Thursday, February 27, 2014

The U.S. Cavalry's Role in Modern Horsemanship

The U.S. Cavalry's Role in Modern Horsemanship


Having been involved with horses for most of my life, training both horse and rider, the subject is near and dear. Spending five months with the First Cavalry Horse Platoon, back in 1979, one would think I learned about the American Cavalry Method, there, but that was not the case. By 1979 the Cavalry had lost the knowledge of its own heritage, its roots.


We rode, almost daily, shot balloons, sliced watermelons with sabres, and rode in parades and the weekly retreat ceremony, but never studied the techniques laid out in the Cavalry Manual. There wasn’t even have a copy of the Cavalry Manual in the Unit.

That knowledge came later. The primary lesson to be learned, about horses, is control. Because without control there is no safety and without safety, it is not fun. Controling the horse, requires controling yourself and a sense of balance, emotional and physical, both 

Why would a big, strong, active animal (like a horse) be interested in becoming a friend and servant to man is a real mystery. Looking back on the history of the world, we have to wonder what it would look like to day if it were not for our friend -- the horse.

 In the Western part of the United States, the horse still plays an important part in the life of a great many folks. Every day, people move here from other parts of the world; many have getting a horse high on their ‘want’ list. I know it was true for me and it could well be true for you, no matter where you live in the USA.

I mentioned that the importance of the horse being the servant of man. We can safely say that horses are not ambitious. They are looking for comfort, safety and friendship, along with, food and water as needed. As a general rule, it would be safe to say that when dealing with horses, the worst thing you can do is to hurt the horse. The memory system within the horse is very strong. It makes him relatively easy to train; but, it also can make him fearful of someone’s action.

 As you look at a horse as a friend and servant, you possibly envision riding your mount in some exercise or discipline. As mentioned, horses are easy to train, but you should realize that training a horse takes not only the right attitude, but a system to follow that will give you the right results.

The American Cavalry had that system down, pat.

As you take a look at the system to be followed, we can start with a horse, male or female, at about 3 years old. By this age, he or she is big enough to handle the training to which it will be exposed. This is the beginning of his basic training. There are at least eight actions that are expected at the end of basic training:

Accept tack and equipment used by the rider.

Stand quietly when tied to the rail or other unmovable object

Can be mounted and dismounted without moving

Does back up when required, under control

Goes forward when cued, under control

Stops when cued to do so

Turns right or left on request

When the horse can be successfully and safely managed covering all those points, the horse could be considered to be ‘broke to ride’.

To reach this level, you can follow various paths -- acquire a young horse and do it yourself (not recommended) -- buy a young horse and have a competent trainer -- buy an older horse that has been used by his owner in an activity in which you hope to be active -- and advance, if necessary,  with the help of a trainer.

If you have not already made a decision with regard to how you are going to use your horse the time for a decision is fast approaching -- English or Western styles. Up to this point, the basic schooling is about the same. The ADVENTURE starts here.You may already have an idea as to what activity will get your attention. Hopefully, the information that is being presented on these pages will help you to get off to a good start.

The better you understand the training of your mount, you will better understand the skills required to be an adequate rider, because Riding is Training and Training is Riding!

 Everything you do with your horse will teach you something. Don’t hurry, take the time it takes to do it right. Remember – don’t hurt your horse.

We are looking forward to seeing you on the trail...or in the arena.


The U.S. Cavalry provided the foundation for the equestrian industry of the U.S. It wasn’t until 1912 in Stockholm that equestrian pursuits were routinely included in the Olympics. Led by Capt. Guy Vernor Henry Jr. the first U.S. team was fielded from the U.S. Cavalry.

In fact, until the cavalry was disbanded in 1948, every single U.S. equestrian Olympic team was made up of members of the cavalry or U.S. Army equestrian team; civilians were not invited to take part until the Helsinki games in 1952, the same year women were first allowed to compete in Olympic equestrian events.
Harry Dwight Chamberlin was born in Elgin Illinois in 1887. Following graduation from West Point in 1910 Chamberlin was commissioned a lieutenant of Cavalry and posted to Custer’s famed 7th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Lieutenant  Chamberlin’s early  Army career were spent fulfilling the duties of a cavalry officer and he came to command of a troop of cavalry in the Garry Owen Regiment. Then in 1916 hr was a promoted to Captain and assigned to West Point as an instructor of Cavalry tactics.

Captain Chamberlin met one of the most influential cavalry officers and horsemen of the twentieth century, Lieutenant Colonel Guy V. Henry

Returning to Fort Riley after WWI Chamberlin was assigned to the department of horsemanship. He earned a position on the 1920 US Equestrian Team which was preparing for the 1920 Olympics. The 1920 Olympics Harry Chamberlin competed in both the "Military" as the Three Day Event was then called, and in the Prix de Nations (Prize of Nations) show jumping.

From 1925-1927 Harry Chamberlin was stationed at Fort Bliss,Texas where he taught horsemanship and played polo. With his leadership, the 8th Cavalry Polo team won championships in 1925 and 1926. In addition toplaying polo his regular duties and responsibilities.

 Commanding a cavalry squadron of more than 300 troopers and 500 horses. 
His squadron patrolled the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Chamberlin returned to Fort Riley in 1927 to serve in the department of horsemanship. Here Harry formally instituted the more forward riding, the balanced seat accompanied by a shorter stirrup became the basis for all of the horsemanship instruction at Fort Riley. Many Riley graduates knew this forward for cross-country riding and jumping, as the "Chamberlin Seat."
He became a member of the Army Equestrian Team which competed at Madison Square Garden in New York, and across Europe. He was selected to the 1928 Army Equestrian team and competed in the Olympics in Amsterdam.
Harry Chamberlin was captain of the record making Army Olympic team in 1932 . Once again he competed in 3 Day Event, winning team gold, and also in Show Jumping where he won the individual silver medal.
Harry Chamberlin’s five qualities needed to become a good horseman.
  1. a normally alert mind
  2. a mind with an analytical turn asking “how” and “why”
  3. average physique
  4. regular practice
  5. theoretical knowledge
Harry Chamberlin was responsible for the riding instruction of thousands of men during his career and he he oversaw the training of more men than horses. His training and teaching produced the generation of American Cavalrymen, who trained the civilian riders in the decades after the Cavalry was dismounted in 1946-47. 

Because of his ability to lead men, understand horses, and comprehend the various theories of horsemanship and relate those concepts in ways that could be understood by the average cavalryman, Harry Chamberlin was probably the finest horseman ever produced by the U.S. Cavalry. He was a soldier and a horseman, laying foundation for modern riding in the U.S.

Chamberlin’s method not only became models for the balanced seat/eventing riders and the forward seat/hunter riders, he effected stock seat/western riders through men like Monte Forman and John Richard Young (The Schooling of the Western Horse 1961).

"Every rider is a horse trainer." - Monte Foreman

The most important principle that transfers from the Fort Riley/Balanced Seat to any kind of riding is the rider’s base of support, which is the lower body. It is there that the rider must balance and keep the upper body quiet. This is called muscle group separation.

 One of the western riders from Fort Riley who went on to become well known was Monte Forman. Forman who delveloped the ‘Basic Handle’ system, was amongst the last of the instructors at the U.S. Calvary School at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was at the Cavalry School where he discovered the value of using film in the training program of  the soldiers learning to ride. Foreman used the training methods he learned in the Cavalry to develop a program that  could train both horse and rider, to move together as one, as quickly as possible. The rider being made to understand the mechanics of the horse. After leaving the military at the end of WWII, Foreman went to work at the legendary King Ranch in Texas. At the King Ranch  he ran the horse training and horsemanship programs, and further developed the principles used in the ‘Basic Handle’

In writings published from 1951 to 1954 in the Western Horseman magazine Monte Foreman made reference to Chamberlin’s writings, as published in Riding and Training Horses, and Training Hunters, Jumpers and Hacks

Figure 1: “Excellent jumping: rider's weight in heels; balance perfect; hands light; horse contented and free”
Figure 2: "Correct form during descent. Note rider's weight in heels and on knees; seat out of saddle; hands feathery light" (In many outfits cavalrymen were taught to jump at least three feet without stirrups, maintaining the same form. It can also be done bareback, riding the same place, same form.)
Figure 3 "Correct form in landing. Weight received principally in heels; seat kept out of saddle by stiffening knee joints and setting muscles of back;  hands low and soft; loins free of rider's weight which allows painless engagement of hind legs under the belly as they come to ground." (This is the best way invented so far to ride in balance and is timed with the horses actions. Any time the rider's timing or balance is lost, he must hang onto something with his hands, usually ending up with something like English riders over the Liverpool Ditch.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Training is Everything and Everything is Training

 Training is Everything - Everything is Training

While stationed in Panama, with the 193rd Infantry Brigade there was little hand to hand combative training, within the military system. Patrolling, basic rifle marksmanship, running, explosive demolitions, rappelling, we had our share of that, and more. But hand to hand combatives like knife and sick fighting, bayonet drills, never. There was a little pugil stick training action, but not much and not often, so we developed our own programs for knife and stick combatives.

Approaching the challenge in our training with a sense of purpose, with seriousness, there was a need for knowledge. Starting at Soldier of Fortune magazine we ordered a series of books that would form the basis for our training program, we started with the series written by Michael Enchains, (November 16, 1950 – September 8, 1978). Echanis had been a security contractor working with the Nicaraguan National Guard. I had first become familiar with his work when he was the martial arts editor for Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Frustrated with the impractical knife-fighting tactics in the Army manuals, we were looking elsewhere for training tips and techniques. Soldier of Fortune magazine had well written interview with Echanis that turned out to be the answer we were looking for..

We knew his personal story from Soldier of Fortune magazine, how Echanis’s experiences as a Ranger in Vietnam and of his working as an Instructor at For Bragg with the Special Forces had help him develop a training process, we thought those were impressive references. I ordered the three books he had written, Special Forces/Ranger-UDT/SEAL Hand-to-Hand Combat/Special Weapons/Special Tactics.

Echanis’ direct approach to combatives encompassed using weaponry, favoring the most practical and efficient available, which included both escrima sticks and knife. Those books set the general course for our close-combat training regimen. They provided the basis for the battlefield tactics we practiced, emphasizing the knife and stick fighting techniques that he wrote of. We trained with a sense of realism and intensity, in part because of the circumstances of his death in 1977, in Nicaragua fighting the Sandinistas, just north of where we were.

 He had died in the same Border War we were training for

There were a couple of Air Force people at the base gym that had  a similar desire to train hard. One of them had done a tour in Thailand, where he’d studied Muay Thai Boran. We integrated some of those techniques and developed a realistic, combatives training program in 1980 and ’81, based upon the methods and techniques of Muay Thai and those that Echanis wrote of, which were based on the techniques of hwa rang do, the Korean martial art . That program remains the basis for my personal close quarter combatives style, to this day.

Echanis favored the The Gerber Mark II as a fighting knife, at the time it was manufactured by Gerber Legendary Blades based upon a design by retired Army Captain Bud Holzman, patterned on the Roman Mainz Gladius. It has a double-edged spear-point wasp-waisted blade, utilizing a handle similar to that of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife

The system we needed had to be simple. We culled the techniques down to the basics. There is the right downward slash, the left downward slash, a downward attack that cuts the top of the head, an upward cut into the groin and midsection, and the thrust.

The basic knife fighting stance was our basic fighting stance. The fighter is in normal fighting position, holding the knife held in the rear hand, centering on in the middle of his chest. The empty hand is held out in front and is utilized for grappling or disarming techniques.

The right downward strike is initiated with stepping forward then slashing the blade down on the opponent’s shoulder, the mental picture calls for cutting through the body, from shoulder to hip. The left downward strike is identical. As the training advanced we would change the knife hand, moving the blade off from the right to the left

To attack to the top of the opponents head, again initiate the technique by stepping forward, as you raise the knife up over your head, then come down on the center of the opponent’s head. Coordinating the step and the slash,, imagine that you are cutting from the skull to the naval.

For the  upward strike, the technique calls for the blade to  rotate out and in toward your body. It travels in an arc then comes up, into the opponent’s groin. then continues cutting all the way to his chin.  From stem to sternum.

The last technique is the thrust. To accomplish it step in, then drive the point of the blade into the opponent’s belly, with the idea of the blade coming out between his shoulder blades.

 Once the basics were down, we’d begin working with partners, with rubber knives.

The opponent would strike from his right, with the blade coming at your left side. Attempt blocking his blade with your own. At the same time, use your empty hand to control  his wrist, redirecting the strike away from your body. Then, still controlling his wrist, slash it with the blade. Retain control of the opponents wrist and then target under the arm pit. Cutting the wrist usually disarms the enemy. The slash under the armpit will cause him to bleed out.

To counter an opponent’s thrust, first step in, again blocking with your own blade, this time it is held vertically. Use your knife to push his blade down, and away from your body. The combination of his motion and yours, his forward momentum and your own forward movement should put you in position to rotate your knife up into an attack position. Allowing you to stab him in the lower abdomen. Use your free hand to grab him and then pull him into your thrust.

Obviously the techniques will become more complicated and complex the more they are practiced.

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." Bruce Lee

With regards to open hand or unarmed fighting we developed a style that was loosely formed around the techniques found in Muay Thai and principles of Bruce Lee, ‘Be like water’.

Head Butts - Elbow Strikes – Punches - Knee Strikes – Kicks

The basic head butt is part of a versatile part of a fighters repertoire. That it is forbidden under the rules for fighting established by the Marquess of Queensberry merely exemplifies its effectiveness. 

 In the combat scenario we used the two men would stand face to face. Keep your hands centered, inside the width of your shoulders and up towards the center of your chest, as if in prayer. The opponent reaches for your head or shoulders, as he does, your own hands, from their interior position, move to the back of his head. Seizing his head, then pull him forward, increasing his own momentum, and smash his face with your skull. The combined momentum, his and your own have been directed at his face, the nose or chin which are the most vulnerable targets. As we worked the technique it became apparent that by bending the knees, thereby presenting a smaller less intimidating posture, you could position your head below the opponents chin. Then as you strike, power forward, straightening your knees  and coming up, onto your toes. It is a simple technique, one that is both effective and easy to practice

We would work the six basic punches: Left jab, straight right, left and right upper cut and left and right hook.

Everything works off the left jab, when used effectively your entire body moves forward. Your hips will twist and your shoulders turn into the jab. The fighter must coordinate  the parts of his body to work as one, drawing power from the legs, moving it through the hips up into the shoulders and then down the left arm, where the energy becomes focused at the first two knuckles of the fist, as it makes contact with the target.

Up at ‘Stoner Rock’ we installed a ‘makiwara’ which is an Okinawan term for a post in the ground with rope wrapped tightly around it, which becomes the target of attack. Repeated strikes at the makiwara and your knuckles will turn red, if all of them become inflamed, then the technique is flawed. The objective is for the first two knuckles of the fist to make primary contact with the target. Focusing the impact on just those two knuckles concentrates the focused energy of the entire body on two square inches. it is comparable to being stabbed with the butt of a rifle barrel.

The straight right punch transfers energy in the same way as the left jab. With both strikes it is important to turn your fist ‘over’ as you are making contact with the target. The essence of the techniques are the same. Focus on turning into the punch, twisting at the hip, turning the shoulder, and landing on the first two knuckles of your fist, with a twisting motion as the strike lands. The primary target is the nose, followed by the chin, eyes and Adam’s apple.

Defensively, keep your chin tucked into the shoulder for optimum protection, do not ‘Lead with the Chin”, if you do be prepared to be hit in the chin and possibly knocked out, by a counter punch.

The technique for an uppercut called for bending the knees and dropping your center of gravity, the blasting upward, driving the fist into the target’s belly, floating ribs, chin or nose. As with the jab and straight right, rotate your fist as you strike, and use two knuckle targeting.

Utilizing the hook, really twist the hips and get a good  turn to your body as you throw the punch.  Different styles of combatives differ on  rotating the fist on a hook. Asian martial arts maintain that the fist should rotate on all strikes. Professional-boxers don’t rotate the fist on a hook. Whichever technique is chosen, still concentrate on targeting, focusing  on landing the first two knuckles on the target.

Steve Canyon, the Air Force veteran of Thailand said that in Muay Thai Boran there were sixteen basic elbow strikes.  Heeding the wisdom of Bruce Lee, we whittled it down to three, the overhead, uppercut, and hook.

The overhead elbow is a simple technique, just rotate your elbow from a normal fighting position, and do a big interior circle, keeping the elbow between the shoulders while brining it high up over your head. The technique culminates by bringing it down on your opponent’s  head.

As you bring the elbow down, turn your body into the strike, utilize all your weight, concentrating the energy at the point of your elbow. When the basics of the technique are mastered, elevate your game by lifting your foot at the  beginning of the elbow’s inward circle, then bring it down either to the ground or, preferably on the opponent’s foot, just as the elbow makes contact with the target.

The body movements of the uppercut elbow mimics those of the uppercut punch.  First drop low by bending at the knees, then quickly elevate striking the target, the underside of the chin.

The hook elbow flows in the same way as a hook punch. Targeting the opponents’ temple, the jaw or nose, it is even possible to slice the skin of his forehead, with the subsequent blood obscuring his vision.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The First Title is Available @ Smashwords!

Well, the first book of the series, 'Warning Order'is still FREE

Uploaded it to Smashwords, up, up, and way!

Check it out, downloads of 'Warning Order' are free, part of the introductory offer.

It's time to party!