From Saddles to Chainsaws                   

By Cpl Evan Barten

The day was Tuesday, 9 September 2014 and the Troop’s morale was high.  For some it would be the last time that they would ever be at the Spruce Meadows Masters, for others, it would be first of many that they would experience in the Troop.  We started off the day as per any other road move to Calgary:  We fed the horses, groomed them, booted them up, and loaded them on the trailer.  We were about to depart from our stables when I heard whispers from others in the Troop that it was supposed to snow in Calgary, but me as a second-year rider, didn’t think too much about what they were saying.  However, Cpl Darren “My Spurs Are Older Than You” Roberts told me that he himself had witnessed a snowfall at the Master’s many years prior just before he sailed to South Africa with Sir Sam Steele.

By the time we had stopped in Red Deer for Red Bulls and gas, it started to rain and we thought that was the worst of it.  We drove for another half hour and when the snow started falling, it hit us hard!  Cpl Dave “The Wheelman” Hughes was driving but the weather was so bad he started to doubt that he could keep our truck and horse trailer on the road.  Some Rob Zombie and a shot-gunned energy drink sorted him out and once again we were on the move.

A quick detour made by Cpl Paul “I can crew command” Morgan took us fifteen minutes of muddying down some back roads.  Despite our fearless leader’s shaky navigation, we eventually made our way back on the highway and the voyage again continued.  He gets an “E3” for command presence despite his “I1” execution.  When we finally arrived at Spruce Meadows there was already about three inches of snow on the ground.  We didn’t think too much of the snow at first until the truck almost got stuck.  Capt Brandon “I got this boys” Frizzell took a position of overwatch, observing with amusement, as Cpl Dave “I’m Stuck” Hughes tried and failed time and time again to get the horses to where they needed to be.  Eventually Capt Brandon Frizzell took pity on Cpl Dave “Frizzell Jr” Hughes and showed him the nifty new invention… “4 wheel drive”.

Off-loading the horses with the fresh snow on the ground made them a little uneasy since the last time that they had been outside of the horse trailer there was only grass and mosquitos, not a winter wonderland.  After we calmed the horses down with food and water, we were done for the day and had orders given to us by Sgt Paul “the Crippler” Kruhlak.  The next morning, I woke with only a slight chill down my spine.  As I looked out the window with the curtains blowing slowly open and closed, I pulled my blankets over my head to stay warm.  Then from across the room I heard Cpl Kirk “Mustachio” Hopper express his dread.  I got out of bed and looked out the window to see what he was cursing about and the same words came out of my mouth… the whole city was blanketed in snow!  He and I stood there, wondering what this was going to mean for our ride. We both got changed into the warmest clothes that we had with us and went downstairs to the lobby.

We joined the remainder of the Troop downstairs in time to hear MCpl Adrian “Wet Blanket” Bernardo deliver the news that the Troop’s Spruce Meadows tasking was canceled for the day.  Everyone was excited about the prospect of having a snow day.   Then he told us: “Keep your phones on you just in case things change.”  Not fifteen minutes later, myself and Cpl Hopper got a text message saying “five minutes in the lobby” from MCpl Adrian “Buzz Kill” Bernardo.  The Troop met in the lobby once again to hear the news.  Everybody knew right off the bat that we were we were in for a long and cold day.

We all mounted up in our vehicles and started down Macleod Trail.  There was nothing but chaos as we looked out the windows seeing vehicle accidents and tree branches ripped off by the massive snowfall.  We made it to Spruce Meadows and started to help muck out the horse stalls and went about the duties typical of a SMT rider.  The Sergeant and Captain eventually came along with some of the Spruce Meadows heavies.  They brought us down to the International Riding Arena where the damage and snow was clearly evident.  It was time to prove we were soldiers first above showmen and out came the hard hats and chainsaws.  For the entire day, the Troop cut and cleared broken trees, snow, and ice around the Spruce Meadows grounds.  The day seemed reminiscent of ice storm domestic operations and the appreciation was noted by the staff of Spruce Meadows.  

Over the next few days Spruce Meadows had special parades to thank all of the people and organizations involved in the massive clean-up, which allowed the Master’s, one of the world’s largest international horse jumping competitions, to continue in 2014.  As the days passed, the Troop prepared for our ride-off against the RCMP Musical Ride, but at the last minute the ride was canceled due to time restraints.  At the end of the tournament, we had a few celebratory beers with the British cavalrymen who joined us from the King’s Troop and The Household Cavalry.  Eventually it dawned on us that the last Spruce Meadows tournament for the year was already over and soon our 2015 Ride Season would begin.