Strathcona Mounted Troop Jumps to Spruce Meadows
By: Cpl Herald Mijares
In October 2012 I got the order to head over to the Strathcona Mounted Troop (SMT) for a change of pace, so I said my goodbyes to my fellow Recce soldiers and brothers from the Tank Squadrons. Of course, all the while they traded jokes and stories about their past experiences in SMT some spoke of their fear of horses while others simply nagged me about the horrid smell that working with horses would surely bring into my life. However, nothing they could say could make me think twice about my decision to join SMT.
Lucky for me all the other members that came to SMT this year were also volunteers and the majority were from Recce Sqn, so I came to my new troop with a group of eager friends that I already knew. However as we drove down the base back road towards the stables I was began to get nervous because I've never dealt with a 1 ton animal before. Growing up in Surrey, BC, I've always been a city boy. I quickly found that being at the stables is definitely more work and longer hours than being up at the Regiment. Being required to ride 5 days a week for 3-4 hours each day during my Basic Equine Ride Course, quickly hardened my soft, city backside and built muscles I never knew I had. After the first week of class I got an intimate understanding of why most cowboys walk bow legged.
After months of long, hard work on horseback, we finally proved to Sergeant “Engage Your Seat” Kruhlak that we were capable of being called Riders and earning our spurs. After starting the season with a few smaller venues the Troop made its way to Spruce Meadows which we would make our home for practically all of June. For the past 4 years I've always been part of the 100 man guard that participated in the Calgary Stampede Parade and the "Feu de Joie" in Spruce Meadows, so I knew it well. Despite the flooding the city pulled together with help from CF Soldiers, including many Strathconas, to get the city ready for the annual parade. As the soldiers of SMT marched along the streets of downtown Calgary, people applauded loudly and many cheers of “We miss you!” and “Come back to Calgary!” brought smiles to the faces of the riders.
Every year the Troop participates in every major Spruce Meadows tournament. As I said, I had been to Spruce Meadows before with the Regiment, but this was the first time I experienced it as Rider. During the National Tournament I participated in dismounted and mounted vedettes (ceremonial guard duty) where I greeted many VIP's and people who came to watch and support the riders. It is always good for a laugh to see the shocked look on people’s faces when they realize that we are not statues and unlike the Guards at Buckingham palace, we are allowed to move and talk freely with them. It was a different experience to do such tasks and it definitely tested my focus and patience. Spruce Meadows really does provide us a larger then life public venue to showcase what we have been training so hard to do in the past 6 months and spread awareness of the Regiment’s rich cavalry heritage.
As my tour in the SMT continues, I am proud to tell my family and friends stories about what I have been doing. I've accomplished a variety of things in my career with the Canadian Forces, from being a tank gunner in Afghanistan, to doing a complex river crossing with Recce Squadron, but never once did I think that I would be lucky enough to add riding off into the sunset on horseback to my list of memories. To be able to serve your country is extremely rewarding experience, but being able to do it on horseback like our predecessors is truly unique.