Bringing the sights, sounds and smells of Civil War-era cavalry to life, the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard is sure to draw a crowd in their second appearance at the Minnesota Horse Expo, set for April 26-28 at the Minnesota State Fairground in Falcon Heights, Minn.
Based at Fort Riley, Kan., the CGMCG will return this year after a one-year hiatus, performing 1860s cavalry maneuvers with their skilled team of horses and mules.
Spokesman Gregory Stalker said the demonstrations not only help spread awareness of mounted cavalry but offer an opportunity for people to reflect upon U.S. Army history.
The U.S. Cavalry School was located at Fort Riley from 1887 to 1946, and the CGMCG is still housed in the original cavalry stables, erected in 1889 and one of five remaining buildings on the post still used for their original purpose. The farrier shop, built in 1890, also is still in use for hoof trimming and other aspects of equine healthcare.
Stalker said the CGMCG’s overall mission is to make people aware of the U.S. Cavalry and, more specifically, the 1st Infantry Division, which was founded in 1917 and the first U.S. Army Unit to see combat.
“Its baptism under fire came at the Battle of Cantigny, where American soldiers captured German lines and took the town in 30 minutes,” he said.
Stalker said the demonstrations help the Army reconnect with veterans and recruit new members to the Armed Forces, but the general public also enjoys experiencing the smell of gun powder while observing shooters on horseback; admiring the unique peridiocal uniforms, weapons and equipment that soldiers wear; observing the post-Civil War encampment; and meeting the horses.
Both before and after shows, horses are available for pictures and soldiers engage with attendees.
Stalker said the demonstrations aim to “create an unforgettable experience that will leave people talking.”
Demonstrations are tailored for each venue, but a typical show includes six horses (mustangs and Quarter horses) and riders, two wagoneers with a mule team and six to eight ground personnel.
Participants need not have any riding experience to join the team. They learn about horseback riding, formations, maneuvers and combat tactics used by cavalry troopers in garrison and on campaign by reading “The 1862 U.S. Cavalry Tactics” by Phillip St. Geo Cooke.
“Members riding in the demonstration at the Minnesota Horse Expo do not have as much riding time as people tend to believe,” Stalker said. “There will be two members with less than six months’ total time on the back of a horse.”
The wagon being pulled by the mule team is an 1871 Army Escort wagon that still contains some original hardware. These wagons were not common to a cavalry unit but were highly sought after for transporting beans and bullets, he said.
Stalker said the ground personnel are the most essential participants in the demonstration as, without them, targets wouldn’t be replaced in a timely manner, slowing the overall pace of the show.
“It is an orchestrated ballet that each team member must master to have a successful performance,” he said.
The CGMCG travels extensively nationwide. In 2018, they performed at almost 300 events in 12 states. In the height of the busy season, soldiers and horses appeared at rodeos, horse expos, parades and other events, for a total of 10 weeks in a four-month timeframe.
Stalker said they look forward to returning to the Minnesota Horse Expo, which, in 2017, provided a great opportunity to receive feedback on how to sustain or improve show. It also was a good place to connect to fellow horse enthusiasts.
For the horse lover in everyone
In its 37th year, the Minnesota Horse Expo, sponsored by the Minnesota Horse Council, is the state’s largest equine trade show and breed exhibition, with more than 700 trade show booths and some 35 breeds on display.
Highlights include a tack and clothing consignment sale managed by the Minnesota Youth Horse Association and open to the public. Proceeds are used by the MYHA to help pay for the state 4-H Horse Show, Winter Roundup and other 4-H horse project events.
The Expo also features free pony and wagon rides and a daily Parade of Breeds and stallion presentation.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo performances will be Friday and Saturday evenings, with seven events — bareback riding, team roping, tie-down roping, saddle-bronc riding, steer roping, bull riding and women’s professional barrel racing. The rodeos will feature stock from the Barnes Rodeo Co. and showcase Gizmo McCracken, the 2017 Comedy Act of the Year.
The Expo is the main fundraiser for the MHC, with funds raised since 1982 estimated at more than $3 million. The money is used for grants, scholarships, emergency relief, trail maintenance and more.
Icelandic dressage to be covered
- Other highlights will include a presentation by Carrie Lyons Brandt and Laura Benson who own, train and ride Icelandic horses using classical dressage, will be among the other presenters. In 2017, they founded the new training concept Gæinga Dressage.
Brandt runs Taktur Icelandic Horses, which offers a variety of training, teaching, sales and breeding services with the goal of educating horses and people so they can have more successful and harmonious relationships both on the trail and in the show ring.
- Brandt is the second American to attend Hólar University in Iceland, graduating in 2013 and awarded the Morgunblai Award for best riding and horsemanship throughout the three-year program. She has trained gaited horses for some of the most respected trainers and teachers in Iceland. She also has been the highest-ranked rider in Five Gait in the U.S. Icelandic Congress National Ranking and has qualified multiple times for the U.S. Icelandic Horse World Championship Team.
Benson was the first American to graduate from the three-year program at Hólar University and become a licensed Icelandic riding instructor. A lifelong rider, she met Gudmar Petursson and his Icelandic horses when she was 13 and has devoted her life to the training, education and promotion of the Icelandic horse in North America.
Benson is known for her bridle-less riding performances and has worked with many acclaimed Icelandic horsemen. In 2005, she independently founded the Valkyrie Icelandic training program and riding school in northern California’s Bay Area.
A hunter/jumper demonstration by Wild Rose Stables, a 40-stall boarding and training center near Webster, Minn., also is scheduled. Andrew Seifert will present yoga for equestrians, sharing techniques for relaxing rider tension.
Pre-expo clinic planned
New this year will be a pre-Minnesota Horse Expo clinic from 9 a.m. to about 6 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in the Compeer Arena. The clinic will feature clinician Warwick Schiller.
Born in Australia, Schiller moved to the U.S. in 1990 at the age of 23 to pursue his dream of becoming a horse trainer. His passion at the time was for the sport of reining. While heavily involved in reining for 20 years, he discovered his next passion — teaching.
In 2010, he started a YouTube channel to share the concept that understanding how horses think and what causes them to do the things they do can help eliminate common issues and foster a more harmonious relationship between horses and their owners.
Warwick splits his time between teaching clinics in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Europe and adding to his video library. Last year, he qualified and competed in his second World Equestrian Games in North Carolina.