Sunday, October 23, 2011


The troopers crossing the San Pedro
Photo by Ty Holland

Helldorado comes once a year and thank goodness it doesn't come more often than that. It is a brutal two day event. The troopers always ride in the Helldorado parade in Tombstone on Sunday, but traditionally make the 25 mile journey on horseback from Fort Huachuca on Saturday.

My job is to set up the camp at the lunch stop on the San Pedro river and at the overnight stop in Tombstone. I also sometimes ride in the parade on Sunday. The day starts before the sun comes up as it takes a good 10 hours to ride to Tombstone. I bring food, water, and spare horses to the river which is at about the 15 mile point. I also ask the mil vet to meet us there and check the horses for dehydration, lameness, and back injuries. We almost always lose a couple of horses at the river. Since I wasn't riding, one of the spares was the Wonder Horse and the other was Cochise.

The Wonder Horse waiting for the troopers

Sure enough, we lost Journey and Kidd at the river for back problems and we had to give electrolyte paste to a few more that were a little dehydrated. I didn't have the right size saddle for Cochise, so we had to improvise to make Journey's saddle fit. However, he managed to get the rest of the way to Tombstone without getting a sore back.

The lunch camp

While the troopers headed on to Tombstone, I and my two helpers (riding school students) took the two injured horses back to Fort Huachuca, and picked up more water and extra gear. We drove back to Tombstone and set up the evening camp. Our cook, Hop Sing, soon showed up and began preparing the evening meal. The troopers soon arrived with their tired mounts and the mil vet once again checked all the horses. Fortunately, we had no more injuries.

Hop Sing making dinner

After dinner, the troopers headed into town to celebrate with the locals and I headed back to the fort with the weapons and those troopers not spending the night. I had to be back to the stables the next morning at 0630 to feed the horses before heading back to Tombstone, so headed on home to get some sleep.

The portable corral at our Tombstone camp

The next morning, I fed the horses at the fort and, along with one of the troopers, headed back to the Tombstone camp. Groggy troopers were hunched over their coffee when we got there. Hop Sing rustled up a plate of eggs and sausage for us which we polished off then got to work. We tied up the horses and then broke down our portable corral for transportation back to the fort.

The parade began at 1100 but we had to check in at 1000 and stand around in the sun until the parade started. We were bedeviled by loose balloons that kept floating by and scaring the horses while we stood there. The parade is on famous Allen street in Tombstone, which is narrow and lined with wooden boardwalks populated by hundreds of spectators. One of the floats in front of us was throwing candy into the street for the children to pick up. This, unfortunately, resulted in a number of close calls for us as children would run out into the street to get candy as we were riding by on our horses. This sometimes caused the horses to spook and we narrowly avoided stepping on children as their parents just stood there and watched. Fortunately, no one was hurt and we managed to finish the parade and get back to our camp without incident.

The Wonder Horse was perfect, at least during the parade. He never gets frightened or misses a maneuver. He is surprisingly easy to handle given the rather horrific environment we were riding in. Our parade companion, Duke, who was being ridden by Lady Lisa, did very well also even though when the children ran out into the street, they always seemed to run right at him. He missed a few maneuvers, but otherwise handled the experience well.

Hellorado, for all its fun, is a lot of work. I will be bone weary tomorrow, but happy that everything went reasonably well.


  1. Nice, relaxing event after the Competition, eh?

  2. Looks like good fun, if back breaking!