Local horse trainers lead team to championship

Local horse trainers lead team to championshipFor the past year, three specialized horse trainers from Ridgecrest have been traveling to Fort Irwin near Barstow to prepare the 11th Horse Detachment from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment for a national competition in El Reno, Oklahoma. The regiment won the National Championship Award for the Best Mounted Military Unit. Bradley, a horse acquired from the Texas Huntsville Prison System, who include horse training as part of their rehabilitation, won the Pegasus Award for the Most Outstanding Looking and Behaving Horse.

Trainers Candee Coffee, Megan Zehender, and Victoria Hazelwood were hired by Stephey Livestock to travel to Fort Irwin to train Army soldiers in the art of cavalry riding. Some of the soldiers have never ridden a horse before so they learn basic horsemanship skills from the ground up: how to approach a horse, how to lead a horse, now to tie a horse. They progress to military and combat horsemanship which includes shooting from a horse and using sabres. Coffee says, “Most of them know how to shoot but not how to shoot on horseback. Most of them have not used sabers before so we have to teach them how to engage in the use of a saber and then how to do it on horseback. Combat horsemanship is a combination of all of those things where they have to do 20 meter circles, they have to jump, they have to jump and shoot blanks with the pistol, they have to engage targets with the saber. They have to learn in a period of anywhere from 12 to 18 months.”

The horses also have to be specially trained prior to carrying a soldier. “ Megan is our pistol expert,” says Coffee. “She does Mounted Shooting,” which includes putting earplugs in the horse’s ear. “Which doesn’t sound like much; but, you’re trying to shove a wad of sponge in the ear, sometimes they’re not very receptive to that and then to remove it as well. Then of course it still is quite the noise when it goes off; so we have to teach them to be comfortable.”

Not only is this an exciting event, it is also a history lesson. “We represent the 1901 period. Everything that they have on them in their uniforms and their saddles is period correct, the original stuff. They’re famous for the last charge that killed Poncho Via. We do the charge every time we do a demo because that is what we are known for.”

The winning team consisted of nine riders and a support crew: a Captain, a Sergeant First Class, two Staff Sergeants, a Corporal, six Army Specialists (two of whom are women), and two Private First Class.

In the next few months locals will have an opportunity to watch the Cavalry. On November 14 they will be hosting Cowboys and Calvary at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds. This free to the public event is to honor Individuals with special needs, first responders, nurses and doctors. On October 30 they will be in Kernville during a cancer benefit.

Coffee is the owner of C and C Training Stables & THOR Equine Assisted Therapy in Ridgecrest. She tells us, “ We have an able-bodied riding program for anybody from the ages of two and up. We do English, Western, dressage, endurance, gymkhana; we do a little of everything. Thor is our 501C3 program,Therapeutic Horsemanship of Ridgecrest. We assist individuals who have special needs anything from having autism to PTSD, to strokes, rehab from car accidents. We do it all.” More info. Coffee can be reached at 760-371-5817.

PAO for 11th ACR photo: 11th Horse Detachment from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment win a national competition.

Story First Published: 2021-10-08