The spirit of the Old West was alive on the first day of the Pendleton Round-Up, but only the audience that stayed behind for the post-rodeo barbecue got to see some mounted shooting.
A dozen members of the First Infantry Division Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard lingered just outside a west-end gate into the arena, catching glimpses of the tail-end of the rodeo before several trucks drove on the field to begin setting up the barbecue.
As guests received their dinner and began settling into the tables, the color guard strode out onto the arena on horseback, shaking each others hands and exchanging high fives.
It wasn’t long before the color guard members and their horses were jumping barriers, often brandishing a saber or revolver to pop balloons that had been attached to poles or the ground.
As diners swarmed the soldiers after the show finished, it was hard to believe that some of the men who had just conducted target practice on top of a moving animal had as little as six months of experience on horseback.
Horsemanship is not a requirement to join the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard, formed in 1992 and based in Fort Riley, Kansas.
First Sgt. Jason Therkelsen explained how the infantrymen and engineers and other disparate Army positions who have already served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sign up for a two-year tour on horseback.
Color guard members go through 30 days of horse training, including 40 hours on bareback before traveling to