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Orange City man trains and raises horse for Department of Defense

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Since 1999, Bob Molle of Orange City has been raising special horses for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The participant in last weekend's Albert City Threshermen and Collectors Show has sent many of his animals to Arlington, Virginia to perform in military funerals.

"During the Ronald Reagan Funeral, three of the four horses you saw at the casket were ones from my farm," Molle said.

He chooses not to raise pure breed draft horse or quarter horses, but a hybrid mix.

"The horses have be a certain color, size and have the right state of mind," Molle explained at the Threshermen show.

"I told them if they started out with a 1,000 horses and then said they would have to be geldings, white or black, 14-16 hands tall and the right mind set they would be down to about 10 horses."

Molle takes about a year to train a horse properly and to make sure they are ready for duty.

"The horses perform about five to six funerals a day," Molle said. "They are gentle and very good around people."

The use of horses in the U.S. military with the exception of funerals ended after World War II. Many proud cavalry officers have been laid to rest with the kind of animals they served with.

"Most people consider World War II a jeep and truck war, but livestock was heavily used to move artillery," Molle said. "During the German/Russian battle over 150,000 horses were used."

Due to the demands of the military, horses had special rigs that would help them move around shaper corners. Napoleon Bonaparte was well know for the ability to use horses on his campaigns to conquer Europe.

"This is a different style of driving than most of you are use to seeing," Molle said. "I ride the left horse and drive with the right. The wagon you see behind me would be similar to the munitions carts during World War I and I couldn't imagine what it would have been like to take a horse onto a battlefield like that."

The horses uses by the U.S. Army are older horses, starting around the age of 5 with animals being used in the ceremonies for at least 10 years each.

According Molle, the horse trained early on and learn how to work on both sides.

"If you only train the horse to work on the left side then you only have a half a horse," Molle said.

Molle has 25 horses currently stationed at Fort Myer, where members of the Third Division are assigned to take care of them. According to Molle, after the horses' career is over, they are either given to another agency within the federal government or they are put down.

"They are good horses to work with and gentle," Molle said. "I met with army officials back in May and showed them some horses and they gave me a year to train the ones they selected then they to will be at funerals in Arlington National Cemetery."

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