Friday, January 28, 2011

Reenlisting on Horseback

One of our lady auxiliary members, Lisa, who happens to be a soldier in real life, reenlisted today. She asked if she could do it on horseback down in front of our stable area. She was also promoted to Sergeant First Class after signing away the rest of her life to the Army. After we got tacked up and positioned in front of the Troop office, a large number of vehicles began to show up. We had no idea the Lisa was so popular. We couldn't help but notice that there were more people there to watch Lisa get promoted than usually show up for our performances.

After the promotion ceremony, which was accomplished on the ground, Lisa mounted up on Duke and faced our Troop commander to perform the reenlistment. They were in their Army Combat Uniforms while the rest of us were in cavalry uniforms. I was selected to hold the American flag during the reenlistment ceremony. I thought this was quite an honor until I realized that they had to stretch the flag out during the ceremony which meant it covered my face. According to our First Sergeant this was intentional.

The oath of office was sworn too and then Frank, our Troop commander made some remarks. The remarks were very complimentary. Frank mentioned how Lisa had come to his company to give instruction to his young soldiers and apparently did a good job of handling them. Unfortunately, all his young troops were privates and so Frank said something to the effect that Lisa had done a great job of "handling his privates." Naturally, this became the topic of discussion after the ceremony and quickly spread throughout the stables. We were all interested in this statement and no doubt it will come up again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Traveling With B Troop

Our photographer, Ty Holland, has started adding videos to our media presentation. Here is a sample of what he made from some of our activities last year. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Riding School Rodeo

The weather was perfect for today's riding school lesson. The plan was to work on what we refer to as "parade maneuvers". We use the maneuvers in both parades and as part of our riding demonstration. They are not dangerous or particularly difficult, but if you don't do them correctly it looks really bad. We also wanted to work on saber handling procedures during ceremonies so the recruits would know how to salute and execute other actions with the saber while mounted.

To get them warmed up and to get their heads in the game, I began with some arena rail work at different gaits while in a column of twos. As part of our routine, we gallop around the arena to get the crowd's attention and to set up for our demonstration. I had four assistant instructors riding in formation with the students to help them and keep and eye on them so we had a total of eight riders in the column. The female student and one of the assistant instructors were riding sidesaddle.

I led the formation around the arena a couple of times and decided that one more time would cement the lesson. As we passed the bucking chutes and I transitioned into a gallop, all hell broke loose. My first indication that we were having problems was when Apache the Wonder Horse put his head down and began to buck insanely. I know him well enough to know that he doesn't do that unless some other horse is doing it also. Sure enough, when I got Apache under control and looked around, at least three of the horses in the column behind me were also bucking. One of our students who was riding Monte, a notorious bucking horse, came off and landed in a heap in the dirt. He quickly got up, so I wasn't worried about any serious injuries. Monte ran around for a few minutes but quickly calmed down.

After everything was back under control and the student remounted, I made them all do it again. One, I wanted to let the horses know that they couldn't get away with stuff like that, and two, I wanted to make sure the student didn't become traumatized by the experience. If you have an accident, it is best to get on again and ride the horse so that your imagination doesn't get in the way the next time you ride that particular horse. If you can ride the horse again without incident, it helps prevent the development of a phobia.

Later, I learned that one of the assistant instructors had her horse, Duke, fall during the lesson (when you are at the head of the column, you don't always know what is going on behind you). She was doing a corrective circle with him and he just got his legs tangled up and he fell down. Neither of them was hurt, thankfully, but it reinforces the fact that we are not riding these horses enough. Duke is a new horse and is very difficult to ride. He will be okay in time, but the more often he is ridden, the faster he will become good. I wish I had more time to work with horses and riders than I do, but it is hard to find time with all the other duties I have to perform each day. With any luck, the horses with issues will be trained or retrained before they hurt somebody.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cody's Retirement

The horse of a different color finally retired from the Army today. Cody is a blue roan who changes colors throughout the year. In the winter time he has a dark brown, almost black coat which turns white in the summer. His face and legs would remain black even when the rest of his body was white. At public events the kids would refer to him as the "black and white" horse.

Cody is only 17 years old, which is a little bit younger than we usually retire them. However, he had problems with his front legs which caused him to take short, choppy little steps. He was very slow and it was hard to get him into a canter. Riding school students loved him because he was so easy to ride, even when bareback.

Last year I restricted him from doing charges or the riding demonstration because he was having a harder and harder time with his legs. He would do what we asked of him but it was becoming a little cruel. I feared we would permanently lame him so when a good home became available for him, I decided to end his service to the Army. He will live at a local property with another horse (a mare) where he can enjoy his final days doing what he likes most--standing around and eating.

We held his retirement ceremony in front of our main pasture gate, as is our tradition. We removed his Army tack for the last time, said a few words about his service to the Army, and turned him loose into the pasture so people could give him a last pat and treat.

He served with us for 12 years. When the word went out that he was retiring, I received messages and phone calls from around the country and overseas wishing him well. Several of his former riders came to the ceremony to say goodbye. He is going to a good home, though, and I will be able to go visit him periodically. I will miss Cody.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Back in the Saddle and More Horse Dreams

Photos by Ty Holland

I had a rare opportunity to have a riding school class during duty hours today. Usually, I have to hold the classes in the evening when everyone else is off work. Since today was a "training holiday" for active duty personnel and all my students are Army soldiers, I was able to teach my class and still come home for dinner on time.

Yesterday, I ran into a former trooper, Bill, who just returned from Afghanistan. He didn't duck behind his tack shed quick enough so I immediately pressed him into service again. He joined our class today and I was glad to have him help out. Bill hasn't even gone to work with his unit yet but is already riding again. Priorities.

The ladies began the process of teaching our female student how to ride sidesaddle while I took the males over to the arena for saber handling instructions and mounted drill practice. It all went well although I understand the ladies had a bit of a rodeo with Cody. I don't think he likes the sidesaddle.

Before the class began, we all stood around and watched Apache enjoying a very sound nap. He was dreaming about something exciting as he was squeaking and grunting and moving his feet. It was pretty amusing and we were all sad when he woke up and shook himself off.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Horse Dreams

I've been getting a fair amount of riding in since the Christmas break. I admit I didn't go anywhere near a horse during the holidays accept to feed them. I just sat around and got fat. Now I'm paying for my self indulgence. If I spend more than two weeks away from riding, my body quickly loses the calluses and muscle tone needed to keep my comfortable in the saddle. I've ridden three times in the last six days. Not casual trail riding, but hard work in the arena and training areas. My body is still trying to catch up.

Because of the cold, we have moved the riding school to weekends. It is much more pleasant to ride in the daylight when it's warm outside. And the weather here is perfect. Not warm enough to cause you to get sweaty but not cold enough to require a jacket. Everyone seems to prefer having riding school on Saturday instead of Tuesday night. It it much more pleasant for me as well since I don't have to put in a 14 hour day at the stables on Tuesdays.

I caught Charlie taking a nap today. He was out cold in his stall. He was dreaming about something. His lips and nostrils were moving and his back legs were kicking. I stood and watched him for several minutes wondering what horses dream about. Something exciting apparently.