Skip to comments.Equine event comes to Fort Huachuca
Posted on 02/14/2007 6:22:06 PM PST by SandRat
FORT HUACHUCA Think the days of soldiers riding Army horses are limited to memorial units?
Youd be wrong. There are 2,500 Army horses serving today, said Paul H. Scholtz, one of the directors of the U.S. Cavalry Association who also is the groups chaplain.
The days of using four-footed members of the equine class are still needed, especially as the United States continues its engagement in the war on terrorism, he said.
While many of the Army-owned mounts are part of ceremonial units, some are being used in Afghanistan and other places in the world to carry soldiers to hard-to-reach regions, Scholtz said. The Army also has 6,000 mules to carry supplies.
Of course, there is always the Armys official mascot, a mule assigned to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
The former Army staff sergeant, whose stint included serving with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in South Vietnam, said horses, mules and soldiers will always be part of a war-time American Army.
Wearing a 1940s style uniform, he and members of other mounted units are attending an Equine Conference on this historic Army cavalry post.
The three-day meeting is the first conference hosted by the fort with B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial). All members of B Troop are volunteers, with the mission of keeping alive the cavalry story of Americas Old West.
It is the seventh conference designed to discuss a number of issues, including purchasing, care and equipment for horses.
Units in attendance are from active duty, National Guard and Reserve organizations.
One of the active-duty units at the conference is the 11th Cavalry Division from Fort Irwin, Calif.
They were wearing uniforms from the Armys early 1900 period during Tuesdays social event at the forts Thunder Mountain Activity Centre.
Capt. Stephen Ruge commands the 11ths Horse Detachment, and he explained the significance of his units uniforms.
The uniforms are similar to what cavalry soldiers wore when the regiment was formed on Feb. 2, 1901. The heavy blue wool uniforms of former years and what B Troop members wear were replaced by lighter tan cloth, although the chevrons retained their traditional yellow color, the hue of a cavalryman.
All the members of the Fort Irwin detachment are active-duty soldiers.
The units soldiers take part in ceremonial activities, and they provide training at the California post, the home of the National Training Center, where Special Forces soldiers have been instructed how to handle horses and mules in rough terrain like that found in Afghanistan.
The units soldiers also have deployed on a number of missions, some of which involved the use of mules and horses, the captain said.
While two of the detachments three missions involve ceremonial and public relations, Ruge said one is critically important in helping the U.S. Army understand how equines can counter smuggling and incursion operations.
Capt. Lisa Mullinex, who commands the Kansas Adjutant Generals Mounted Color Guard, said the conference is important to show how other units operate.
As a member of the Kansas Army National Guard, she said her unit is made up of soldiers, but all the mounts are privately owned.
Founded two years ago, Mullinex hopes state funds will become available for the unit.
Another group that uses private mounts is the 88th Regional Readiness Command of the U.S. Army Reserves, which has a polo team as part of the Michigan units ceremonial horse platoon.
Retired Army Maj. Mark Gillespie leads the polo team. While not a member of the Army Reserve, he is a volunteer in the platoon.
The polo team members are preparing for an international competition called tent pegging, which will take place in South Africa.
Tent pegging is a sport that had its start in India when the British Raj ruled that subcontinent Gillespie said. During those days, native mounted lancers of the British forces would attack an enemy camp and using their lances remove tent pegs so the tents would collapse on the enemy, making it difficult for them to defend themselves.
Polo also has a historic connection to cavalry maneuvers.
Gen. George Patton, a luminary and World War II leader, saw polo as critical training by creating situational awareness on the battlefield, Gillespie said.
Like many armored leaders of World War II, Patton was first a horse soldier, and he related cavalry maneuvers with armored ones.
The similarities involving situational awareness knowing what someone faces all around them while doing 35 mph is the same when it comes to major maneuvers involving horse cavalry and todays modern tank actions, Gillespie said.
Playing polo is like combat without the intent of killing someone, he said.
The Blue Devils, the nickname of the reserve command, which has inherited the lineage of the 88th Infantry Division that fought in North African and Italy during World War II, have always had a fondness for incorporating cavalry functions, Gillespie sad.
In Italy, some of the infantryman captured a German boat full of horses and a senior commander used some of the 88ths soldiers for mounted patrols and carrying supplies, he said.
Today, the reserve command is carrying on the divisions mounted traditions. The polo team has provided championships by winning in Chile and England from their international trips, he said.
Be it small polo ponies or the large cavalry mounts, horses are always ready to serve.
Even today, a cavalry horse is ready to charge into the fray and once the animal is given his head a cavalryman will think hes going mach 5 in no time, Gillespie said.
Cavalry maneuvers today: At 4 p.m. today, Fort Huachucas B Troop will demonstrate cavalry maneuvers at the posts Wren Arena, which is open to the public.
This historic Southern Arizona Army post is hosting this years Army Equine Conference. This is the first year the fort has hosted the event.
Chris Zimmerman, the troops stable sergeant and former commander, said each of the units at the conference have different things they do and the fort unit wants to show them an example of what the cavalryman of the Old West did.
Herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or at email@example.com.
My dad was in the last remount of the old 2nd Cav, at Fort Sill.
He was detailed there from Engineering OCS. He'd never been on a horse before. The colonel assigned him to a stable sergeant, who fixed that omission in a hurry.
Dad said he slept on his face and ate standing up for a couple of weeks, but by the time they got through with him he knew his saber drill, lance drill, and could do close order drill and jumping.
Some 20 years later we were in Haiti and had to ride the sturdy little Haitian horses up to the top of the mountain to see La Citadelle (the alternative was to walk - forget it! It was one steep mountain and a long way up.)
The guide led out dad's little horse, and he gathered up the reins and swung aboard like he did it every day. I was impressed as heck, and I started riding when I was 6 (and am still riding today). I am still impressed with the instructional job the 2nd Cav did on my dad!
He's a handsome bright bay, though, with unusual markings (especially that near hind foot).
The guys who play polo today are not horsemen, by and large, at least not on the local level. They have mostly Argentine grade horses, and they drag 'em around on heavy curb bits.
This is interesting!
Looks like the same horse again in the picture after your post.
My Great Grandfather Dickinson was an Field Order rider for General U.S. Grant in the Civil War. Then went back to farming in Indiana, when not farming he took his teams to Chicago to help build roads.
Yep, can't be two horses with that color and marking. The horse in the second picture looks heavier, though, especially around the hindquarters. Maybe because in the first picture his hind end is farther from the camera . . .
Ronald Reagan learned to ride while an Army Reservist at Ft Des Moines in the 30s.
How long did the real Army continue to regard the horse as a fighting machine (so to speak)?
I know Italy, Ethiopia, and Japan made use of them In WW2. My grandad was a farmer and spent a couple weeks down in the ships bowels making the crossing tending mules in WW1. Luckily for him the war ended upon his arrival in Europe. Maybe he terrified the Axis or maybe it was the stench that put an end to hostilities.
Thanks for the ping. This is very interesting. You must get up awfully early!
I do get up early, but I actually pinged this last night ;~)
Most recent news on the topic (yes, I still read the Sierra Vista news every morning...right after I read the Killeen news...lol) At the link there is a darling picture of a little boy meeting one of the horses up close...the look in his eyes is...wow
Equine conference: Platoon members describe ceremonial responsibilities
BY BILL HESS
FORT HUACHUCA Cavalry maneuvers on this old western Army post are far different than what the Caisson Platoon of The Old Guard does in and around the nations capital.
The fast, hard riding of cavalry charges done by Fort Huachucas B Troop, 4th U. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial) is nothing like the slowly sedate functions of the 3rd Infantry Regiments Caisson Platoon. On Wednesday, a few soldiers of The Old Guard watched an 1880s cavalry demonstration at the posts Wren Area.
They were taking part in the Seventh Annual Army Equine Conference. Its the first time the event has been held on the fort.
After the display of B Troops horsemanship, which included different maneuvers and carbine, pistol and saber charges, members of The Old Guard special platoon and other conferees went into the arena and spoke with B Troop members.
It was a totally different experience for Staff Sgt. Stephen Cava, the platoons training noncommissioned officer.
Speaking with B Troop Commander Rod Preuss, Cava was interested in the equipment, arms, tack and uniforms from the 1880s. Preuss explained much of the equipment is a replica of what an 1880s cavalryman used.
While the troops horses are U.S. Army mounts, and some equipment is provided by the Army, some items are purchased from eBay, said Preuss, who has the honorary rank as captain in the memorial unit but is a chief warrant officer in the active Reserves.
The Old Guard traces its lineage back to the First American Regiment, which was founded in 1784.
The unit is currently a major participant in ceremonial activities, which includes its soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Caisson Platoon also is an important fixture of the national cemetery, where Cava and more than four dozen soldiers provide part of the final honors for military personnel.
A caisson, which in the days of the horse artillery carried ammunition, is now used to carry caskets through Arlington National Cemetery to a grave site.
During times of state funerals, a caisson also carries the casket, and a riderless horse is part of the ceremony.
The late President Gerald Ford did not have a caisson as part of his corteges.
Cava said there are at least eight funerals a day, Monday through Friday, during which two caisson detachments provide the special honor for the most senior enlisted grade and for officers. For Army and Marine colonels and generals, a riderless horse is also part of the procession, with a cavalrymans boots backward in the stirrups, the NCO said.
The reason they are provided a riderless horse is that both services had cavalry units. There are four riders with the caisson, which is drawn by six horses.
If there is a riderless horse, a soldier from the Caisson Platoon leads the animal. Im almost at 1,000 (burials), Cava said, noting he has ridden with a caisson about 850 times. The rest involved leading a riderless horse.There are two caissons used at Arlington, one black and the other white.
For most, weekdays the duty starts at 4 a.m. and ends around 6 p.m. Initially, a casket arrives by hearse. It is removed from the vehicle and placed on one of the caissons. After the caisson carrying the casket arrives at the burial site, another team removes the coffin and takes it to the final resting place.
Spit and polish is not all The Old Guard prides itself on. The unit also has been given the honor to provide added dignity to the deceased.
While the Caisson Platoon supports all services, members of Americas armed forces handle graveside honors for their own. The Caisson Platoon has fifty-one and a half horses, Cava said, adding one of the animals just foaled.
One could almost tell he would have liked to have gotten on to a B Troop mount and experienced a charge, saber drawn, galloping across the western landscape.
Until he became part of The Old Guards Caisson Platoon, Cava said his only horse-riding experience was once as a Boy Scout in New Jersey.
herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duh. My eyes are crossed this morning!
Somebody asked an American general in the Pacific (I think it was "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell) if the cavalry units used their horses in the Pacific. The reply was, "Yeah. We ate them."
My dad's Engineer unit did use mules in the mountains of Italy in the winter of 43-44 because mechanized equipment bogged down in the mud. There were some German horses that they captured, but they were officers' chargers (for looks) rather than actually used in warfare. The Ethiopians used horses, mostly because that's all they had. The Italians used mechanized equipment against the Ethiopians and cleaned their clock. The Germans had quite a lot of horse units as WWII got under way, but I think like the Americans in the Pacific they ate most of them. I don't know about the Japanese, they weren't using horses in the Pacific Islands where my FIL was fighting.
The Army fielded a jumping and modern pentathlon team in the Olympics after the war (1948?) but that was disbanded fairly soon thereafter. The military teams continued to ride for Italy and France for awhile longer, maybe for Ireland.