An incredibly beautiful and moving image has been circulating the internet of a snow white horse bowing at a military funeral with an officer saluting next to him. The image is sometimes shown with the words “Stand Down Young Warrior. Your Mission Is Complete.” Even without knowing anything about the photograph, it is extremely moving.
But the story of the horse makes it even more incredible. His name was Ariete Bu-Zahr (barn name “Little R”), and he was an Arabian with lineage that traces back to the horses rescued by General Patton during World War II, SSG Marc Coulam of the 156th BEB HHC Texas Army National Guard told iHeartHorses. And he should know, because he is the man in the picture. At the time the picture was taken in 2014, Coulam was a Sergeant with the 840th MAC EN, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. He was trained by Kenneth Harper of Double H Ranch.
Harper explained to iHeartHorses that when Patton went to save the Lippizan mares in 1945, days before the war ended, they were mixed in with a herd of nearly 1000 horses, including purebred Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods and Arabians. They didn’t want to take the time to separate them, so they drove them all back to Austria, where the non-Lippizans were shipped to the United States and sold.
“One of the horses rescued was an Arabian stallion named Witez II,” Harper said. “When he was sold at auction in 1949 he went for $8500. You could have bought three Cadillacs and had money left over.”
Witez II was Little R’s ancestor. How did he come to own a horse whose ancestors had been saved, along with the famous Lipizzaner, by Patton? He was just given to him.
“Little R was going to the [kill buyers] if I had not taken him,” Harper told iHeartHorses.com. He used Littler R as his own mount for over 20 years in Civil War reenactment and calvary games.
He was approached by the head of the Memorial Day Parade in Granbury, Texas and asked if he could teach Little R to do a kneeling bow. At 23 years old, Harper wasn’t sure if the horse could do it, but within three weeks, Little R was bowing on verbal cue. But now he had to be taught to listen to respond to the cue if someone else gave it.
“Marc was ordered to volunteer for the duty, and when he found out what his duty was, he came out two days on his own time to work with Little R and that was what made this work,” Harper said. “Now if I need someone to do a show I don’t have to look far because Marc is ready.”
Coulam explained that Little R was staged as a “Riderless Horse” to “honor all the fallen soldiers in American History” at the Memorial Day Parade.
Little R was in his mid-twenties when that picture was taken and sadly passed a few months afterward.
“Little R is gone now, but what a lasting impression he left behind,” Harper said. “I can only imagine if Patton was looking down, he may even have caused a smile to come across his face, even though he was known for not smiling much.”
And Little R’s legacy lives on.
“I am still performing military parades with another of Kenneth Harper’s horses, Hot Rod,” Coulam said. “We have performed the past two Medal of Honor Parades in Gainsville, Texas.”
Knowing the deep history behind this stunning horse – that not only were his ancestors saved by the military but he himself was saved from slaughter – just makes it even more powerful.