LdSH(RC) - Subbie Ride Course – Holding On

By Lt Colin Peterson

In November of 2014, the annual Subaltern ride course was conducted under the supervision and tutelage of the Strathcona Mounted Troop.  The ride course was five days long and consisted of the subbies learning about the grooming and care of the horses as well as how to ride both with an English saddle and without.

The first day began with an introduction to the grooming of the horses.  This started with the subbies being sent out into the paddock to collect their assigned mounts.  This quickly led to many “is this my horse…or is it this one?” as they learned that there are many different shades of brown for a horse, but the soldiers of the Strathcona Mounted Troop soon had them sorted out and in the stables ready for grooming.  Under the watchful eye of the Troop Sergeant, Sgt Paul Kruhlak, the subalterns got up close and personal with their respective mounts as they brushed them down and picked their hooves in preparation for the day’s riding.

Once the subbies had the horses groomed and saddled, they were ready to begin their ride practice. The practice for the first day consisted of learning how to give the horse direction using their legs instead of the reins and staying in the saddle while the horse was walking and trotting. The subbies managed to stay in the saddle and the first day was deemed a success. The second day of the ride course consisted of more grooming followed by learning how to ride the horses bareback. The subbies learned to keep their balance on the horse by using their thighs and calves instead of a saddle. The second day ended with some spirited British bulldog where the subbies were quickly tagged and found themselves mainly loitering in the middle of the arena while the Strathcona Mounted Troop soldiers rode circles around them. The third day of the riding course brought the introduction and walkthrough rehearsals of cavalry drills and the realization that merely staying on the horse while it trotted in a circle was no longer sufficient. The subbies would now be required to work with each other and their mounts in order to complete the drills. On the fourth day the course practiced the cavalry drills at both the walk and the trot. Once they felt confident with the cavalry drills the subbies were able to try their hands with the horses while moving at the canter.  This was met with mixed results as Lt Cam “the other Cam” Ross and his sturdy mount Sam discovered that a loose girth strap will result in the rider hanging upside down from the horse. The fifth and final day of the course saw the subbies showing what they had learned and performing their cavalry drills at the trot in front of the CO.  The performance went quite well, thanks mainly to Troop Leader, Capt Brandon Frizzell, and his soldiers who ensured that the subbies all went mainly in the right direction and mostly at the same speed.

The ride course was a good opportunity for the subalterns to learn a small tidbit of how the early members of the Regiment conducted their business as cavalry.b The subbies gained valuable respect and a new understanding of the horses in the Strathcona Mounted Troop.  They also learned not to put a tent pegging horse in a corner and many ingenious ways to clean out corral stalls.