Sunday, July 15, 2012

Duke's Recompense

Last January, as I related in a series of earlier posts, I had a riding accident while working with Duke.  My left leg and foot were crushed when he fell and I've been trying to recover ever since.  The leg is still swollen and has to be wrapped daily and I am still unable to wear my nice cavalry boots or any kind of snug footwear.  I can ride without much problem and I can walk normally for a little while.  Eventually, if I spend too much time on my feet, I begin to limp slightly like Chester on Gunsmoke.

As a result, I try to avoid walking for long periods of time.  This gets a little problematic though when I have to go searching through the pasture for the horses.  The pasture is about 58 acres of rugged terrain and the horses generally like to graze as far away from the feeding area as possible.  Last week, while searching for them, they appeared from a stand of trees at the extreme north end of the pasture.  I was already limping from the effort to find them.  The horses trotted up to me to say hello and then thundered off toward the feeding area as they like to do. 

As I contemplated the long uphill walk back to the stables, Duke who was at the rear of the herd, trotted up to me and stopped. It is unusual for a single horse to stay behind when the rest of the herd is galloping away.  Nevertheless, Duke stood there quietly as I slipped the halter I was carrying over his head and tied the lead rope around his neck.  I then positioned him in a low spot so I could jump on his back, as he is a tall horse and I don't jump as high as I once did.  I managed to get aboard easily though as Duke did not move a muscle while I mounted. 

Duke was eager to catch up to the herd, but as I had no bridle on him, I requested he walk.  He did so obligingly, although he walked swiftly.  He sped up when we descended into a gully as horses like to do in order to use their momentum to crest the other side, but otherwise, he remained at a walk for the whole ride of about a half mile.  I was greatly appreciative of his assistance as it saved me a lot of discomfort. 

It don't know why Duke stopped to give me a lift as he has never done it before.  Maybe he just wanted me to bring him in first as he prefers a stall to the pasture.  Or maybe he could see I needed a little help and, like a good horse, decided to provide it.  The experience was just one of many that caused me to think that animals understand us better than we give them credit for. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Independence Day

Waiting to start our demo

For the last ten years or so, celebrating the 4th of July has always meant riding a horse in Veterans Park in Sierra Vista.  B Troop is tasked each year to set up an encampment and deliver a proclamation to the city mayor during a noon-time ceremony.  The ceremony always features a 50-gun salute to each of the states and a fly over of F-16s.  It is a nice little ceremony and it attracts a lot of the local politicians and military dignitaries. 

The fly over

In the old days, our participation also featured pony rides for the kids.  For a small donation we would put kids up on the horses and walk them around in a circle.  I called it the "pony ride death march" as it was always very hot and walking around in the hot sun for four or five hours in a wool uniform was brutal.  However, we eventually learned that it was illegal for us to accept donations as are a military unit and then we had a couple of incidents with the children.  During one of the pony rides, a couple of our horses ran off with children clinging to the saddles.  Thankfully, no one was injured, but we decided after that to discontinue the pony rides. 

Dismounted fighting demo

This year we did our usual encampment and ceremony gig, but there were thunderstorms all around the valley so we had to pull out early.  We still managed to support the ceremony and then hung around for a while so every kid in town could come up and pet the horses.  We were literally surrounded and it was getting a little scary as the crowd surged forward.  Now I know what rock stars go through. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Charlie's Return

We finally got Charlie back into ceremonial work today.  He hadn't been in a ceremony for the past six months due to his sarcoid treatment and surgery.  The surgery removed a large patch of skin from his right cheek.  The wound is now almost completely healed and the scab is small enough to be covered by the cheek straps on his halter.  Amazingly, most of the hair has returned to his cheek and there is only a small spot where it hasn't grown back yet. 

Charlie was a bit excited about being back in the show.  Once we began to maneuver into position for the charge, he began to crow hop and dance around.  However, once the charge began he forgot what he was supposed to do and fell way behind the other horses.  He is also not in the best shape having been out of the lineup for so long. 

I realized later that it was my first ceremony and charge since my own injuries suffered last January.  I was a little winded afterwards, but otherwise suffered no problems. I will try again with Charlie on Thursday during another ceremony and hopefully both of us will perform a little better. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cavalry Heritage Day

Last Saturday we held a cavalry competition event for the public.  It was our first attempt to do something like this.  We invited the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment horse detachment from Fort Irwin, California, to join us.  We had a mounted saber event and a mounted pistol event in the morning and then individual riding demonstrations by each unit in the afternoon. 

We have ridden with the Fort Irwin guys many times in the past and have always had a good relationship with them.  As the two western-most Army horse detachments, we are kind of isolated from the rest of the Army horse community.  The 11th ACR detachment represents the cavalry as it existed in 1901 while B Troop represents the cavalry of the 1880's.  The two detachments together made for a colorful event.

It was a good day and both units had a chance to see what they need to work on before going to the National Cavalry Competition in September.  Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to do this again next year. 

B Troop and 11th ACR readying for the opening ceremony.

An 11th ACR rider on the saber course.

A B Troop rider on the pistol course. 

The 11th ACR demo team

B Troop pistol charge

Interacting sith the spectators after the demo. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dismounted Fighting

One of the myths of the old cavalry is that they always fought mounted.  This myth has been perpetuated in film, but is often advanced in Civil War battle re-enactments.  Mounted attacks are more colorful and dramatic when depicted on film and in battle re-enactments.  The truth is that mounted cavalry attacks were normally only used against other mounted units or against unprepared or scattered infantry units.  For a cavalry unit to attack a prepared infantry unit would have been suicidal.  Men on horses make very large targets for infantry and trying to hit anything with a pistol or carbine while on a galloping  horse is a difficult enterprise unless at very close range. 

In reality, a cavalry unit would typically dismount when fighting.  This practice of dismounted cavalry to fight was perfected by Phillip Sheridan during the Civil War.  However, you will never see this standard tactic depicted in the movies or in a re-enactment because it is difficult to do and somewhat boring to watch.  However, since it is the mission of B Troop is to promote the history and heritage of the cavalry, we have resolved to demonstrate the tactic of dismounting cavalry to fight on foot. 

The tactic of dismounting cavalrymen to fight requires the right equipment and lots of practice.  The Indian Wars period halter has a special link-strap that was used to bind the horses together when their riders were dismounted.  The idea was for each group of four troopers would dismount three men and have the fourth man hold the horses.  The three dismounted horses would be linked together and the fourth man would stay mounted and hold them.  The dismounted men would advance and engage the enemy with carbine fire.  While this was happening, the horse-holder would maneuver the linked horses to the rear and out of the line of fire.   

Although this all sounds very simple and straightforward, it is in reality, very difficult to do.  The men have the complicated task of mounting and dismounting with a carbine slung over their backs and the horses have to be trained to be able to be led while linked together. 

Mounting and dismounting with a slung carbine takes a fair amount of practice.  The rider must first remove his carbine from its scabbard, attach it to his carbine sling, sling it over his back, and dismount without clobbering himself in the head with the carbine.  Getting off this way is much easier than getting back on.  The first thing you discover is that the carbine sling chokes you slightly when you drop the carbine over your back.  This is not as bad, however, as when you are trying to remount and the carbine swings around to your right side and gets tangled in your leg so that you end up sitting on your own rifle. 

Our efforts to master this simple maneuver resulted in a few bruises and much hilarity.   I outdid everyone else in buffoonery when I manged to fall off my horse during the mounting effort.  My carbine had slipped to my right while mounting so I attempted to shift my weight to re-center the rifle as I slung my leg over.  At that moment, the Apache decided to shift himself to the left which caused me to fall head first over his right side.  As I lay on the ground with my trusty carbine at my side, Apache stood and looked down at me with bemused look on his face while my comrades enjoyed a good laugh at my expense. 

After we had beat ourselves senseless with this exercise, we decided to try it while linking the horses.  Again, this was initially amusing, as the horses had no clue what they were supposed to do.  I was the horse-holder and was having a hard time convincing the three linked horses that they were supposed to follow me as I wheeled to the left.  The #3 horse, the one closest to me, refused to budge and was generally annoyed about the whole activity.  However, the first and second horses figured it out and began to push him around the arc so that we were able to execute a fairly decent wheel movement while linked. 

Meanwhile, the troopers had become fairly adept at dismounting with carbines slung and forming a skirmish line.  I eventually figured out how to time the wheel movement of the linked horses so they arrived on line just as the skirmishers were returning to remount.  After we had practiced it for about an hour, we began to look like a fairly competent mounted fighting force instead of a group of confused lunatics. 

The difficulty of executing what was once a routine procedure of the cavalry, makes me wonder how often it was practiced.  Doing it with a handful of men and horses is one thing, but I can't imagine this maneuver being executed with thousands of horses.  It must have been really something to watch. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Graduation Ceremony

Fort Report B-Troop Riding School Graduation from U.S. Army Fort Huachuca on Vimeo.

This video was taken during the Cavalry Riding School graduation ceremony.  It shows just how fast the horses move out during the charge.  One of the horses, Journey, spooked at some traffic cones when his rider made a left flank.  You can see Journey back up and move away from the cones before taking off.  He still managed to get down the field ahead of the other horses though. 

It was a nice ceremony and we all went back to the stables after to celebrate with a barbecue. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Charlie's Sarcoid Removal

Charlie has had a sarcoid on his face for a long time now.  The mil vets tried to treat it by surgically removing part of it and treating the rest of it with a type of cream that kills the cancer cells.  However, after several months, it was obvious that the treatment had not worked and had, in fact, made it worse.  An ugly cauliflower-like growth appeared on the right side of Charlie's face making him essentially unusable for ceremonial work. 

Last Thursday we received approval from the mil vets to take Charlie up to Arizona Equine for treatment.  AZ Equine provides the best horse care you can get in this state and we frequently take the Army horses up there for treatment.  Our mil vets are good, but AZ Equine deals exclusively with horse issues on a daily basis and sometimes you just have to go with the experts, even though it is much more expensive. 
Charlie at home after the surgery

Charlie was moved into the operating area stocks as soon as we arrived, sedated, and prepped for surgery.  Once Charlie was sedated, the surgeon made a circular incision all the way around the sarcoid on Charlie's cheek.  What happened next was like a scene from "Silence of the Lambs."  They peeled back the flap of skin and snipped it loose from the underlying tissue with a scissors.  It was like watching someone getting scalped in slow motion.  Once they removed the "scalp," they cut some of the suspicious looking areas from the sub-dermal layer.  It was pretty grotesque, but fascinating at the same time.  Charlie pretty much dozed through the whole thing with his chin resting on a specially designed horse-head prop. 

After they had finished, the wrapped his head up in bandages and then Debbie put on his Mexican-wrestler hoodie to help keep the bandages in place.  It will take a couple months for the skin to grow back and Charlie will always have a bald spot on his cheek.  The bald spot will mostly be covered by his ceremonial tack, so he shouldn't look to unsightly as long as the sarcoid doesn't come back.   

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rose Thorns

Photos by Kelly Paige

Today was my first attempt to participate in a public event since my riding accident back in January.  We participated in the Rose Festival Parade in Tombstone.  I guess I should have realized by the dark storm clouds in the sky that I was better off staying home.  It was a cold and windy day.  Not much rain, thankfully, but unusually cold for an April day in Arizona. 

Our preparations at the stables went smoothly enough, or at least I thought so.  We elected to keep all the horses in last night because of the weather, but still everyone was able to tend to their steeds and be ready to roll at the appointed time.  The weather was lousy, but not lousy enough to result in the cancellation of the parade--something all of us would have accepted without complaint.  We had two new riders participating in their first event since passing their final riding tests last Wednesday. 

Heading up Allen Street

When we arrived in Tombstone, things continued to go smoothly, until I overheard someone saying that our new sidesaddle rider had forgotten her bridle.  This was a problem since we couldn't just leave her behind by herself.  One other horse and rider (me in this case since I was her escort) would have to stay behind or her horse would have panicked when the rest of the herd rode away.  Some people began to suggest that I just tow her along by her lead rope.  I rejected this idea on the grounds that if her horse broke away she might end up being dragged up Allen street by her stirrup. 

Instead, we decided to get someone to bring us another bridle.  I called my wife, who was only 30 minutes away to bring a bridle from our tack shed.  Meanwhile someone else called a friend and asked them to go back to Fort Huachuca and get a bridle from there.  It turned out to be a fortuitous phone call as we soon had another problem on our hands. 

Lady escort

Somehow, we managed to lock the keys to one of our trucks inside the truck. Unfortunately, the three troopers who had been in the truck had left their uniform in there.  We then contacted the individual who was on his way to the fort (thank goodness for cell phones) and asked him to get the spare keys to the truck and bring those along with the extra bridle.  Fortunately, all the tack and keys made it to us before we had to step out on the parade. 

The parade itself went fine.  We had the usual incidents of audience interaction with the denizens of Tombstone.  One guy actually walked up to a trooper during the parade and started asking questions.  Another individual decided to argue points of historical authenticity with our Executive Officer as we rode through town.  These kind of incidents seem to be unique to the town of Tombstone.  Maybe it is something in the water...or the whiskey. 

Parading past a few brave souls

When we returned to the fort and released the horses into pasture, we gathered on the porch to review the day's events and assign appropriate beverage fines for what had transpired.  Both the nubes had forgotten an item of equipment.  Although all the goof ups had been pretty exasperating, no one really got angry about it.  In fact, we all had a pretty good laugh about it.  We are just fortunate to have people in our outfit that find ways to overcome problems, no matter how ridiculous they may be. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

More Cavalry Charge Practice

On Saturday the troopers took the students out for more charge practice except this time they took pistols along to enhance the experience.  The horses typically get a little more excited when the pistols come out.  The weather was perfect and the field was in good shape.  

The riders forming up into a skirmish line. 
Last week they worked at mostly a trot and slow canter, but this week they moved up to a full gallop.  It is a much different kind of experience when the horses are really moving. 

The riders trying to hold the line while charging.

Things were going pretty well until one of the students was bucked off when they transitioned to a gallop.  Fortunately the rider wasn't hurt except for a few bruises.  It just goes to show how dangerous this business can be.  The student was wearing a helmet which likely saved her from serious injury. 

However, the practice session ended fairly well and everyone got back to the stables safely. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cavalry Charge Practice

The pre-brief

As part of the riding school, we spend a couple of Saturdays training the students in open field charges.  The open field charge is the most exciting and potentially dangerous activity the troopers engage in.  The troopers perform a pistol charge at the end of each ceremony on post so it is important to train both riders and horses in how to do it safely.  The charge is a rare opportunity to ride a horse as fast as it will go (unless you're a jockey).  The charge only lasts about 14 seconds, but it is an exhilarating 14 seconds.  It is during the charge that riders find out if they really want to pursue cavalry riding as a hobby. 

Walking on line

The practice starts out pretty slowly with the riders forming a skirmish line and walking the parade field to look for holes or objects in the ground.  If a horse steps in a hole while at a gallop, it would likely result in the destruction of both horse and rider, thus inspecting the field is an essential step in the training.  Once the field is determined to be safe, the instructor leads the students up and down the field at various gaits until everyone is comfortable.  It is a good exercise in horse control as the horses know this is the place they do charges and become excited the moment they step onto the field.  By forcing the horses to walk and trot on line up and down the field, the students and horses gain more confidence in each other.  Getting a horse to charge is easy, getting him to stay on line with the other horses, and stopping him before exits the field is sometimes the challenging part. 

Cantering on line

If all goes well, the instructor has the students draw sabers and switch to neck reining at a canter.  The first lesson ends when all the students can control the horse with one hand, stay on line, and keep the horse's speed down.  The second lesson (on another weekend) will build on this training and the students will eventually be allowed to ride their horse at a full gallop up the parade field. 
Wrapping up

Brown Parade ground is nestled between 19th century officer's houses and cavalry barracks at the mouth of Huachuca Canyon.  It is a very historic setting and offers some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and of the San Pedro valley.  The troopers riding there today join a long line of cavalrymen who have practiced and drilled on that rectangle of grass for the last 135 years. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Picacho Peak Part II

Prepping the horses for the first battle of the day.

Riding to the first battle

B Troop contributes the only cavalry presence during the weekend.  However, they also provide a significant contribution to the Union artillery with their mountain howitzer.  It is pretty obvious that without B Troop, there wouldn't be much of a show.   

The day starts with the battle of Valverde.  In the afternoon the battle of Glorietta Pass is re-enacted.  And in the late afternoon, B Troop recreates the battle of Picacho Pass.  The first two battles are virtually the same as far as the mechanics of the battle.  B Troop is sent forward periodically to deal with Confederate skirmishers or advancing infantry and then fall back when their ammo runs out.  The battlefield is so small, the participants are almost standing toe-to-toe.  The spectators are also very close to the action and they can literally feel the concussion from the artillery fire. 

Skirmishing with Confederates

The battlefield is next to a large volcanic rock outcropping that the spectators climb to get a better view of the action.  The terrain is rocky, scrubby, and full of cactus.  The cavalrymen have to be careful where they ride so as not to get a horse stuck in a saguaro or barrel cactus.  Behind the battlefield is an RV park which makes it hard to get decent photos of the battle without RVs in the back ground.

Repositioning for another attack

The mountain howitzer in action

The audience

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Picacho Peak Part I

Last weekend we made the trip to Picacho Peak State Park for the annual Civil War in the Southwest event. The park is about 25 miles north of Tucson, Arizona. It was the site of a skirmish between Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War in 1861. It is known as the "western-most battle of the Civil War." Although we do not normally portray the Civil War era, our Indian War Period uniforms and tack are close enough. We just trade our campaign hats for kepis to create the illusion.

The horse corrals are set up first.  Horses are segregated by rank. 

We left Fort Huachuca on Friday afternoon and arrived at our camp site at about 3 pm. The first order of business is putting up the horse corral, then we set up the mess tent and fire pit, and lastly we set up whatever personal sleeping arrangements we intend to use. Some people bring recreational vehicles, some tents, some sleep in the horse trailers. We have been doing this for many years, so the camp goes up rather quickly.

Horse trailers sometimes serve as sleeping quarters.

It was fairly cool this year, which was a blessing. Some years it gets very hot in the desert and trying to wear dark blue wool uniforms can get a little uncomfortable. It was chilly sitting around the camp fire at night, but the weather was perfect for fighting Confederates.

An interesting variety of casual wear may sometimes be seen at the fire circle first thing in the morning.
Between battles, troopers may find unique ways of amusing themselves.  This trooper is trying to rope an escaped creosote bush.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Color Guard Duty

Here is a video of the troopers carrying the colors during the opening ceremony of the Cochise College Rodoe last weekend on Fort Huachuca, Arizona.  They managed to hold a pretty good formation as they galloped around the arena.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting Back Into The Saddle

I haven't been writing much lately as I don't have much to report. I'm still very limited in what I can do since my riding accident. I can ride, but can't put a lot of pressure on my foot or even wear a decent pair of boots. I've been doing all my riding in tennis shoes. The leg and foot are healing, but very slowly. The doctor said it could take nine months for it to heal completely. Great. Only seven months to go.

I did manage to ride the Wonder Horse a couple of times this week. We are just working on simple things like staying on the bit and staying collected. It is a slow and boring process, but it keeps me in the saddle at least a little bit. I've also tried to ride Duke a few times, but he is not as stable a platform as Apache, so I'm reluctant to do much with him. He has a dry cough and when he puts his head down to cough, it gives me flashbacks to the day he fell down and landed on top of my leg. It is very unnerving.

We are getting ready for our annual trip to Picacho Peak for the Civil War in the Southwest on 10-11 March. Unfortunately, it does not look like I will be able to ride in it as I still cannot get my foot into a cavalry boot. I just can't bend the foot enough. I also can't spend long periods of time on my feet in general which makes me pretty much useless around camp. However, I will go anyway and look after the horses and do what I can. If nothing else, maybe I can take some photos to share with everyone.

Me at Picacho Peak in happier times.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Real Life War Horse

Someone sent me this link to a story about a horse that served the U.S. Marines during the Korean War.

The horse looks a little like the Wonder Horse. Perhaps he is a descendent.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Back In The Saddle

I finally saddled up the Wonder Horse and rode him today. No, my leg is still not fully healed and I can only ride at a walk, but it was still an achievement. I have a large sack of fluid on the outside of my leg where I impacted the ground during my riding accident. I have to keep it wrapped all the time and elevated and iced as often as possible per the doctor's orders. I sit in my office at various times during the day with my leg propped up on an old computer and a cold wrap on my leg. The wrap is designed for a horse's leg, but it works pretty well on me as well. I found the wrap in the freezer compartment of our office refrigerator.

I rode Apache for about 30 minutes and he was content to stay at a walk. Since I have to keep it slow, I can work on fundamentals like rein cues and leg cues. Riding a horse at a walk is deadly boring, so I don't usually concentrate on the finer details when working with Apache. Maybe this slow pace will all work out for me in the long run. In any case, I'm just happy to be riding a horse again---at any speed.

In other news, Charlie got a visit from the mil vet today who scrubbed out his wound and treated it. His face looks like cheese pizza with the cheese pealed off. Not pretty, but hopefully the treatment will kill off the sarcoid. They are hard to get rid of and extreme measures obviously apply here. Poor Charlie.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Charlie The Mexican Wrestling Horse

Charlie is one of those horses that has all kinds of medical problems. A year and a half ago he beat the odds and survived colic surgery. He has also had one of his eyes damaged by flying debris and once fell down into a ravine and hurt his back.

He is a sweet horse, but when he gets his dander up, is a ferocious war horse. He is big and fast and and all-around cavalry horse. He is not afraid of gunfire, stands well in formation, charges like a fiend, and jumps with the best of them. He is one of our best and we are lucky to have him.

His latest malady is a large sarcoid that has formed on his right cheek. Big and unsightly, we were worried that it would consume his entire face. A couple weeks ago, the mil vet cut out part of the sarcoid and had us start putting a sarcoid cream on the rest of it. The cream basically melts the sarcoid tissue away. It is, of course, a very unsightly process. We decided to do this in winter because there are no flies which would undoubtedly be attracted to the raw flesh. We keep the wound area covered with bandages, but Charlie has a tendancy to rub it off because it itches. Thus, we ordered a lycra hood to keep the bandage in place. Charlie had no problem with the hood and, as you can see, he looks like a Mexican wrestler with it on.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Double Header

Photos by Troy Wilcox

Because we have such low manning we are never able to support two events in a single day. However, the planets aligned recently so that we were able to consider it. We are required to support a quarterly mass retirement ceremony for Fort Huachuca that occurs on the third Friday of every third month. The ceremony has been pared down significantly so that we are basically the main feature. They had tried moving the ceremony indoors for a while, but retirees couldn't stand the thought of having a retirement ceremony without a B Troop charge. Thus, the ceremony was moved back outdoors.

However, this month we were requested to support a promotion ceremony for one of the generals who put on his second star on the same day. The promotion ceremony was at 1300 and the retirement ceremony was at 1600. Because the ceremonies were both held at Brown Parade Field and were close enough in time, we were able to work out the logistics of supporting both. I still had my doubts about the whole affair because it required troopers to put in an eight hour day in uniform with about four hours in saddle. Not many offices can afford to let their people go that long, but it is a slow month for ceremonies and some of the troopers actually took leave to be able to support it. To my surprise, enough people signed up to ride to support both ceremonies. All but one trooper was there and we had enough people to support the cannon crew for both ceremonies also.

It takes about 40 minutes to ride to the parade field from the stables, so there wasn't enough time to ride back between ceremonies. Therefore, we set up a little camp near Huachuca Creek a couple hundred yards from the parade ground. I parked the horse trailer over there to tie up to and we brought some chairs and food so the troopers could relax between events. We were able to water the horses in the creek and let them nibble a little grass. We decided we'd trailer the horses back after the second ceremony so they wouldn't have to make a 40 minute ride back to the stables after sunset.

I was not able to ride, but provided ground support (to the extent my injured leg would permit) and was able to watch each ceremony. This gave me an opportunity to see where the horse-training challenges were. There is no way to duplicate the environment in a live ceremony, so the only way to train horses is to actually just put them through the ceremonies. Unfortunately, that sometimes results in less-then-desired performance.

We decided to put Duke (the horse that body slammed my leg a couple weeks ago) back into the fray. Lisa D, who is fearless, decided to ride him in the first ceremony to see how he would do. Duke has been in ceremonies before, but due to a gun training setback suffered a couple years ago, has not been used in a ceremony since. Duke did fairly well in the first ceremony despite a 13-gun salute to the general. Lisa D did not fire off of him during the charge, but Duke did not react to the sound of the other riders firing on either side of him. He did so well that Lisa decided to ride him in the next ceremony. Duke did not do so well the second time. He refused to stand quietly in the line and constantly backed out. Lisa kept trying to find a spot where he would stand, but he was just too nervous. He was able to execute the charge in good order (that is, he did not bolt or refuse to stop), but couldn't handle standing quietly in line after.  I eventually asked the first sergeant to dismiss Lisa and another rider back to the base camp as I was afraid he was going to dump Lisa or injure a bystander (people like to come up and pet the horses after the ceremony). The rest of the troop followed soon after.

All in all, it was a good day. B Troop is definitely the highlight of military ceremonies on Fort Huachuca and even when one of the horses acts up, it does not diminish the Troop's presence. To me, any ceremony that doesn't result in an injured horse or rider is a good one. The appreciation of the audience is just icing on the cake.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Horse Wreck

I have been through many horse wrecks over the years (a horse wreck is when your horse falls down while you're riding him), but usually escape with just a few strained joints and bruises. Yesterday, I didn't fair so well.

It was a beautiful day and I was carrying out my New Year's resolution to ride a horse every day that I could. I had ridden Apache on Wednesday and decided to ride Duke on Thursday. Duke is a big Missouri Fox Trotter who isn't completely trained yet. He does okay with most activities, but has some rough edges.

I decided to work on some basic cues and just generally get used to him as I haven't ridden him in a while. Things were going okay so I tried some basic horsemanship and put him into a canter circle. As we began the turn he stumbled. Not a big deal as most horses regain their balance, but not this time. It was like being in an airplane that has suddenly lost it's lift. He stumbled, recovered, stumbled again, and then we began sinking--almost in slow motion. It was obvious we were going down, so I tried to get off.

I wasn't quick enough, however, and my foot got trapped beneath Duke as we both crashed to the ground. I assumed from the pain that I had shattered my entire lower leg. Duke got back up, but I was down for the count. I writhed in the dirt for a second or two and then pulled my cell phone and dialed 911. I quickly got the dispatcher on the line who immediately sent an ambulance.

Meanwhile, Duke had come back to see what was wrong with me. His face was as close to my cell phone as mine was while I was talking the emergency crews into my location. I told them to look for the horse standing by himself in a field. They saw Duke first and then saw me beneath him.

Figuring the paramedics would cut my cavalry boot off when they got to me, I managed to remove it in advance. Sure enough, when the crew got to me they immediately slit my jeans from ankle to crotch. They asked me if I was wearing underwear and I replied, "No, I'm in the cavalry." Everyone had a good laugh at that. What else could you do at that point?

The Buffalo Corral people came running over when they saw the emergency vehicles arrive. I asked them to put Duke away and put his tack on the front porch of our office. Meanwhile the paramedics lifted me onto a gurney and loaded me into the ambulance. I accepted their offer for morphine which eventually cut the pain in half so that at least my body stopped shaking. The ride to the hospital was okay, but for some reason the driver decided to take the long way through Old Post which features a series of speed bumps. Awesome!

They admitted me fairly quickly at the emergency room and they hooked me up to some more morphine, which I declined at that point. I don't like the side effects of pain killers and the pain had subsided enough at that point to make it not necessary. Eventually, they took radio graphs of all the parts of my leg that they thought might be damaged. Miraculously, nothing was broken. They splinted my foot, gave me some prescriptions, and sent me home. I had spent five hours in the ER.

I have since removed the splint and the foot looks predictably grotesque. I can place some weight on it and I'm getting around fairly well with crutches. Now, I just have to rehabilitate it and, of course, try not to re injure it. The sad thing is, I won't be able to ride again for some weeks I suspect. Injuries are so damned inconvenient.