Horsin’ Around 11-29-10
Fort Collins, Colo.
For a long time I thought that cavalry horses were not loved as we love our horses today, but over the years I have changed my mind.
Pictured is the only survivor of the George Armstrong massacre of his entire unit. Armstrong split his forces thinking he would trap the Indians (Native Americans) and wipe them out, thus ending the war. However, it was a big mistake and he paid with his life and the lives of his men and horses.George Armstrong Custer was a glory hunting fool who was trying to win enough praise to run for President of the United States. Nevertheless, I have often wondered about the horses in the Cavalry. In fact when I graduated form high school, I intended joining the army and getting into the horse cavalry. However the recruiting officer announced that they had just, that year disbanded the horse cavalry and I would have to join the mechanized cavalry.
After getting to know a few old cavalry veterinarians I have changed my mind. The ones I have met have been lovers of horses and were heart broken when the U.S. Army did away with the horse cavalry. I didn’t know that there was a small group of men who the army picked to remain with a few horses. One unit was in Colorado where I have a friend who teaches the men there how to ride and care for the horses still around. Oh, they only use them for parades and things like that.
I asked my Captain about why the army had quit using horses in war fair. His response was the invention of the machine gun. It can fire so many bullets in such a short period of time and with such accuracy that the horse doesn’t stand a chance with that kind of weapon. Oh, they have continued to use horses as pack animals in some of the remote high mountains, like Kuwait, Afghanistan and places like that. They used horses and mules in WWII over in Burma for transporting food and ammunition. The trouble with all that is that you don’t get to ride except after you have delivered the equipment and are coming back out.
The problem with that is not all pack animals are broke to ride. I know when I was packing for the Park Service up in Yellowstone National Park, I had only one mule that was broke to ride and if someone wanted to ride him they had to sit on the pack saddle with no stirrup. This is fine if you were transporting someone out of the back country but for riding all day long and trying to do some work on that horse, it is very hard to do.
But back to the love of horses, I think all horse people are in love with their horse. I am sure there were cavalry soldiers who didn’t like horses, but for the most part I don’t know of anyone who can live with horses that doesn’t fall in love with his mount. I have said for a long time that buying a horse is a love affair. If you don’t fall in love with your horse when you go to buy him/her it will never work out right in the end.
I have ridden horses in a string that I have just gotten along with but there is always one that I fall in love with and that is the one I have taken when there is particular work to do even if he/she bucked me off in the beginning. The little mare that I now have is that way and the more I ride her the more I fall in love with her (and she has unloaded me a time of two) but I think we are going to work things out.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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