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New riderless horse to debut this year

IRONTON — A new set of hooves will represent one of the most powerful symbols of the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade this year.

The Bud Light, a 23-year-old American Quarter Horse gelding who has served as the riderless horse in the parade for more than a decade, has been retired due to age and a recent injury.

“He broke a leg when he was kicked by a mare he had been turned out with for more than 20 years,” said owner and handler Dee Staley, whose family has provided the riderless horse for the parade since 1972.

Suffering a broken leg, The Bud Light was transferred to The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine where he was treated and cared for.

Despite a successful healing process, Staley said having The Bud Light participate in 2009 would have been difficult.

“It would have been very tough for him to be walking all that way on the blacktop,” Staley explained. “So I felt it was time to turn the reins over to another horse.”

And that “another horse” happens to be a top American Quarter Horse halter champion.

Powerful Time, a 6-year-old chestnut stallion, comes into the parade limelight this year following multiple regional and national championships for conformation, handling and stance.

Immediately after a regional show in Pennsylvania on May 24, Powerful Time, who goes by the name of “Cruiser” will make the trip back to Ironton and be ready to take one of the lead positions in the parade, Staley said.

Staley’s daughter Leslie Best will have the honor of being the “cap walker” for “Cruiser” on the parade route.

According to Army tradition, a ceremonial horse is led by a walker in a procession with boots set backward in the saddle’s stirrups. The boots facing backward symbolize that the fallen will not ride again and shows the rider looking back on his family and troops one final time. It dates back to Roman times.

The most famous riderless horses in recent years has been “Black Jack,” a Half-Morgan who took part in the state funerals of presidents John F. Kennedy, Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Johnson and “Sergeant York,” a Standardbred gelding who served the presidential funeral of Ronald Regan in 2004.

“Cruiser” becomes only the third horse in the past 28-years to serve as the riderless horse in the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade. Preceding The Bud Light’s 10-years of service, Twister Solis performed in that capacity from 1981-1998.

He also becomes only the second stallion to serve in the parade. All others have been geldings.