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.