Sunday, March 27, 2016

Learning Parade Maneuvers

Pete and Martina gave instruction to the students on how to perform parade maneuvers correctly.  We have a series of maneuvers we use during parades so we aren't just walking down the road.  The crowd seems to enjoy them and it keeps us from getting bored.  

The 1SG giving instruction to the students.

Pete set up some cones to help the students with precision riding.  Parade maneuvers only look good if everyone is lined up correctly and making crisp turns.  Some of the maneuvers we us are files left and right, forward cross, form wedge, form line, wheels left and right, counter-column, and reverse pivot.  

Working the cones

We also taught the students the pattern for what we call the "crosses" where two files of riders ride across each other's path during our riding demonstration.  Some call this "threading the needle."  It is important for each rider to be at the correct distance so that when they cross paths, they don't crash into each other.  We also teach them the emergency break procedure in case someone is out of position.  If executed correctly, people watching won't even know it happened.  

Learning the demo pattern.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weekend At Picacho

Last weekend, B Troop participated in the annual Civil War in the Southwest at Picacho Peak State Park, just north of Tucson, Arizona.  This was the site of a skirmish between a Confederate picket and a Union cavalry patrol.  It is billed as, The Westernmost Battle of the Civil War.  It wasn't much of a battle, though.  However, there were a couple of large battles in New Mexico that are also re-enacted at Picacho Peak every year.
Sunrise from our camp. 

As usual, it was a mix of good fun and brutally hard work.  We left Fort Huachuca at 1 PM on Friday and drove the two hours to Picacho Peak to set up our camp.  The next day we participated in three battles at 11 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3 PM.  We had to keep a close eye on the horses as they get dehydrated an often suffer elevated heart rates.  I would check them after each battle to see if they were OK.  If they had excessively high respiration rates, I would swap them out for a fresh horse.  We got through the battles OK and then had a big steak dinner prepared by our Chinese cook, Hop Sing (he is really a Japanese-American, but likes to be called after the Bonanza character).  After dinner we relaxed around the campfire and relived our battle exploits of the day and had our "naming" ceremony, where each trooper gets their B Troop nickname.  The names selected this year were, Pistol Pete, Turbo Foot, Kick Stand, Mighty Mouse, and Elmer Fudd.  Each name comes with a story, of course.
The mess tent.

On Sunday, we did it all over again, but had to strike camp after the last battle and make the drive back to Fort Huachuca.  We got back at about 7 PM.  We unloaded and fed the horses, stored the weapons, and then left the rest of the stuff to be unloaded later. My wife left us pulled pork sandwiches and coleslaw so we didn't have to drive home starving (and so she wouldn't have to make food for me when I got home). As always, everyone enjoyed the weekend and are looking forward to next year.

Waiting for breakfast and trying to shake off the morning chill at the fire pit.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Campaign Saddle Training

Well, four of our six students have survived the first phase of the Cavalry Riding School and are eager to get on with the next phase.  Today, we worked on how to build a campaign saddle and put it on a horse.  To give them hands-on training I disassembled my own saddle and then asked the students to put it back together.  I also went over how to clean each individual item on the saddle.  

After the students successfully reassembled the saddle, we found a couple of volunteers out in the pasture so we could practice putting the campaign tack on a horse.  I went through the process of putting the halter and bridle on and showed how all the tack fits together and is correctly configured.

After that we went over horse illnesses and how to treat minor injuries and who to notify in the case of more serious injuries. We even went over how to put a pressure bandage on a horse's leg so that they could do that when necessary.  Since they are being assigned their own horse for the rest of training, they were excited about all this information.

Finally, to wrap up the day, we issued uniforms to the new recruits and showed them how to put everything on.

Looking forward to the next phase of training.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Posting the Colors

Yesterday and today, we were supposed to be the color guard for the opening ceremonies at the Cochise College Rodeo on Fort Huachuca.  It is one of the regional competitions for the colleges that have a rodeo team.  The Cochise College Rodeo is held every year at Fort Huachuca and is the only one held on a military installation.

I wasn't supposed to be in the color guard yesterday, but one of the riders became ill and I had to replace him.  We had a team of six riders carrying four flags; the American flag, the Arizona flag, the Army flag, and the Troop guidon.  We also had one of our Lady's Auxiliary members singing the national anthem.  I was riding Apache, the Wonder Beast, and carrying the national colors even though I knew it would be a challenging task.

As we were lining up to make our entrance, Apache began fidgeting and spinning around seeking an escape. There was a large tree next to the gate with branches hanging over the entrance.  I was holding an 8-foot staff with a spear point on it.  The spear point kept getting hung up in the trees every time Apache spun around, so I was trying to disentangle the pole from the tree while trying to keep him from fleeing the scene.

Finally, our entrance cue came and we walked into the arena.  I say walked, but Apache was already galloping before we even transitioned to the trot.  I think Pete, our First Sergeant, actually ordered a canter, but it turned out to be a good 15 mph gallop. I was to the left of Pete, who was leading the formation, and the rest of the team followed in a column of twos.

I had shortened my reins to the point where the back of my left hand was nearly touching the back of Apache's neck.  As we galloped into the arena, I held him back with all the strength I had.  We were supposed to circle the arena once (it is 200 x 400 feet), slow down to a trot, and then form into a line in front of the bleachers.  We learned from years of experience that you can not ride right next to the rail as the horses will spook at the banners, steers, broncs, rodeo cowboys, and other scary things on the other side.  Thus, Pete led us a good thirty feet off the fence as we rounded the arena.  Since we weren't following the rail, he had to tell me when he was going to turn, otherwise we would have become separated from each other.  However, Apache and I were able to stay right on his side with only a couple of feet between my stirrup and his.

Thankfully, we finally made it around before the strength in my left arm gave out.  Once we stopped, Apache calmed right down and I was able to concentrate on working the cramps out of my thighs as Anastasia sang the anthem.  Once the anthem was complete, we got the cue to exit the arena, which we did at the trot.  Or, at least everyone else was trotting.  The second we exited the arena they released the first bronc from the bucking chute.  The other riders remarked that I should keep Apache from watching so he wouldn't get any new ideas.  Apache was so fascinated by what was going on in the arena that we trotted sideways down the road that passed behind it so he could watch the event.
I never knew that Apache was a rodeo fan.