team for having horses in such nice condition.

    There were nearly twenty horses on site that morning and without exception all horses were in excellent shape.

    I saw zero evidence of mistreatment of horses as suggested in above messages.

  27. Further observations–
    Regarding the grazing question, it was made clear to me that the horses work one full week, then rotate for a week off at Fort Belvoir which has grassy paddock turnout. Caisson has a large nicely kept horse trailer as well that is appropriately sized for draft horses for moving them there.

    The soldiers I spoke with during my visit with the Platoon told me they have approximately 50 horses. I saw at least 20 horses on site the day of my visit.

    Twenty is a substantial chunk of the 50 total. And due to the Platoon’s structure, each soldier will handle nearly every horse within a fairly short period of weeks–therefore rough treatment would accumulate on a horse faster than it could heal up.

    Furthermore such treatment would appear on multiple horses at once. If the horses’ treatment was as bad as suggested above, I certainly would have seen physical evidence of this somewhere on the group of horses I saw (again, representing nearly %50 of the total horses).

    I’ve been in barns where treatment was good, bad, or indifferent; you can always catch a vibe of the overall tone of a place when you walk in. As media you also catch a vibe really quickly if something is being hidden or if someone you are speaking to is defense mode. And the overall tone in the Caisson barn–for both men and horses–was one of enthusiasm and centered-ness.

    The Platoon is very proud to have their barn open to the public, and that pride is pretty remarkable given how easily the military can be misjudged these days.

    I would say if at all possible, visit the Ft. Myer barn and see the men and horses for yourself. If you have nagging doubts, they’ll be put to rest–you’ll either find your worst fears confirmed, or you will be satisfied that all is well there.

  28. I went to Ft. Meyer/Ft. Belvoir a couple of weeks ago and there facility is outstanding! We do the same services for Indiana Guardsmen. I personally was very impressed with the barns, leather shop, and the ferrier shop! Commenting to what one of the ladies stated, there horses are treated very well as ours are treated the same. Bob and Garrett from the “Heinz Team” are outstanding! They look and ride great. Any current Caisson soldier that reads this, Thanks for a great 3 days there!!!

    Indiana SSG

  29. I know it’s been a while since anyone posted here, but heard a rumor through the draft horse world that the Heinz horses were no longer at the Caisson. Can anyone confirm or deny that for me?

    • Hi Scott,
      Thanks for the info. I’ll try to check that out. Hopefully, someone might read this and have the info.
      All the best,

      • There are still two Heinz horses serving in the Caisson Platoon: Bud and King. Burt passed away from a stable accident two years ago (2013), and the other horses were retired over time.

  30. I know one horse, is not there anymore. He is the sweetest horse I have ever met and I ride him several times a week. I did the research and he was a Heinz Percheron.

    • The TV Episode on the Heinz Hitch (before the Heinz company felt they didn’t mix with their “digital” strategy- tell Budweiser that…) is now airing on HRTV (channel 404 on Dish Network, and on Verizon Fios, AT&T U-Verse, Comcast, Cox Cable and other major cable networks). You can check their schedule at http://www.HRTV.com The episode will be airing over the next 24 months.

  31. I saw some of the horses in the Heinz Hitch at Ogelbay, WVA where they had a barn and pastures, probably in the 1980’s. It was the first time I had heard of them. Altho I’m sorry that the Heinz Co. ended its commitment to the hitch, I am glad that at least some are have been serving our country, where I have been privileged to see them.

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