Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gun Training

I was a little concerned about practice tonight because the footing was so hard in the arena. The people who maintain the arena couldn't drag it because their tractor is broken. It has rained a lot lately (we were rained out last week) and the normally soft footing turned to concrete. I advised the riders not to fall off because it would surely result in a broken bone. Everybody toned it down and kept their horses at nothing faster than a canter.

We had six riders so I asked three to remain dismounted to replace balloons while the rest of us rode. I sent all the "learning" horses through first as they would be using lower caliber weapons. If these horses were to hear the .45s going off, I feared they'd be reluctant to take the course afterwards.

I took the Wonder Horse through with the .22 the first time but decided to upgrade to the .45 with short loads to get him used to the smoke and flame. He had a real problem with me shooting off his left shoulder. When I realized this problem, I switched my training focus to keeping Apache straight on the course instead of him crabbing to prevent me from shooting to his left. We worked it out and managed to ride through straight most of the time. Apache doesn't like the guns, but he will do what he has to. It just isn't very pretty.

Duke and Journey went through the course a few times with lower caliber weapons. Duke is years away from being ready for a pistol competition, but Journey is making a little progress. Journey was once accidentally shot by his own rider during a competition about four years ago and has been a little reluctant to go through an obstacle course involving both balloons and guns ever since.

The other horses, Charlie, Regent, and Monte, all did fine on the pistol course. Charlie is rough, but gets the job done. Regent is smoother, but still a little hyper. Monte is about as good as you will get. None of them particularly like the weapons fire (judging from the rolling eyes and flaring nostrils), but better able to handle their fear than the other horses.

Gun training now gives way to saber training, which hopefully will be less eventful. Most of the horses seem to be pretty used to the obstacle courses now, so hopefully we can get some decent training in. Saber work requires more skill from the rider than the other events, so we will focus on making challenging targets for them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monsoon Weather

It has been difficult to get any decent riding in with the daily occurrence of thunderstorms in the afternoon. I have been able to sneak a little riding in during the day, but this is the busy time of year for me as a lot of events are piling up in for the next few months.

I managed to get some time in today with the Wonder Horse who was in an agreeable mood and even managed to get onto the correct lead most of the time. Tomorrow we have more gun training schedule for muster, so we will see if he is agreeable then. This weekend we have some Major Howze conditioning training scheduled, but I will be on the ground and won't ride him for that. However, I plan to ride him on Thursday to recon the training route so he will get the conditioning training nonetheless.

The National Cavalry Competition is still two months away, but with the weather the way it is, I doubt we will get much training in. I primary mission is to support ceremonies, so most of our effort goes into that. We will go and do our best, but there is only so much time you can devote to practicing for it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bomb Proofing Cavalry Horses

We are dedicating this month to pistol training which we have long neglected. Since we have some new horses that are not used to gunfire and some old horses that never got used to them, we decided to start slow and work on desensitizing them to a .22 starter pistol.

We put the horses into a column of twos with a bomb proof horse matched up with a spooky horse. First, the column trotted around me while I fired the pistol until we were sure that all the horses were okay. Then I gave the pistol to the rider at the front of the column and had them continue trotting in a circle. The rider fired four rounds from his horse and then passed the pistol to the next rider. Each rider fired at least four rounds off their horse. Some of the spooky horses reacted a little but nothing too severe. Cal, being completely new, had the most trouble, so we decided to not fire off him.

After everyone could fire off their horse without incident, we rode them through a couple of balloon targets. Sometimes horses that have no trouble with gunfire will react badly when the pistol is combined with a balloon target. We started out in a column of twos and then switched to single file. It worked pretty well and each horse was able to pass through the targets without spooking.

It was a pretty good workout for the horses as they were in a trot for about 40 minutes. They were getting sweaty but not lagging. However, a rain squall was coming so we had to terminate training and get back to the stables. Next week we will continue the bomb proof training accept we will introduce a louder pistol. So far so good.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fire Aftermath

Sorry it has been so long since I posted anything. The Monument Fire turned into a raging inferno that terrorized the local community and Fort Huachuca. The fire started on 12 June, but by 16 June was threatening the city of Hereford. People were ordered to evacuate and many of them had horses. A local organization, Care For The Horses, was organizing a "horse lift" out of the threatened area. I requested permission from the Army to assist with the evacuation using our trucks and trailers, and the request was quickly approved.

During the next several days we evacuated 33 animals including B Troop's horses. We set up a command post of sorts in our office and sent teams out to rescue horses. Because we had government plates, we were able to get into areas that were closed to the public. The roads headig away from the fire were jammed with horse trailers.

It was madness, of course, disaster areas always are. Most of the animals we picked up had either never been in a trailer before or hadn't been in one in a long time. Some animals couldn't be loaded so the owners just opened their gates and turned them loose. I received one request to evacuate two horses after dark belonging to a man who refused to evacuate and locked himself in his bathroom. His family wanted me to come get the horses in the hope that he'd come out of his bathroom. My concern was that he'd come out of his bathroom with a gun because I was stealing his horses. I consulted with the sheriff's office and then declined the request.

On 19 June, we had 60 mph winds and the fire got out of control. The fort was not yet in serious danger, but because the Army wanted our trailers to evacuate other horses on post, we were advised to evacuate all of ours first. I had no place to take them, so I took them home where I have about eight acres of horse pasture. It was a little crowded, but all the horses were safe. The fort was under quarantine due to the EHV-1 problem, but I was assured I would be able to get the horses back on post once he fire threat was over. I expected to have the horses for a few days, but the visit turned into ten days as the firefighters struggled with keeping the fire off the post and the mil vet decided to extend the quarantine for another week.

I had previously requested leave the week after the fire occurred, but since all the horses were at my property, the Army had no problem approving it even though the fire wasn't completely contained. About half way through my leave, I was able to send the horses back, and then I went "comm out" to get some rest. Since then, the summer rains finally arrived, and the fire is 98 percent contained. Fully rested now, I'm ready to head back into the fray.