I have been working on training a new horse for the cavalry for the past year or so. I call him the Wonder Horse because it is a wonder he hasn't killed me yet. I figured I'd be done training him by now but it turns out this particular horse is a little more challenging than I had planned on. In the year or so I've been training him for the cavalry I have learned that he likes to express his unhappiness with new situations by walking around on his hind legs with his front hooves on his hips--sort of like an angry housewife, except much taller. A fellow trooper recently borrowed him and learned this lesson the hard way while on a trail ride. After getting unceremoniously dumped along the trail, the Wonder Horse turned, whinnied at him, then ran all the way back to the stables. The poor fellow had to endure a mile-long walk-of-shame to get back.
Well, I decided it was time to expose the Wonder Horse to the parade environment since that is part of what a cavalry horse is expected to do. I had planned on his first parade being on Fry Blvd in Sierra Vista because the street is wide and their is good separation from the crowd. Our cavalry unit performs mounted drill during parades and sometimes get's pretty close to the spectators. I didn't want the Wonder Horse getting exposed to the parade environment in Tombstone because Allen Street is very narrow but, of course, that is exactly what happened.
Since we were schedule to support a Salute to the Buffalo Soldiers event in Tombstone on Saturday, I decided to put the Wonder Horse into the lineup and give him a try. I hedged my bets, however, by volunteering to be the "male escort" for our lady sidesaddle rider. This position keeps me in the center of the road and away from the crowd. The Wonder Horse handled it like a pro and did not get excited despite the flags waiving in his face, motorcycles reving up their engines under his nose, and kids and dogs running around him making strange noises. He did give the donkey with the dog on its back a worried look but, then, who didn't.
What I didn't plan on was the ceremony after the parade. We, unbeknownst to us, were supposed to participate in a little ceremony in front of Big Nose Kate's after the parade. We ended up lined up on the other side of the street facing Kate's with our horse's tails hanging over the boardwalk behind us. It was a tight fit and their were people with kids and dogs pressed up all around us. My horse had been handling all this new stimuli pretty well up to now but he was beginning to show signs of stress. Fortunately, we dismounted so I could stand close to his nose and calm him down. After a calamitous period of answering questions and posing for photos we were ordered to mount up again.
For those who have never seen a cavalry unit mount up, it is interesting to watch. Since it is a military outfit, we have to do everything in unison. Upon the command to "prepare to mount" every second horse is pulled foward out of the line so each rider has room to get up. The trooper puts his left hand on the horse's neck with reins in hand, his right hand on the saddle, and his left foot in the stirrup. He then waits in this position until the commander yells, "mount!". He doesn't yell that however until he sees everyone's boot in the left stirrup. Since one of the mounts (not mine) was acting squirrely we held the "mount" position for several minutes until this trooper could get his boot in the stirrup. Soon my horse began to move around also. With only one foot on the ground, I had to execute what I call the "one-legged horse hop" while trying to control the horse with the reins in my left hand. This is the most ridiculous looking dance you'll ever see on Allen Street in Tombstone (not counting what you might see during Helldorado).
Finally, mercifully, I heard the order to mount and swiftly and gracefully threw my right leg up over the bedroll on the back of my saddle and....firmly jammed it down in between the horse's right hip and the carbine slung on that side. Now my horse is feeling the carbine barrel hitting him in the right side which to him means go forward--and I mean right now! So after having completed the one-legged horse hop, I'm now doing the jerk-the-carbine-out-of-the-boot-while-reining-the-horse trick. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME! Fortunately, having many years of experience in getting my leg stuck behind the carbine stock, I swiftly executed this maneuver with only a few dozen people noticing and snickering at me. Good thing I'm a pro.
Well, the good new is that the Wonder Horse is cleared for parades now. I figure any horse that can get through a day like that is ready for just about anything.