Basic Equine Rider’s Course
By Cpl Daylon "Soon to be Top Rider" Brown
With any course in the Army, a sense of impending doom is prevalent. Not so much this time as we felt pride at starting the Basic Equine Rider’s Course (BERC). The BERC is the beginning of becoming a Rider within the Regiment’s Ceremonial Mounted Troop (CMT). The days started as normal: 0800hrs at the stables to begin the course. The ever-present mantra "Horse, Tack, Rider” is instilled from day one. These words ring true every day as it is not just our priority of work, but how we conduct our all business at CMT.
Horses come first, and will be the highest priority of our day-to-day work. They all have individuality and personality, much like us. Some are lazy, some would die happy just galloping. Some like their bellies scratched, others do not. Getting to know them and what they like helped me get a grasp on the ability and effort I have to put in. Scratches, cuts, and sores are brought up to our Medical Reps Cpl Edward “Spaget” Thibodeau and Cpl Coleman “On PLQ” Germann. Much to our relief, 95% of the problems were just us being a worried mother and horses will be horses. Grooming on some days could be the worst as they all poop and do not wipe afterwards. I'd still rather groom a horse than muck a tank hull any day, though.
Tack didn't come until much later, for we still had to learn the importance of the horse. The ability to use a tool in the right way is just as it is with a tank. If they can't trust you with basic grooming, then they wouldn't trust you with tack. Saddles, Bridles, and blankets are all part of the tack genre. Some of these saddles have been around longer than any of us have been alive. A piece of history between the horse and the rider. Maybe that’s why the Tack Master Cpl Benjamin "Big Daddy" Ford kept getting angry at us when we had dust in the seams.
Rider being the last on the list is only my experience. The classes were taught by many of our peers. Their experiences and wisdom clarifies much of our questions and pondering. The yelling to keep our toes up and control of our arms when we panic. Pain and soreness overtook us as we started using muscles that we didn’t know existed. Lunch time rolls around and we are all just back to a group of soldiers enjoying food and the camaraderie that is CMT. Hard work and good people make the day go by quick. Back to work to hop on a horse. Just as soon as you’re on, you can be face first into the ground. Dust yourself off and get back on again is the only acceptable answer. Soon we were doing less falling and more riding. Giving the horse a slap on a good job because he's the one working, we are just guiding. The military standard and horse riding go strongly hand in hand, maybe because we have had plenty of practice throughout history.