Hagel seeking to increase Mongolia diplomatic ties



ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — After days of high-profile, pressure-filled meetings, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got to horse around a bit during a short stop in Mongolia on Thursday.

Following a time-honored tradition, Mongolian Defense Minister Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel presented Hagel with a buckskin-colored horse in a ceremony in front of that country’s defense ministry. Hagel, who was wrapping up a 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region, named the horse Shamrock.

Tradition dictates the 9-year-old gelding be named after something of importance to the recipient, Hagel said. “Shamrock was the mascot of the high school that I graduated from, St. Bonaventure in Columbus, Nebraska,” he said. “It was one of the most important times of my life.”

Shamrock will stay in Mongolia, where he has been serving in the cavalry’s honor guard battalion. No one will ever ride the horse but Hagel, officials said.