Special Forces unit learns 'Horsemanship 101'

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Boondocksaint375

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Special Forces unit learns 'Horsemanship 101'
By Alex Sakariassen- Acantha reporter The thunder of hoof beats and the "hep hep" and "whoa" of horseback riders echoed across Flint and Katie Rasmussen's arena last weekend. But instead of cowboy boots and Stetsons, the nervous group of riders sported drab army fatigues and rank stripes.
Twelve members of the Special Forces Group Airborne, 19th Unit, gathered at the arena on Saturday, June 16, for a crash course in basic horsemanship skills. Four rangers from area Forest Service stations led demonstrations in everything from saddling and riding to animal care.
The group consisted of four members of A Company, 2nd Battallion, out of Rhode Island and eight members of C Company, 2nd Battallion, out of West Virginia. According to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patrick Seiden, most of the 12 men have been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan once or twice in the past, not to mention other locations such as Kosovo, Haiti and portions of Africa.
"We've been to unimaginable corners of the world," Seiden said.
Choteau resident Jim Grasky, a former Green Beret, was the driving force behind the demonstration. He first made contact with the Montana National Guard about eight months ago, expressing his desire to organize a horsemanship workshop for a Special Forces A Team, or special unit of 12 soldiers.
"I asked them then if they'd be interested in some horse skill training and animal packing training," Grasky said.
When the offer was accepted, Grasky turned to Rocky Mountain District Ranger Mike Munoz for additional support.
"He committed to all the equipment, all the horses and all the instructors," Grasky said.
Grasky and Munoz rounded up a total of 10 instructors, including local horsemen, a game warden and one local veterinarian. They also gathered 32 head of horses and mules for the day.
Seiden and his men attended the special workshop to gain insight into the handling and maintenance of pack animals, which Special Forces units frequently encounter and use in remote areas of the world.
"You always see horses and donkeys and camels ... beasts of burden, I think you call them," Seiden said.
Beyond the transportation or combat benefits horsemanship skills might promise the Special Forces soldiers, knowing how to respect and properly care for these animals could help build bridges between soldiers and the rural peoples of Third World countries.
"You think Third World country, that is the primary mode of transportation there," Seiden said.
However, the eight hours of training the soldiers received at the arena on Saturday will at best leave them with a passing knowledge of how to properly round up, saddle, pack and ride horses.
"This is just scratching the surface," said Ian Bardwell, trails and stock manager for the Rocky Mountain Ranger District. "It would be ideal to get these guys out with us on a three-or four-day pack trip."
The exercises at Saturday's demonstration were well controlled and contained by local volunteer supervisers, a far safer environment than soldiers may experience in the field. This proved a necessary precaution as for most of the soldiers, this was the first time in a saddle.
But Bardwell said he felt confident that the men would take a body of useful knowledge with them to apply in the field during their next deployment.
"I guess I'd compare a lot of them today to a blank slate," he said. "They're green, but they're motivated."
For Seiden, the reality of what awaits in the field is all too real. During past deployments, he's been stationed at firebases in remote regions like the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. When roads are too treacherous for trucks and elevations are too high for helicopter flight, the army must look elsewhere for transportation.
"You think outside the box," Seiden said.
Pack animals are typically borrowed, bought or rented from locals. This type of transportation can also be used for stealth, to "come around the backside" of the enemy, as Seiden put it.
"Even the familiarization we develop and all the intricacies we're picking up today will be extremely applicable," he said.
Improvised modes of transportation for the armed services in remote regions are not limited to pack animals, however. Sometimes securing a ride is as easy as renting a car, though not necessarily from a Hertz rental outlet.
During a mission in rural Iraq, Seiden was faced with the problem of moving a group of detainees through a town to a military drop point without turning the act into a public exhibition. He and his fellow soldiers were able to rent a local's truck for about $80 American. Seiden said he could forsee a similar situation involving horses.
"You've got to use your squash, figure out what you can do," he said.
Growing emphasis on animal transportation and community outreach in the field has generated a need for advanced animal care within the army. Hence the creation of the Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP. Trained veterinarians have become a military staple in Third World countries, where they offer care to both army animals and animals in the local community.
Similar programs, like the Medical (MEDCAP) and Dental (DENTCAP) Civic Action Programs, prove extremely valuable in building strong relations between soldiers and locals in Third World countries. People flock from miles around to take advantage of the humanitarian efforts of the U.S. armed forces.
"Down in Haiti, I think I yanked 64 teeth one morning," Seiden said.
Military veterinarians also provide care for animals adopted by stationed units. Groups of soldiers often take in stray dogs or other larger animals. Seiden recalled one unit that owned eight dogs, a camel and a donkey.
"We get these things and we keep them as pets," he said.
Grasky said the training proved very successful, and by the end of the day three instructors were able to lead the soldiers on a trail ride over rough terrain including steep hills, stream crossings and bogs.
"Nobody fell off," he said. "It was a confidence booster for them."
The men of A and C companies had planned to conduct a parachuting exhibition at the airport before a potluck dinner at the Choteau Pavilion. Bad weather grounded the plane, however, and the men had to depart for mountain training in the Grand Teton Mountains shortly after.
According to Grasky, the soldiers said they were met with more kindness from Choteau residents than they've experienced serving in the remote corners of the globe. They also expressed appreciation for the high caliber of training they received here.
"Some of the comments were that this was some of the best training they've had," Grasky said.
 
L

Looon

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My best friends Grandfather, who I consider to be my Grandfather, was in the Army back when they switched from horse Calvary to mechanized.:)

Is riding horses still feasable?:uhh:
 

0699

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My best friends Grandfather, who I consider to be my Grandfather, was in the Army back when they switched from horse Calvary to mechanized.:)

Is riding horses still feasable?:uhh:

Weren't horses used in AF in 2001? It seems like I remember seeing pictures of SOF guys on horse back...
 

digrar

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No longer in the desert, breaking rocks.
We tried to hire donkeys in Timor in 2000, the donkey dealer wasn't too keen, he thought where we wanted to take them was too hard on the beasts, but he reckoned if we gave him a couple of hours he'd get a couple of dozen human porters for us....
 

pardus

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Is riding horses still feasable?:uhh:

Rhodesians used them throughout their bush war

Southern Africa circa 1989

South Africans were using them at least into the 1990's as mounted Infantry, bottom line, they have their place. :2c:

We tried to SHAG donkeys in Timor in 2000, the donkey dealer wasn't too keen, he thought what we wanted to do to them was too hard on the beasts, but he reckoned if we gave him a couple of hours he'd get a couple of dozen guys for us....

:bleh: That's aussies for ya! :D
 

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Typhoon

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What goes around comes around. When my grandfather was starting his Army career in the 1920's it still used horses and mules, and my grandfather rode Army horses when he was stationed in the PI. I just cracked up when I saw a picture of a pack mule being used by SF in A-Stan a three or four years ago...

Very good idea, by the way. There are places that vehicles just cannot go...
 

Paddlefoot

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What goes around comes around. When my grandfather was starting his Army career in the 1920's it still used horses and mules, and my grandfather rode Army horses when he was stationed in the PI. I just cracked up when I saw a picture of a pack mule being used by SF in A-Stan a three or four years ago...

Very good idea, by the way. There are places that vehicles just cannot go...

Yea, those were the days. I've seen a lot of pictures from the old Presido of Monterey when it was a Cavalry outpost. Stables, blacksmiths, the whole nine yards.

SF used to allocate training funds throughout their history, at various times, to train with horses and pack animals such as mules. They'd hire out an outfitter in the Grand Canyon or something and learn all there was to know about working with these beasts of burden.

Besides, if you can't ride a horse, you can't play the Afghanistan national sport...

Buzkashi!

Here's a pretty good shot of a US soldier engaged in a match, from early in OEF:
 

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EATIII

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Yea, those were the days. I've seen a lot of pictures from the old Presido of Monterey when it was a Cavalry outpost. Stables, blacksmiths, the whole nine yards.

SF used to allocate training funds throughout their history, at various times, to train with horses and pack animals such as mules. They'd hire out an outfitter in the Grand Canyon or something and learn all there was to know about working with these beasts of burden.

Besides, if you can't ride a horse, you can't play the Afghanistan national sport...

Buzkashi!

Here's a pretty good shot of a US soldier engaged in a match, from early in OEF:

Don't forget Sly in Rambo Whatever!
 

pardus

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First SF to use horses in A'stan :D
 

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gryfen

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They handicap that shit? Oye vey.

What's the handicap? No one is allowed to quirt you in the eyes?
 

Typhoon

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I've seen a lot of pictures from the old Presido of Monterey when it was a Cavalry outpost. Stables, blacksmiths, the whole nine yards.
My grandfather used to play polo with what I believe were Army horses in the PI during the 1930's, although I don't have any pictures.
 

Paddlefoot

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My grandfather used to play polo with what I believe were Army horses in the PI during the 1930's, although I don't have any pictures.

I heard Patton was a pretty good Polo player, he used to play it when he was stationed at Ft. Sheridan, or so I've heard.

Probably designed that crazy looking Tanker uniform after getting zonked on the head during a chukker.
 
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