Kosmios, a white Arabian horse often used as the “riderless horse” during funeral processions at Camp Nelson National Cemetery, died this week in Jessamine County.
“That horse, to me, was probably the most beautiful horse I’ve seen in my life,” said Tracy Lucas, 55, commander of the Camp Nelson Honor Guard. Since 2001, that all-volunteer organization has provided a caisson and cannon salute for all active-duty personnel and veterans, not just officers.
Kosmios, 17, was euthanized Tuesday after an X-ray revealed a broken leg, Lucas said. “They don’t know if he had gotten kicked or stepped in a hole or what happened,” Lucas said.
He said Kosmios belonged to Clara Friend, a member of the honor guard. The horse was typically led by Clara’s father, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Woodrow “Woody” Friend.
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“He was well-mannered,” Woody Friend said. “Little kids at funerals would come over to him, and he’d put his head down so they could pet him on the nose. He was a ham. He knew when he was being photographed because he would pose for us.”
Kosmios was buried Thursday on the Friend family farm in Jessamine County, Clara Friend said.
The riderless horse, more properly known as the caparisoned horse, is a symbol of a fallen warrior. According to historical records, Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. president honored by a caparisoned horse in his funeral cortege. When his body was taken from the White House to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the casket was followed by Lincoln’s horse with its master’s boots backwards in the stirrups.
During Camp Nelson funeral processions, Kosmios would follow the horse-drawn caisson that carried the casket. Clara Friend said Kosmios had participated in 180 funerals since 2012, including the services for Burke Rhoads, the Nicholasville police officer who died in a 2015 car crash, and for Lori Ann Doppelheuer, the Marine combat veteran who died in a fire in Maysville in 2015.
The Camp Nelson Honor Guard uses three geldings in various roles. Lincoln, a 7-year-old Standardbred, pulls the caisson. Freedom Hall, another Standardbred that is 8 or 9 years old, either pulls the caisson or serves as the riderless horse. And Elite Treasure, a white 15-year-old Arabian, is sometimes enlisted as the riderless horse.
Lucas said he will ask Camp Nelson National Cemetery whether it will be possible to hold a memorial service for the horse. In September, a memorial service was held for Iireland, a 13-year-old military working dog who served two tours in Iraq, sniffing out explosive devices.
Clara Friend said she had watched Kosmios grow up and had acquired him from Ruth Putnam.
“When you got in the saddle, you never knew what you were going to get,” Clara Friend said. “When he was in a good mood, there was no greater horse to be on. When he was in a bad mood, it was like trying to keep command of a thunderstorm. ... He had his moments, but most of the time he was a good boy.”