Competitions in the Cavalry

Mounted sports were always popular with cavalrymen.  Horse shows, gymkhanas, polo, steeplechasing and jumping were all popular contests.  These sports added to the continual training programs required to produce effective soldiers and mounts. 

The horse shows, or field days, could range from only four or five classes held during a single afternoon to forty or fifty spread over several days.  Civilians from the surrounding areas were invited as spectators. 

Contests varied from gymkhana type classes, such as a Crazy Costume Class, Best Turned Out Trooper and mount, Rescue Race or Bull Durham Race (contestants had to roll and light a Bull Durham cigarette during the race) to Polo Pony competition and Open Jumping.  Pole Bending, in four-horse heats, Quadrille, Sack Races and Mounted Tug-O-Wars between different platoons, were also popular. 

Competing horses and riders were shipped in from other military bases.  Competition between the different units was strong.  Such contests were where members of America’s Olympic Equine Teams were often chosen.  Until 1950, when the cavalry was no more, America’s Olympic riders and their mounts came from the military. 

Polo was always an important part of army equine gatherings.  It was fast, exciting and tested men and horses to the limit.  Company, troop and regimental teams developed and were matched against other military posts or civilian clubs.  The army influence kept polo alive in America during the 1930s. 

The army also took advantage of a number of the better trained performers and their riders for publicity purposes.  Some of the horses were real characters with personalities all their own and developed a following among spectators. 

2008.8.317, Photo Courtesy of Phil Livingston