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April 18, 2003
Caisson Platoon has bucking good time

The Old Guard Caisson Platoon riders wrestle with a few new horses who got a little wild during Monday's training session. Some horse trainers were thrown from the horses, but wasted little time getting back up and taming the equines.

Third Infantry Caisson Platoon Training PHOTO

by Chris Walz
Pentagram staff writer

The Old Guard's Caisson Platoon soldiers went for a wild ride Monday when they boarded a never-ridden horse.

The platoon recently added equine brothers Mak and Mark to the stables and has slowly eased the two horses into training. Mak, however, spent much of his time pitching the riders off his back.

"It's not getting bucked off that hurts," said Private First Class Timothy Bridge, who Mak threw off twice. "It's the sudden stop at the end."

Bridge said the horses are usually used to riders within a matter of hours.

Platoon soldiers were able to ride Mark earlier because the riders determined him to be more docile and calm. Mak, on the other hand, was a little frightened to have the extra weight on his back.

"Ninety percent of our horses come to us ride-able," said the platoon's leader, Chief Warrant Officer Jeremy Light. "Horses are like people -- some learn quicker than others. We had one horse, Judy, that took us two years to train and we've had some that we're able to train in only a few months."

"We have a couple of horse that have been here two or three years and they still buck sometimes," Bridge said. "It's just in their nature."

Light said the platoon often takes the horses to Fort Belvoir for "spook training." The soldiers help the horses get used to things they may encounter at Twillight Tattoo and Arlington National Cemetery. Trainers subject the horses to car horns, plastic bags, manhole covers and cannon shots.

Bridge walked Mak down the street after the ride to cool the horse down and to separate him from his brother. Once they were separated, both bellowed to make sure the other was okay.

"We like the kinship they have, but we also need to let them know they won't always be together," Bridge said. "They're learning that when we take one of them away for a few minutes, we're bringing them back safe and sound."

Light said Mark and Mak are will still be growing for about three more months. Trainers won't begin a heavy training regimen until the have stopped growing, he said.

The platoon received Mak and Mark from a ranch in Iowa and also added Queen and Katie from the same ranch. Katie is stationed at Fort Belvior. Queen is already designated to participate in Spirit of America.

There are 43 horses stationed at Forts Myer and Belvoir. The horses receive training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have "hot walks" on Tuesday and Thursday.

"At first, I thought there would be no way I would remember 43 horses," said Light, who joined the platoon in October. "When you work with them every day, you get to know them all very quickly."

Posted: 20 April 2003