MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. - Stablemen of the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard did not all grow up as cowboys, nor were they all raised on farms or ranches; in fact, prior to checking into the unit on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., some members had never ridden a horse at all.
That being said, Marines often have a lot of training to do before presenting the nation’s colors, on horseback to thousands of spectators at special events around the country.
This extensive training is done by Terry Holliday, a former soldier, school teacher, and no stranger to the equestrian world.
“I have been teaching for 15 years,” explained Holliday. “I have been a horse instructor specifically since 2011.”
Holliday applies his lifelong experience with horses, his military background, and his time as a school teacher, to give his students an all-around perspective of horseback riding.
The Dinuba, Calif., native does not simply teach his students how to ride, he explained. Holliday teaches the anatomy of the horse, how to treat the horse, he trains the horse how to respond to the rider, and trains the riders how to respond to the horses.
“The most important part of proper training is safety … for the horse, the rider and for the spectators,” said Holliday. “If the rider doesn’t know how to properly ride or control the horse around thousands of people, someone could be seriously hurt.”
Holliday’s training is broken into three parts: classroom work, ground-work, and riding, he explained.
“I teach the students to know the horse and to know themselves. You need to know how the animal thinks, how it lives and how it will react to your actions,” Holliday added. “The horse will do anything for you if you understand how to communicate with it.”
Holliday further explained how important the riders’ attitude is due to the horses’ distinguished senses.
“Riders need to have positive attitudes and the horse will follow suit,” he said. “The rider and the horse have a working relationship. You don’t want it to fear you … or it won’t work for you.”
When the Marines aren’t going over ground-work or in the classroom with Holliday, they are working on their technical skills. Holliday goes over their balance, posture, rhythm, and puts them through an obstacle course.
“During the obstacle course, the rider guides the horse through transitioning from a straight line to any given angle. The training also includes different types of jumps,” Holliday said.
The Marines’ all-around horsemanship has improved greatly since Holliday has become the MCG’s official trainer, explained Sgt. Edgar Torrealba, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the MCG.
“The training has become much more structural since he has been here,” explained Torrealba.
The most important thing taken from the training has been how to treat and communicate with the horses, he added.
“The relationships we have with our horses is like a Marine with his rifle; we know it in and out,” he explained. “However in this case, it’s with a living thing so we build a relationship.”
Torrealba further explained that he now considers his relationship with his horses the same as the relationship he has with his Marines.
The Los Angeles native never had ridden a horse before coming to the MCG. However, because of hard work and superior training from Holliday, Torrealba and the MCG as a whole, have come a long way.
“Mr. Holliday has an incredible passion for horses, the MCG, and our mission,” added Torrealba. “He is the individual who is behind the curtains of the Mounted Color Guard.”