Strathcona Mounted Troop Gets Kitted Out

Cpl Chris Lawrence

Glenn “Donut Santa” Olund, leatherworker, saddle maker, historical enthusiast, and collector came to visit the Strathcona Mounted Troop on Monday, 16 March 2015.  Although his departure was delayed due to a snowstorm, he made his way north from Calgary later in the day and was greeted that evening by our Troop Leader, Lt Andrew “Horse Lord” Tardiff, and Ridemaster, Sgt Paul Kruhlak.  His first day working with the troop resulted in seven restored steel arch saddles of the 20 saddles he was contracted to build for the Troop.  This saddle acquisition is the second step in the Troop’s project to restore authentic period riding kit for all troop presentations, the first step being the acquisition of riding tack (headstalls, bridles and reigns). Glenn’s first day also brought a lot of knowledge to the team working in the tack shop, examples of First World War cavalry accessories for us to admire and use for further templates, as well as two dozen donuts for the Troop each and every day!

The significance of the steel arch saddles to the Troop is considerable.  They are the saddles that were used in cavalry operations throughout the First World War and they were used by the Strathcona Mounted Troop when it was re-established in 1974.  They are more comfortable to both rider and horse, therefore reducing the overall potential for horse injuries while also being lighter weight to assist in better weight distribution.  Historically, a high percentage of cavalry troopers using these saddles were of poor skill, therefore the trooper saddle was designed to position the rider to allow for minimal effort resulting in maximum control and balance without adding to the effort a tired horse was required to make.  Glenn brought the saddles up for delivery and spent some time showing Cpl Paul Morgan how to maintain and adjust the refurbished saddles he built using original era steel arches as the framework.  Sgt Kruhlak had a couple of his own steel arch saddle frames sitting aside and Glenn schooled the team on how to refurbish them and how to get the “barnyard finds” ready to ride and looking pretty.  Glenn gave Cpl Morgan and I, Cpl Chris “Two Broken Knees” Lawrence, some pointers on needed tools and supplies for upcoming projects we had scheduled and we headed off to retrieve them from the local suppliers in the city.  He was also kind enough to leave behind extra tools of his own that he thought would help us more than they would sitting unused as backups in his vast collection of tools

During his visit to the Troop, the Basic Equine Rider Course was winding down and the successful candidates would be receiving their spurs.  This proved a perfect opportunity to test all of Glenn’s freshly turned out steel arch saddles in action on a multitude of mounts while he was still here and able to make any adjustments necessary.  The Troop groomed their horses and polished their boots while Glenn “Big hat” Olund donned some nice attire for the ceremony, including a larger than life hat that impressed all in attendance.  After the ceremony was complete he joined us outside for a barbeque, where he shared a few saddle stories of his own.

Wednesday evening brought on a Troop social call to spend some time with Glenn outside of the stables.  This resulted in a few members being worse for wear the next morning after a late night.  After a CO’s hour in the morning, the day’s activities could finally began.  Sgt Kruhlak, Lt Tardiff, Cpl Morgan, and Glenn headed out to a farm to inspect some saddles for possible purchase and future restoration.  The trip ended with the Troop gaining an old officers saddle for a fair price.  Thursday was our last day with Glenn.  It was quite busy and we were all better for the knowledge he brought to us.  We look forward to the next visit with Glenn, bringing more saddles, more history and more great stories!