2012 A Ride Course Odyssey
By Cpl Juan Miguel Daos
I never thought I'd see the day when I would be riding a horse. I arrived at Strathcona Mounted Troop (SMT) right after the Christmas holidays. I thought to myself, “a new year, new experience and definitely new adventures,” but rather when I came to SMT, I immediately thought "What did I get myself into?" In the beginning, the horses were huge and intimidating and I am not afraid to say that I was scared for my life. I never thought that my principle as "top of the food chain" would be challenged, but as any good soldier would, I laced my boots up and bravely took on the challenge of becoming a Rider.
I quickly found out that SMT operates differently than the other Troops I had previously been a part of which was perhaps the change I needed. I found myself too many times in trouble and SMT offered me a chance to renew myself and get back on “my grind.” I used to look at SMT as a bunch of cowboys doing easy stuff. It seemed that all they did was sit on top of a horse and look pretty, right? I thought to myself, “If anyone can do it, I certainly can.” But boy was I wrong. The amount of hard work that I put in on any given day was a match for what I was asked to do during some of my toughest days at the Regiment.
I remember the first time I fed the horses. I was in the back of a pickup truck with four bales of hay. It honestly felt like I was about to ride off to battle with hordes of zombies running towards me. However, in this case, I was being rushed by gigantic, 1200 pound animals with what seemed like flames in their eyes and strong powerful legs which caused the very earth beneath them to tremble. I told myself, “This is it, I am done for. I am going to be dragged down by these beasts, get trampled on and eaten alive.” I closed my eyes and prepared for the worst. But it never came, and then I opened my eyes I saw before me something that I never would have believed. These huge beasts were only interested in the food, and the way they grazed was so gentle that it reminded me of looking deep into the eyes of a googly eyed puppy. My heart warmed and I found love again.
Riding proved to be as difficult as they say. It takes a lot of leg muscles to get a horse to do what you want; moreover, staying focused while keeping your composure and doing your job on top of a horse gives new meaning to the word; multitasking. Of course, I had fun riding a horse and learning how to properly groom and feed them. I found that it was very much like taking care of a baby; only this baby could trample you and finish you off if you’re unsafe. Everyday I found meaning whenever I rode my horse, it was absolutely exhilarating and I was full of life once again. Creating a bond with a horse was a uniquely rewarding experience and I couldn’t help but feel great at the end of a hard days ride when my muscles ache from exertion and I could barley walk to my car. Without a doubt, riding is not easy but I would bet anyone that, if they gave it an honest try, they would enjoy it as much as I do.
My new job as a Rider in Strathcona Mounted Troop will be to perform for people across Canada. Our performance is precise, professional, and definitely a sight to see. During the ride, we perform moves such as the Shanghai, Double Dome, Slingshot, which are very complicated, truly amazing to see, and utterly rewarding to accomplish. Being in the Troop has definitely taught me humility and has once again reinstalled in me values that I had forgotten; values such as camaraderie, hard work, patience, and perseverance. I have learnt that in order to successfully perform the Troops Musical Ride, not only does the horse and rider need to work together, but every member of the Troop must act as a collective unit with one unified purpose. I look forward to performing this season and I encourage everyone to come out and see tradition, history, and our Canadian soldiers (and horses) at their finest.