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    Marine Horsemanship Fundamentals

    Teaching Marines the Fine Art of Horsemanship

    Photo By Keith Hayes | Terry Holliday, horse trainer from Barstow, Calif., teaches Marines in the Mounted...... read more read more



    Story by Cynthia McIntyre 

    Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

    BARSTOW, Calif. - Marines are often assigned to an occupational specialty on the basis of the Corps' needs, not necessarily on the skills or desires of the Marine. And it is the same for those assigned to the prestigious Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, stabled at the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif. Most of them have never ridden a horse. Ever. Or even expressed the desire to do so.

    For the past decade, horse trainer Terry Holliday of Hodge, near Barstow, has been teaching these Marines the fine art of horsemanship. After all, they are one of the showpieces of the Corps, leading the Tournament of Roses Parade, riding in hometown parades, and presenting the colors at rodeos and ceremonies. Both horses and riders need to look sharp and be disciplined. As with any military training, it all takes practice.

    Holliday met with the stablemen, and the new NCOIC Gunnery Sgt. Antonio Flores, several times last week for classroom instruction as well as actual riding lessons. The new base commander, Col. Sekou S. Karega, was also taking his first riding lesson on Aug. 17.

    Holliday stressed that even the CO needs to learn the fundamentals of horsemanship the same as anyone else, and those who say their steeds performed well in the past using shortcuts are not exempt from using proper techniques.

    "It's like Russian roulette," he said. Horses can be easier to manage when they're with other horses because of "pattern training," he explained. They may be following another horse's lead and not necessarily under full control of the rider, and can be a problem in an unexpected situation where full control is mandatory, such as in a parade with small children darting in front of them.

    For some of the Marines, his classroom instruction at the stables office on Aug. 20 was a refresher; for Flores, it was essential. He is replacing Gunny Sgt. Daniel Garcia who is on medical leave, and Flores had never ridden a horse before last month.

    Holliday stressed the importance of body posture, which he compared to a tripod - both feet and the rear end are the tripod's "legs," and the rider can easily become unbalanced should one of those stability points be missed.

    He also discussed some of the individual horses' idiosyncrasies, and quizzed the riders on how they handled them. Then they went in the covered outdoor pen for some riding lessons.

    Holliday says he's always had a passion for horses, and realized he also liked helping people. He was a schoolteacher for 15 years before turning back to his first love. He is grateful that the Marine Corps has kept the Mounted Color Guard active, as it is a part of not only Corps history, but also the history of American settlement.

    During the riding lessons in Monday's 110 degree heat (nobody complained either) Col. Karega had his first lesson with Norman, the horse former base commander Col. Michael L. Scalise rode. Norman is the tallest and brownest of the palominos, and Scalise once jokingly called him "the grumpiest, meanest, and orneriest horse" in the stables. However, both steed and greenhorn rider performed very well.

    Holliday stresses that one needs to understand a horse's mindset in order to train it.

    "A horse is a prey animal," he said. "If you try to force a prey animal into a corner, mentally or physically, it's going to come back at you. Most horses, if you provide them with comfort, trust and safety, will do just about anything you want them to."

    He pointed to the fabled mare Reckless, who carried ammo under fire to Marines during the Battle of Vegas in the Korean War.

    "Nobody was leading that horse, and nobody was riding that horse." Staff Sgt. Reckless was awarded two Purple Hearts, among other medals and citations.

    However, it is an occasional hard-headed rider that generally causes problems. "The number one thing (you can do wrong) is to pretend that you know. That comes from someone who lacks self-leadership, and they're forced to pretend. You can't pretend with a horse."

    Holliday, who competes in team roping and is also the MCG's farrier, said he's also benefited from the Marines he's worked with over the years.

    "I've learned to be highly flexible and to individualize my teaching to a greater degree than I did 20 years ago."

    "You help people a lot more than you thought you did through a horse," he continued. "These fundamentals can be learned. It's all about your attitude. Are you willing to accept the knowledge, the tools, and are you willing to apply them?"

    He added, "The Marines that come here and work with the horses didn't know how much they were going to learn about themselves and life. That's the part I appreciate the most is I get the opportunity to do that. The Marine Corps is paying me to live my dream."



    Date Taken: 08.27.2015
    Date Posted: 09.02.2015 16:24
    Story ID: 175060
    Location: BARSTOW, CA, US 

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