The U.S. Cavalry Association is once again sponsoring the National Cavalry Competition, held in September each year in conjunction with their Annual Bivouac. The competitions promote good horsemanship and provide an opportunity for reenactors, active and reserve military mounted color guards, and mounted police officers to compete and improve their riding skills.
The National Cavalry Competition is open to all who are interested in promoting their cause, to keep the Cavalry spirit alive.
Individual riding categories include Mounted Saber, Mounted Pistol, Military Horsemanship, and Military Field Jumping. There are also competitions for Platoon Drill, Bugle Competition, Authenticity, and the Major Howze team mobility event. Plaques are also awarded for the outstanding horse at the competition and for the outstanding Active Duty Military Unit participating.
For details on this year's event, news articles, and results from past competitions, visit the U.S. Cavalry Association website.
National Cavalry Competition 2010 - By Dan Carbone, CavHooah Staff Writer
Cameras clicked and beeped from every direction as horse and rider became at the National Cavalry Competition, held at Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas from Sept 29 to Oct 3, 2010. Fort Concho was established by Company D of the 4th US Cavalry in December of 1867, and it hasn’t seen this many horses in nearly 130 years. The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Cavalry Association, is an annual event held at different historical locations in September. The U.S. Cavalry Association sponsors these competitions to promote good horsemanship and to provide an opportunity for reenactors, active and reserve military mounted color guards, and mounted police officers to compete and improve their riding skills. This year’s events included clinics on horsemanship to help provide riders with different techniques to help their horses learn to jump better.
But don’t be fooled, this is no horse show, this is the preservation of history as these Troopers maintain the skills of the horse soldier before the advent of the motorized Cavalry. This type of riding is very different from basic riding, as it requires a more centered equilibrium. Jeffery Wall, an association member and History Channel consultant, stated, “Jumping obstacles while carrying weapons requires a different balance on the horse. Riding is a balance and feel.” Individual riding classes included Mounted Saber, Mounted Pistol, Military Horsemanship, and Military Field Jumping. There are 3 levels in each class, from novice to advanced. There are also competitions for Platoon Drill, Bugle Competition, Authenticity, and the Major Howze team mobility event. Plaques are awarded for the outstanding horse at the competition and for the outstanding Active Duty Military Unit participating. Winners of Level III individual events are invited to compete in the Bolte Cup, a test of the combination of skills. A Silver Trophy is awarded to the winner. The Overall Winner in Level III who accumulates the most points is awarded a silver cup and his name is added to the Bronze Trophy displayed in the U.S. Cavalry Memorial Research Library.
Retired Brigadier General Philip Bolte serves as the President of the USCA Board of Directors and personally awarded the trophy during a formal dinner. Nearly 70 competitors participated in the event, making it the largest turnout to date, including active-duty teams from Fort Irwin, Fort Riley, and Fort Carson. Absent this year was the Fort Hood team. Competition participants also included British Troopers from England’s Household Cavalry and Australian riders from the Light Horse Cavalry. While they experienced the challenges of a very different style of riding, they were also able to share some of their own training tactics, such as “tent pegging”, where a spear is used to strike a small target on the ground. They demonstrated this on the last day of the event, running at full speed with a long, thin pole similar to a lance. As the riders approach the target, they attempt to pierce it with the spear – the target is no larger than your hand! Originally, back in the days of Alexander the Great, the targets of the lancers were not enemy tents at all, but the elephants which opposing armies used in battle. The aim was to drive the lances into the feet of the elephants, causing them to unseat the mounts and hopefully stampede back on their own forces.
Six of the spectators from this year’s event had a very unique connection to the competitors, as they were REAL U.S. Horse Cavalry soldiers. One of the honored guests, Mr. Ed Ramsey (age 93), led the very last U.S. Horse Cavalry charge against the imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines. It was truly an honor to walk among these living legends, including Donovan “Van” Ketzler (age 86), who was in full period uniform and even atop a horse. Ketzler became an expert on horses and riding during World War II, when he trained Cavalry Troopers at Fort Riley in Kansas and later helped Chinese troops fight the Japanese in southwest China. He retired from active duty as a sergeant, and from reserve duty as a major.
There are reenactors, and there is living history. Many of the participants here were the latter. While a reenactor will go to great lengths to re-live a specific event or battle, the living historian prefers to re-create every detail of their uniform and equipment, and then proceeds to interact with the audience, explaining the who, what, where, how and why. Each one I had the opportunity to speak with was like a walking encyclopedia of Cavalry, from the uniforms, to the battles, to the training of the horses and soldiers. These are true masters of their craft and take the greatest pride in telling their tales.
To truly experience your Cavalry heritage and history, make plans to attend the 2011 event at Fort Reno, just outside of Oklahoma City, or the 2012 event at Fort Riley, Kansas. Details can be found at CavHooah as the event gets closer, or at the USCA website here: www.uscavalry.org.
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