A DIFFERENT KIND OF RE-ENACTOR
I hear a lot of people talking at ACWS events, the usual stuff about battles and authenticity and so on. Sometimes I hear people talk about us - the horses. Often the comments are pretty much the same, how big and scary we are, how we leave little presents for you to fall in, and how some of you are frightened of us.
Thatís a laugh - you frightened of us! We are terrified of you, quite apart from firing cannons and muskets at us; you wave really scary banners and shout a lot.
For the last 2,000 years horses have been completely dependant on mankind, you feed us, look after us and kindly take care of our family planning requirements. I am sure I wouldn't be the handsome devil I am today were it not for a little selective breeding.
When I was a foal I was brought up to be polite (no biting, kicking or being irritating), not by my mum, but by the guys at the stables, then we had to learn to carry you (very carefully with no bucking or misbehaving). All in all I reckon I spent the first 4 years of my life being taught how to be nice to people. They were pretty good to me too, good food, warm stable and loads of polo mints. Luckily though I still have all my own teeth.
I spent most of my youth having a ball, running and jumping most days and generally sowing my wild oats - a bit like most students. Then I got a job at a riding stable teaching beginners how to ride, and even doing some work with the disabled. So I reckon that I am pretty people friendly.
I took up re-enacting later in life and I must say I really enjoy it, wonderful locations, lots of good mates and the thrill of the battle. I just love it when the cannons open up and the smoke and the confusion begin. I suppose I am a bit of an old War Horse really. The best bit though, the really good bit is when we get to gallop across the field and charge you guys. We always take great care to stop before we get to you and to avoid treading on anyone on the ground. Some of the younger horses get a bit scared but I just tell them nobody is going to hurt them and they soon get the hang of it. Then at the end of the day it is back to the paddock for some food and a glass or two, to chat round the camp fire and go over the days events.
It wasn't always like that before we joined ACWS. The first re-enactment we went to there were a only a few people there, it was a small and not really very good society and frankly I got very bored. Soon we progressed to bigger events, but these were mainly carnivals and the like. I do have some fond memories though, like the time the fire engine sounded its siren and we went galloping off down the high street. Or the time when my rider hadn't quite worked out how to hook up his sabre, somehow it ended up hanging from my bridle whilst he tried to stop it swinging around my head.
The best time though was when we went to a local school to give a talk on the Civil War. We spent ages getting ready, grooming and cleaning all the kit and then we were allowed to demonstrate a cavalry charge on the school playing field. We trotted round a bit and then the guy on top shouted charge - so I did.
How was I to know that there was an overhanging branch, I was half way home before I realised he had gone, apparently hanging out of a tree complete with sabre extended. The teachers and the kids were in stitches and were so (un) impressed with our military skills that every child in the school sent me a drawing of Custerís last handstand. One child seemed to be especially concerned (the riders son) and so a teacher explained that both the horse and rider were experienced re-enactors, and therefore used to falling off etc. The child replied ď I am not upset - I am just so embarrassed!!
Unfortunately the old ticker is playing up a bit now, so I don't have the puff to come re-enacting anymore but I miss the smell of the powder and I really enjoyed my time with ACWS.
So next time you see us galloping towards you, remember we get scared too, but just like you we enjoy the thrill of the battle.
Footnote: Sadly, shortly after Phoenix wrote this article he passed away aged 24 (1979 - 2003) which is about 70 in horse years. He spent the last 4 Years of his life re-enacting with the 4th Michigan Cavalry.>/i>