Saturday, August 27, 2011

More Major Howze Practice

I set up another practice route for the Major Howze conditioning program. The last one was about 4.5 miles long. This one was 5.5 miles long. I ran the route yesterday with Martina as she was to be the guide today. I took plenty of marking tape and stopped repeatedly to place the markers. I think we placed a marker every five feet along the route. We also stopped to discuss major terrain features such as fences, gates, roads, creeks, mountains, and tree lines. I was confident she would remember the route.

She still managed to get lost.

When we returned to the stables she said, "Before you can fire me, I quit." Her husband said later that it was my fault because I picked the worst person for the job. *sigh*

Nonetheless, the troopers managed to get to the enemy village in fairly good order and launch a crippling attack on the nefarious Heckowee tribe. The Heckowees are a secretive and elusive group that are characterized by their short stature, skinny bodies, and little round heads. Their females, unfortunately, have a very short gestation period, so no matter how many get wiped out in the cavalry attacks, if even one male survives they are soon able to replace their losses.

Unfortunately, at least four survived today. There was debate on whether we should count as a kill the one that was trampled by Martina's horse. Since the horse she rode is named Sabre, she said it should still count since I did not specify which type of saber attack was required.

Good training, good times, good victory lunch after.

P.S. For some reason I cannot post comments or respond to the comments of others. I appreciate it when people comment and try to respond, but currently cannot.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Making a Cavalry Film

We had an unusual experience today. The Army was making an interactive training film concerning the importance of knowing the local culture when conducting military operations. We helped produce a portion involving the attempt of the Army to recruit a couple of Apache Indian scouts.

The scenario called for a lieutenant, accompanied by an Apache Indian interpreter, to meet with two Apaches and try and enlist their support as scouts. The three Indians and the lieutenant were all actors. Six of our riders provided the bulk of the cavalry patrol.

We provided the horses for the lieutenant and the interpreter while the local stables provided the mounts for the Apache scouts. They asked if we could provide the horses for the Apaches, but I didn't think it would make sense for two Apaches to approach a cavalry patrol riding horses with a US brand. At least not and still be breathing afterwards. None of the actors were particularly experienced riders, but did a pretty good job, nonetheless.

The film crew was a professional outfit from Colorado, although some of the crew members were from LA. It all went just like it does in the movies with cries of "quiet on the set!", "roll film!, "action!", and "cut!" The wardrobe girl came out and dusted up our uniforms to make it look like we had been on the trail for a while. Other people kept bringing food out to us. I didn't eat any of it, but the Wonder Horse did.

The Wonder Horse was his usual self. A scene stealer and over actor, he constantly did things to draw attention to himself. Tossing his head, stomping his feet, pawing the ground, he was a complete ham. He literally chewed up the scene.

Seeing the Apaches riding around out there in the wilderness was the coolest part of the whole thing. I would have liked to spent more time talking with them, but we were constantly working and on a tight schedule due to an approaching storm and another scene the company had to shoot elsewhere.

The ladies auxiliary members couldn't ride with us due to authenticity requirements, but they tacked up and wrangled horses and helped sign out equipment and uniform items to the actors. They also shot still and video photography for us, which was great. They took a huge weight off my shoulders with all the things they were doing. We couldn't have done it without them.

The final scene of the day was for us to gallop up the meadow past the camera. We shot the scene five times. Each time we galloped up the field, the horses became increasingly excited. Fortunately, five times was enough for the director as I'm not sure we would have survived another attempt.

All in all, it was a great day. A rare opportunity to see how a film is made. We were promised the footage of us, so hopefully sometime in the future, I can post some of it here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rein Cues

I was practicing circles with Apache today and discovered that he requires different rein cues depending on which direction we're turning. He has finally decided to take the correct lead in circles, so now I've switched my focus to making sure he bends correctly and stays on the arc.

He does a left circle very nicely. I can use an opening rein to the left and require very little leg. Heading in the other direction, however, Apache tends to turn his right shoulder in too far which causes him to fade into the turn and corrupts the circle. Using more right leg does not help and actually causes him to turn even more toward the center as his hips are pushed further out. To combat this, I use the military technique of the "indirect rein of opposition". In this case, I bring the right rein in toward his withers while keeping the left rein passive (or at least passive-resistant). This bends his neck to the right and weights his left shoulder. Combined with pressure from the inside (right) leg it holds him on the arc.

It is a good solution to the problem. Now, I just have to remember which cue to use when turning in each direction.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saber Work

Last Saturday we did a little practice for the Major Howze competition. I laid out a 4.5 mile course and set up a saber target set at the end. Minutes after the troopers took off they called me because one of the horses was already injured. The Major Howze is rough on horses. I turned around with the trailer to go pick them up, but we decided that the horse was still rideable. He just clipped the back of one of his fetlocks, which bled allot. His trooper rode him over to the target area.

The troopers made decent time on the course. I couldn't get a good time because of the horse injury delay, but it seems they were making about six miles per hour. Not bad for the first practice. The target kill ratio wasn't very good, but typical for a first practice. They hit 50% of the targets. They lined up and charged in good order, but some of the horses jinked at the target sets. More practice will correct that problem.

Tonight, we set up a saber course in the arena and practiced for about an hour. I used a simple course without jumps to give the riders a chance to focus on horse control and saber work. All did pretty well. My horse, Apache, immediately began to hyperventilate once we entered the course. He crow hopped and acted stupid, but we managed to get some work done. If I could ever get him to relax, he'd be a decent horse. The other horses did okay. Regent, Charlie, and Kidd did well after some initial hiccups. Duke managed to improve greatly once he decided there were no guns involved. Cal made some progress although he is still concerned with the noise the saber makes when it hits a target. Chili did fine with everything except the ground targets. All in all, a good practice and we didn't even get rained on.