We are assuming you have a horse that is already trained in the basics.
Training Your Horse for a Cavalry Impression
As in all things, there is no ONE way to train a horse. Everyone has their methods that work so what I hope you will do is evaluate the method and also evaluate what that particular method is teaching the horse. Its important to understand that a horse does not work for a man because he loves him. He works for him because he depends on him and trusts his decisions. His rider is a senior partner in their relationship. Since a horse is a prey animal his first reactions are always those of flight. It will be your job to convince him that you know best and that he will not be hurt by facing his fears if he puts his trust in you. A rider can get a horse to work for him through fear but trust is a more solid foundation to get the horse to obey.
The horse's excellent memory helps him learn his lessons. You will gain the trust of your horse through consistent work on a daily basis and the setting of goals in increments. With his ability to remember he will progress. Of course, memory is a two-edged sword, bad experiences as well as good ones will work on him so your job as his trainer and rider is to make sure he has good experiences. Never put him in a position where he gets hurt by any of your requests. Never spur him to greater speed when he is giving his all. Never ride him further than his training and conditioning will permit him to go. Be aware of what his body language is telling you. All of the above requires attention to details that are not noted in the average cavalry reenactor. We hope you have the desire to go beyond the average reenactor to become a horseman, recognizing problems before they develop, caring for your horse before you care for yourself and setting an example of horsemanship that others will follow.
A horse does not use reasoning to evaluate his options, he uses memory. Do not place human qualities and attributes on him to explain his actions, it will only get you into trouble in your training methods. Appreciate your horse for what he is and his equine strengths and weaknesses. YOU are the reasoning animal in your relationship with him so prove it by evaluating his training and your responses.
The articles written and linked to this page are intended to help the cavalry impression through good horsemanship. Many reenactors do not want to take the time to train their horses right. They use them more as mechanical vehicles and not as flesh and blood creatures. It is the goal of several cavalry reenactors who ARE horsemen to heighten awareness of the horse/rider partnership in the reenacting field. You may not agree with all methods of training but I ask you to at least give them some thought. If you study WHY a horse does what he does it's much easier to effect a cure or a reasonable approach to a problem.
Our riders are required to sign the below statement so please read it and understand it. There is no excuse for abuse at our events!
Section A. - Agreement To portray a mounted Civil War reenactor
I have read and agree to the following:
A) My horse and I must pass a Northwest Civil War Council certified mounted test to be out on the battlefield. I understand that I must take and pass the mounted test with any horse I intend to ride.
B) There will be times that my horse should not be out on the battlefield during a battle, due to its health, unruliness or any stress related problems. I can make a decision as to whether I will or will not take part in any battle, for any reason, and my commander will excuse me without prejudice. I will not be pressured by anyone to take part on the battlefield simply because I passed my safety test and numbers are needed on the field.
C) My commander has the final authority to order me to keep my horse OFF the battlefield for the above reasons as well, even if I disagree.
D) I am aware of the abuse laws governing mounted NCWC reenactors and I will abide by those laws. Those actions defined as abusive are...
1) The use of unreasonable force in disciplining a horse, especially when it is accompanied by a display of overly emotional behavior on the part of the horseman.
2) Excessive or over-zealous application of the spurs.
3) Striking the horse about the head or face.
4) Applying any foreign object in a manner that would be perceived as "beating" the horse.
5) Any correction which results in drawing the horse's blood.
6) Disciplining a horse while it is secured to a picketline or other object.
7) Any handling or treatment likely to be perceived as inhumane by the general public.