Mounted Color Guard History


The Marines of the Mounted Color Guard proudly bear the colors of their country and Corps.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., is home to the only remaining Mounted Color Guard in the Marine Corps. This small and unique entity has the honor of representing the Corps in parades, rodeos and other events nationwide. With determination and enthusiasm, these Marines on horseback carry on a time-honored tradition that originated more than a century ago.

The “Horse Marines” was the nickname given to the mounted U.S. legation detachment in Peking, China, a guard unit established in 1900. While their purpose was to conduct patrols on horseback, they also participated in weekly parades during their 33-year presence in Peking.

Horses in the Corps haven’t solely been used for ceremonial purposes; with their strength and high endurance, they have assisted Marines in battle as well. Sergeant Reckless, perhaps the most beloved horse in Marine Corps history, accomplished remarkable feats during the Korean War as she supported ammunition carriers—resupplying and transporting heavy rounds across long distances. After the war, she was retired with full military honors and is buried at Stepp Stables at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The days of relying on horses for conveyance may be long gone, but the legacy is continued by the modern-day “Horse Marines” at Barstow—a legacy that stems from pride in the Corps, a love for tradition, and an unquenchable Esprit de Corps.

After returning to Barstow from Vietnam in 1966, LtCol Lindsley envisioned a mounted color guard that would bring back the history of the Horse Marines. He gathered a group of Marines who volunteered their time, effort and even money to get the color guard up and running. With virtually zero funds or support, they built the stables by hand and purchased hay from the city of Barstow at a discounted price. Their first horses were a gift from Preston Hafen, a sheriff from Utah. They even acquired a 5-ton truck and cattle car, secretly altered it into a six-horse carrier and kept it hidden from the base commanding officer by storing it off base in the city of Barstow. 

Despite the initial challenges he and his Marines faced, LtCol Lindsley’s efforts proved successful; nearly 50 years later, the history is still alive at the stables where it began.

As the nature of war changes, and as technology evolves to assuage those changes, Marines seem to always find a way to preserve tradition while adapting to the demands of the modern-day battlefield. The legacy of the Horse Marines, kept alive today by the dedicated Mounted Color Guard team, is a sure testament to that.