Soundness of horses ridden by U.S. Cavalry Soldiers has been of utmost importance since its formation about 244 years ago.
Proper shoeing of Cavalry mounts helps ensure efficient action whatever the maneuver for horses and soldiers.
Today is no different from the beginning when the first horse mounted Army force was established in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.
Horses had to be shod and that was not always part of military training. Typically, Cavalry soldiers were dependent on those skilled in horse hoof care to make sure their mounts were battle ready.
Congress designated the United States Cavalry as the official mounted force of the United States Army in 1861.
The U.S. Cavalry branch was absorbed into the Armor branch as part of the Army Reorganization Act of 1950.
Today, Cavalry designations and traditions continue with regiments of both armor and aviation units that perform the Cavalry mission.
Fort Riley’s 1st Cavalry is the only active division in the United States Army with a Cavalry designation.
“Established in 1992, the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard provides a link to Fort Riley’s historic past,” First Sergeant Dale Siebert explained.
A member of the unit nearly two years, Siebert guides the 26-member mounted soldier team with emphasis on morale building and education.
“Troopers and horses are outfitted in the uniforms, accoutrements and equipment of the post-Civil War period,” Siebert said. “From privates to officers, these men and women recreate the colorful spectacle of the American Horse Soldier.”
Hoof care of horses became even further from these soldiers’ military training than it was in earlier centuries.
“Our Cavalry riders were in near constant effort coordinating farriers for shoeing their horses,” Siebert verified.
The best solution was to do it themselves. “About five years ago, Fort Riley leadership decided Mounted Color Guard soldiers must shoe their own horses,” Siebert said.
It’s easier to make that military order than accomplishing what is truly a professional skill. “Since then there has been instruction to teach soldiers with farrier interests the basics of horseshoeing,” Siebert explained.
Captain Jennifer Houle wanted to take it further to offer a farrier school for interested Mounted Color Guard soldiers. “This was to include complete training in horseshoeing,” according to Siebert.
Added incentive for the special schooling was giving participants a skill that would carry on after they left the Army.
Finding a qualified instructor was an initial dilemma for moving forward in the farrier training.
“We are so fortunate that Carey Macy, a professional farrier at Alta Vista, offered his services,” Siebert appreciated. “Mr. Macy spends 12 hours every week working and training two soldiers the skills to be farriers.”
Graduate of Girard Horseshoeing School, Macy has served a large clientele of Midwest horse owners with farrier services many years.
Captain Patrick Neky wanted soldiers to become certified farriers through testing programs offered by the American Farrier’s Association (AFA).
Brandon Stubbs completed one of Macy’s earlier Fort Riley programs and furthered his education to become a certified journeyman farrier.
Matt Merrill, farrier at Allen, coordinated another AFA Certification session recently at Manhattan.
Specialist Justin Mark and Corporal Wrangler Weishaar became AFA Classified Farriers during the thorough certification testing.
“It included forging shoe modifications, shoeing a horse within a time limit and passing a written test,” Macy said.
“We are pleased to have these soldiers trained to take responsibility for the Mounted Color Guard horses’ hoof care,” Siebert appreciated. “They also can look forward to working with horses as a satisfying obliging career after military retirement.”
The certified Color Guard farriers are also responsible for handling hoof care for teams of Percheron mares and draft mules.
It was noted that Color Guard mounts are typically bay geldings including several wild mustangs.
“Horses ridden by the U.S. Cavalry were bay, sorrel, piebald and buckskin,” Siebert said. “That way the commanders could tell which units were in maneuvers by their horse color.”
The Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard performs mounted drill and weapons demonstrations as well as military ceremonies at Fort Riley.
“The mounted horsemanship demonstration is an exhibition of skill and precision required of a Cavalry horse soldier,” Siebert said. “This includes various drills using the 1861 Cavalry Light Saber, .45-caliber revolver and 1873 Remington .45-caliber lever action repeater rifle.
“We participate in parades, rodeos, community events, school programs and Army recruiting events throughout the United States,” Siebert said. “The Mounted Color Guard welcomes opportunities to make public presentations with advance reservations required.”