Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting Ready for the NCC

The last couple of months have been a real challenge as far as getting ready for the National Cavalry Competition goes. We have had more than the usual amount of bad weather, horse injuries, and trooper injuries. We lost a third of our training days to almost daily thunderstorms. Even as late as last week, we had to skip training due to a rain storm. Horse injuries have been off the scale this year. We lost Charlie to colic surgery, Monte to a stone bruise, Apache to a puncture wound, and Cochise to a fall on the jumping course. All but Charlie will still be going to the competition but valuable training time was lost for each horse. Meanwhile, we had two troopers get injured along the way. Frank took a bad spill during saber training and Pete was kicked while wrangling horses in from pasture one day. In addition, our vet tech, Kasey, was kicked by Charlie. However, all three will be at the competition, although Frank will be limited to parade riding only.

We have no idea how well we will do. The competition at the NCC is fierce but everyone else has had time limitations and injuries to deal with as well. We will be bringing two new riders to the show, both on horses that has never been in competition before. I will ride the Wonder Horse again but have no idea how well he will do. I suspect he will do well in horsemanship but not so well in the other events. I just wasn't able to complete our training objectives this year. I'll be pleased if I can just complete the events.

Regardless of how well we do, I'm sure it will be fun. It always is. We have our vet team with us this year which gives me some comfort and takes some of the load off me. We will also have two people on the ground who will provide invaluable help. All in all, we have eleven people on the team with seven of them riding. It will be good to see our fellow cavalrymen from around the country again and hopefully a few from other countries. It's always good to rub elbows with folks who share a passion for riding and the cavalry.

We will start heading to Texas on Monday. I won't have access to a computer while on this trip but, I will provide a summary of events once I get back. I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jump Training

For the last couple weeks I haven't been riding Apache due to his hock injury. Instead, I was riding Regent whose trooper was out of town. Regent is like an older, more mature version of Apache. He is very spirited by a little easier to control than Apache. Okay, a lot easier.

Today, I rode Apache for the first time since he was injured. We set up a fairly complex jump course in the arena and started out with Level 3 riders. Apache was horrible. He'd go over most of the jumps but he'd leap straight up into the air so that when we landed I was nearly bounced out of the saddle. He had a particular problem with jumping over some blue plastic barrels. It was brutal work and I was soon exhausted from trying to keep Apache under control. I decided to take a break while a couple of the other troopers worked their horses.

One of the obstacles we were working on was a bounce combination. It is a tricky jump as the poles are only 10 feet apart and the horse has to make the second jump without taking a stride. One of our troopers was working Cochise over this obstacle when disaster struck.

I was about to mount up Apache again to try and work him over the bounce myself but before I got mounted, Cochise had a bad wreck. He had hit the first pole in the combination and got his legs tangled up in it and then hit the second pole as well. He fell head first into the dirt, sending his trooper over his head. The trooper was unhurt and quickly got to his feet. Cochise got up too but he was shaky and clearly hurt. I feared he had broken a leg.

When I got to him, I could see that he had scrapes on his face and knees and was showing signs of lameness in his front left. I feared a knee injury but did not know how bad. I hitched a ride back to the stables and called the military vet and took the horse trailer back to the arena to load up Cochise. By the time I got back to the arena, Cochise was doing much better. He was walking without lameness but was still clearly in pain but I didn't know where.

The vet tech met us at the clinic and began taking Cochise's vitals. I had brought Apache along as a battle buddy for Cochise. While watching Cochise as we waited for the vet, we began to suspect a neck injury. Cochise would not lower his head to eat the abundant grass in the paddock we were in. He also wouldn't shake his head to shoo the flies off his face which he particularly hates. Since he couldn't lower his head to drink, I scooped water in my hands and held it to his muzzle so he could take a few sips. The vet tech gave him banamine to take some of the pain away.

Eventually, the vet arrived and took some x-rays. The quality of the images were not good enough to show any trauma but by then Cochise was starting to lower his head a little. The vet gave me some ointment for his scrapes and told me to give him bute twice a day for three days. By the time we left, Cochise was already starting to lower his head to eat grass. He is doing much better as I write this and already getting bored with pen rest. Cochise has had a tough year so far but he is a tough little horse. Hopefully, he will make a complete recovery.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Healing Horses

Apache went in to the vet clinic today to have his wound checked out. I was suspicious of the wound and guessed that it was more than just a cut on the hock. A more thorough exam done under sedation revealed that it was a puncture wound. Naturally, it was downward tracking. The vet opened it up and flushed it out again. Apache isn't lame but the swelling in his leg is pretty significant. Hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and prevent it from getting worse.

During a previous bandaging session with Apache I made the mistake of telling the vet tech about a previous vet who had put poka dots on a leg bandage to annoy me. I prefer plain dark colors on the horse bandages and the vet staff usually likes to put colorful ones on. Thus, when I went to pick up Apache today I found him with the bandage shown in the photo above.

Charlie is still doing well and starting to put on a little weight. We tried to weigh him this morning but the scale malfunctioned and had to be repaired. We will try again tomorrow. Apache will keep him company this weekend in an adjoining stall so the two can commiserate together about their injuries. And so Charlie can laugh at Apache's leg bandage.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More Horse Problems

Today I discovered that the Wonder Horse had lacerated his left rear hock while out in pasture over the weekend. The cut was not bad but by the time I discovered the wound, it was already infected. It doesn't take long for an infection to set in during the fly season. His entire hock joint is swollen. The vet techs came out and cleaned and bandaged the wound but I'm sure the bandage will be off my morning. I suspected a puncture wound beneath the cut but it's the vet techs didn't find anything. Unfortunately, Apache will be on pen rest until the wound is healed. With only a few weeks left before the National Cavalry Competition, it couldn't have happened at a worse time. I may have to drop down a level or not compete at all if I can't get Apache healed quickly.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fort Bowie Ride

Geronimo and his warriors at Bowie station awaiting their journey into exile 124 years ago.

Yesterday we made our annual pilgrimage to the Fort Bowie National Historic Site to pay homage to the end of the Indian Wars and to the soldiers who died fighting it. We always make the trip on Labor Day weekend which is also the anniversary of the surrender of Geronimo. Since B Troop memorializes the unit that pursued Geronimo until his surrender and then protected him from the law enforcement entities that wanted to hang him, we have made it part of our tradition to remember the day.

We started out at the trail head where the new Apache Pass road crosses the old Butterfield Stage route near the west end of the pass. The starting point of our ride is not far from the scene of the wagon train massacre that occurred during the infamous "Bascom Affair". The trail is rugged and it is hard to imagine a stagecoach rumbling through at night up and down steep gullies and ridges. The Chiricahua Mountains have not seen as much rain as the Huachuca Mountains this year and I was relieved to see that there was not heavy undergrowth along the trail. The pass is very beautiful, nevertheless, and I never tire of making this particular ride.

When we arrived at the Fort Bowie cemetery, there was a small crowd of people waiting for us. The Troop Executive Officer, who was filling in for the commander, read the historical account of the site and then read aloud the names of all the soldiers who were once buried there (some are still there). After he finished a team of four troopers fired three volleys in their honor and then our bugler played taps. The sounds of the rifles and bugle reverberated off the canyon walls and added poignancy to our little annual ceremony.

We continued up the trail to the old fort ruins, passing the first Fort Bowie ruins on the way. Below the ruins we passed through Apache Springs which is still producing a trickle of water through the steep canyon, heavily wooded and cool. Emerging from the canyon, we saw the fort ruins and the little museum building where our cook awaited us with lunch.

After arriving at the museum we first tended to the horses first as required by the cavalryman's creed. After dismounting we removed their bridles, loosened their cinches, checked their legs for cactus spines and injuries, and then watered them.

About then, some tourists arrived and we posed for photos, answered questions, and discussed cavalry history with them. Most people who come to Fort Bowie on the day of our annual ceremony don't know in advance that we are going to be there. They are always delighted and really seem to get a lot out of it. We do the ceremony mostly for ourselves and in keeping with our mission to keep the cavalry history alive but it is always nice that a few people get so much out of it.

After a great lunch, we mounted up again and headed back down through the canyon to our waiting trucks and trailers in Apache Pass. The Fort Bowie trip is a long day of hard work but it is one of our favorite events. We've doing it for eight years now and hopefully for many more years to come.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Riding the Wonder Horse

I had a couple of good sessions with Apache this week. On Thursday I worked on backing up straight. He has been giving me fits with that but finally decided to cooperate. It's always surprising when after weeks of work your horse finally just does what you've been asking him to do.

Today I worked on jumping through the in-and-out. We started out at 36 feet but eventually got to 24 feet between the jumps. He never ran out and only clipped the poles once or twice.

We were having more trouble with the 36 foot in-and-out than we were with the shorter distance. He got perturbed with the 36 foot gap as he wasn't hitting the second jump at the right stride. We took a break to let him overcome his frustration and then we tried again. He had no trouble with the second try. he was so light and responsive on the bit that I was able to give him his head between jumps without fear of a run out or a miss stride. When we shortened the gap between jumps to 24 feet, he went through them with ease.

One never knows with Apache when he's going to perform and when he isn't. He was remarkably calm today. Must have been something in the air.