Back When Artillery Was Pulled By Horses

Back when field artillery was pulled by horses this was the song they sang in the US Army: The US Field Artillery March. Written by John Phillip Sousa, this Edison Diamond Disc Record was recorded sometime in April 1918 by the New York Military Band (which largely contained members of Sousa’s Band). I forget who wrote the lyrics to the march but for some odd reason Morton Gould rings a bell.

Today, one rarely hears the entire piece of music. The lyrics are almost never heard anymore.

The US Field Artillery Song

Over hill, over dale,
We have hit the dusty trail,
And those Caissons Go Rolling Along
Counter march! Right about!
Hear those wagon soldiers shout
While those Caissons Go Rolling Along


For it’s “Hi! Hi! Hee!
In the Field Artillery
Call off your numbers loud and strong
And where e’er we go
You will always know
That those Caissons Are Rolling Along

To the front, day and night
Where the doughboys dig and fight
And those Caissons Go Rolling Along
Our barrage will be there
Fired on the rocket’s flare
While those Caissons Go Rolling Along – Chorus

With the cavalry, boot to boot
We will join in the pursuit
And those Caissons Go Rolling Along
Action front, at a trot
Volley fire with shell and shot
While those Caissons Go Rolling Along – Chorus

Should the foe penetrate
Ev’ry gunner lies in wait
And those Caissons Go Rolling Along
Fire at will, lay ‘em low
Never stop for any foe
While those Caissons Go Rolling Along – Chorus

But if fate me should call
And in action I should fall
Keep those Caissons a rolling Along
Then in peace I’ll abide
When I take my final ride
On a Caisson that’s Rolling Along – Chorus

After last Chorus, “Batt’ry Halt!” is called out.

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Horses, Riding, Safety and Helmets

When I was a kid (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) we never even thought or wearing a helmet when we were riding horses. Even if we did think about it, the helmets back them were little more than decorative cardboard fashion props that offered little or no protection to the rider at all. Fortunately, the state of things concerning head protection has greatly improved.

Today, most of us wouldn’t even think about riding a horse without a helmet, yet many people still choose to do so. Sometimes you even run into the parents who will put their young children on a horse but not put a helmet on their child. In the case of the adult who chooses to not take advantage of modern head protection while riding horses, it is their choice. But for God’s sake, put a helmet on your kid, at least.

That said, there are still a large number of riders out there who, out of either a misguided sense of machismo or a terminal attitude that ‘accidents only happen to other people’, that refuse to take full advantage of the latest technology for keeping one’s brains inside one’s skull where nature intended one’s brains to be in the first place. In this day and age there are very few justifiable reasons for not taking the proper precautions. While no amount of protective gear like helmets can entirely preclude injury, wearing a helmet while riding a horse will put you way ahead of the game statistically speaking. Your brains will someday thank you for keeping then inside your skull where they belong. Ever being the Libertarian that I am, if you want to ride without the proper protective headgear, I will support your right to do so – it’s your choice.

The use of riding helmets is just one of the many elements of safety in horsemanship. More on the subject of safety to come.

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The Military Seat – A Confusing Term

The American Military Seat - Circa 1905

The American Military Seat - Circa 1905

The ‘Military Seat’ is a rather nebulous term. I’ve run into a number of riding instructors who say they teach the ‘Military Seat’ and each one of these instructors have a different idea of what exactly a ‘Military Seat’ is.

Superficially, the Military Seat is any seat used within the context of any given system of military equitation. Note that I use the term ‘system’ because ‘seat’ is part of a system and not a system of riding in and of itself. “The Military Seat” covers a very large and non-specific area. Is that seat pertaining to High School based systems or to Caprilli’s Natural System? Is it the Fort Riley Seat or is it Saumur? Is it Balanced Seat or some variation of the Hunt Seat?

Specifically, the Military Seat in terms of American riding is the seat developed by General Harry D. Chamberlain at Fort Riley in the 1920’s. It is important to remember that ‘seat’ is part of a ‘system’ of riding. Chamberlain developed his ‘Military Seat’ after studying at the Italian Cavalry schools at Tor Di Quinto and the French Cavalry School at Saumur. The resulting seat used in the context of Forward Riding is commonly called the “Balanced Seat”. It is the direct offspring of Federico Caprilli’s “Forward Seat” and as part of a part of a complete system of Forward Riding.

The Military Seat in the context of modern Forward Riding in terms of Balanced Seat and Caprilli’s “Natural System” does not contain elements of collected riding. In fact, if we are to take Caprilli and his Natural System of Forward Riding as the gospel of Forward Riding, collection is to be avoided. Vladimir Littauer clearly stated on numerous occasions that “there is no place for collection in forward riding”. In blunt terms, collection is antithetical to forward riding.

They key to understanding the Military Seat begins with understanding Caprilli’s “Natural System” of Forward Riding as a system of equitation designed for military purposes.

See: Federico Caprilli, The Natural System and Forward Riding –
The Importance of remembering its military origins

See: The American Military Seat – The State of American Military Equitation before the “Fort Riley Seat”

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American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

If you’re on Facebook and you support saving the Wild Mustangs, be sure to look into: American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

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Masked avenger fights for wild horses

Here’s an interesting way someone is using to call attention to the BLM’s attempts to wipe out the Wild Mustang:

Masked avenger fights for wild horses

“Decked out in full Zorro duds — black hat, mask, the whole deal — Drew Bulecza was stopped one day by a police cruiser while walking on a Flagler Beach street. He wasn’t charged or ticketed, but he was questioned. The deputy asked to take his picture, as a souvenir for his daughter.”

You go, Zorro!

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British and US Cavalry Jumping Techniques in the 1910’s

Here’s some interesting footage of the method of jumping used by the British Cavalry. This film was taken at the Army equitation school, ear Leeds, Yorkshire sometime between 1910-1919 (British Pathé). This film illustrates the old British “Hunt” style of jumping as applied to military equitation. All in all, some really bad jumping (click on image for video).

(source: – Army Equitation School video newsreel film)

The state of jumping in military equitation used by the US Cavalry wasn’t much better, in fact, it was a lot worse as this illustration from a 1905 US Army manual shows:

Military Jumping Techique, US Army Cavalry, Circa 1905

Military Jumping Techique, US Army Cavalry, Circa 1905

(Source: – The American Military Seat – The State of American Military Equitation before the “Fort Riley Seat”

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1898 Cavalry Film by Thomas Edison

Here’s an interesting film clip of historical interest.This film made by Edison Laboratories in 1898 show a cavalry drill in which the troopers lay their horses down and then get them up again – without leaving the saddle.

The practical application for this maneuver falls into several categories:

      To conceal the horse and rider from enemy observation or fire
      To use the horse as cover to protect the trooper from enemy fire
      To enable a wounded trooper to mount the horse
      To recover from a stumble

Very few horses are trained to do this nowadays despite the maneuver still having some very useful purposes (such as trying to mount one’s horse in the field when one is injured).

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Fox Trotters: Understanding the Fox Trot, Gaits and Gaited Horses

Dan Gilmore riding Missouri's Outlaw ("Jake")

Dan Gilmore riding Missouri's Outlaw ("Jake")

I get a lot of questions about gaited horses, especially concerning Fox Trotters and the fox trot. As a result, I have added a short article about this very subject to the “Articles” page of my website. Here’s an excerpt:

“Exactly how many gates there are is a subject that is open to much debate. I suppose the best way to start is to define the various gates and how they relate to each other. The “hard gaits” of modern Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, etc., consist of the walk, trot and canter.  In the late 19th century and earlier, a trot with suspension (to which most riders post) was considered to be an undesirable defect in a saddle horse. What was desirable to cowboys, cavalrymen and anyone who rode a horse for general transportation was a flat, ambling gait, not dissimilar to the fox trot. Horses that had a ‘hard’ trot were rarely found in use as a saddle horse in Colonial America. This is mainly because sitting to a hard trot or even posting to it can get fairly tiring over long distances. Consider that prior to modern mechanized transportation, it was not  uncommon for riders to cover fifty or more miles in the course of a day’s ride. Hence, horses with ambling, smooth, efficient gaits were the norm…”

Read More: Fox Trotters: Understanding the Fox Trot, Gaits and Gaited Horses

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Notes on Horse Training – The Joy of a Well Trained Horse

Baba The Mustang

Baba The Mustang

So, here it was. A beautiful Sunday morning. Not too hot, not too cold. In fact, the weather was perfect for my daily ride on my curly Mustang ‘Baba’.

I made my way out to the trails to give Baba her daily workout that usually culminates in a nice gallop over my cross country course. After the usual warm up we go merrily galloping down the long hill towards the sharp left turn over the ditch and up the next hill. As we are approaching the ditch (a twelve-foot wide, 4 foot deep ditch at the bottom of which is a little stream) I get ready for the approaching leap that we have done thousands of times before.

Two strides out from the ditch I notice that the buckle on the nose band of Baba’s hackamore has somehow come undone. Go figure. Stuff happens. The first thing that runs through my mind is that this isn’t going to turn out well. The way I saw it was that I had two choices: panic or just ride it out like nothing unusual is happening. Given that panicking isn’t in my DNA, I decided to just ride it out, rely on the training I gave my horse and put my trust in my horse and my skill and worry about it all after the ditch.

Baba and I sailed over the ditch in perfect form and galloped off up the trail without incident. We continued on as usual, Baba obeying my every wish passing the next two jumps until I asked her to slow down and halt so that I could dismount and fix the bridle. This was accomplished without incident or excitement.

The question is, how did this all turn out so well? The answer to that is simple. I just have to explain a little about Baba’s background to explain the text book perfect ending to this story.

Baba (whose official name is “Lambchop” due to her curly winter coat) got her name not because she had curly hair like a sheep. She got it from “Baba Yaga (Баба Яга, for you Slavophiles), the diabolical witch from Russian folk lore. When she’s good, she’s good; when she’s bad, run for the hills. Baba came to me from someone who didn’t treat her so well and was essentially a rescue. She was a confirmed bolter, spinner and totally wired for sound. But that was the old Baba. The new Baba is nearly perfection.

I trained Baba using the exact principles used by Federico Caprilli in his “Natural System” of forward riding. Baba was schooled with the principle that nothing would be done to interfere with her natural movement and without imposing any unnatural balance. I trained her to jump not with the idea that the jump was the end all and be all but with the theory that the jump was mostly a tool to help teach her to carry herself. Baba learned though training with Caprilli’s “Natural System” that she could balance herself, carry herself and would be accommodated as much as possible by the rider.

To make a long story short, Baba learned that it was OK to make a decision on her own if needed, that the rider wasn’t going to inflict any discomfort upon her and that she could trust the rider not to do anything that would cause her any discomfort. She was also taught to go without a bridal (a rider should never rely on the reins too much) and never made to do anything that she didn’t know how to do or wasn’t ready to do. In short, she learned that she could do her job, remain calm and willing under all circumstance. But the most important result was that Baba could not only trust a rider, but the rider could trust her to do her job, pay attention, be willingly obedient and to accommodate the rider.

Perhaps the most important point of theory applied here was that one should not try to change the nature of the horse to accommodate the rider but the rider should use the horse’s nature and accommodate the horse. If Caprilli’s “Natural System” of forward riding can be reduced to any single point, it would be exactly that. And these theories can be applied to training in any discipline to produce a horse that is willing, bold and obedient.

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More Bureau of Land (Mis)Management

More idiocy from the Bureau of Land Mis-Management: Feds Announce Plan to Remove Over 6,000 Wild Horses from Range over Next Five Months, Despite Agency’s Record Low Adoption Rate”.

This is where your tax dollars go to – the extermination of the Wild Mustang. When is this stupidity going to stop? Before long, there will be no viable herds, the Mustangs will be gone and the federal government can move on to the next target to “manage” out of existance.

Stand up, do your part and help save the Wild Mustang:

Saving America’s Mustangs

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

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