A week from tomorrow, on the field where generations of cavalrymen have mustered and drilled, three new graduates of the B Troop Cavalry Riding School will be ceremonially enlisted by the garrison commander. The graduation ceremony will be held on May 4, 2 p.m. on Brown Parade Field.
The graduates will be Troy Wilcox, Clara Venditto, and Anastasia Virden who will take their place as official members of B Troop, 4th Regiment, U.S. Cavalry (Memorial).
Formed in mid-1973 to keep alive the heritage and flavor of Fort Huachucaâ€™s cavalry beginnings, the troop originally was only a post ceremonial unit. Today, the members regularly attend civilian events and appear off-post than on.
B Troopâ€™s work may appear romantic, but it is far from dreamy. In fact, for the more avid members, B Troop is practically a second, full-time job, considering that most appearances are on weekends. Members spend many hours of preparation for each performance. But the troopers volunteer their time freely and display the confident care, esprit and pride that come from being in the horse cavalry and knowing they are a U.S. Army and Fort Huachuca showcase unit.
The three graduates have completed a school that began in mid October. Spending months bouncing on surly cavalry mounts in all kinds of weather, the three have shown they have the mettle to ride for the Army. It is no small feat to finish the riding school. It takes skill, determination and a bit of luck to make it to the end.
Student riders must demonstrate skill at controlling a horse at all gaits including a full gallop as well as being able to wield weapons from horseback. Since many factors can cause a student to leave the school, they also all need a fair amount of luck to avoid injuries or new developments in their personal and professional lives that interfere with completing the school.
The students began with basic horsemanship training in Phase I lasting from October to December. During this phase, students learned balance while riding bareback and how to control a horse in precise patterns while in formation and while riding solo.
When Phase II began, after the holiday break, Wilcox focused on ceremonial riding while the ladies concentrated on sidesaddle riding.
Ceremonial riding involved learning the cavalry riding demonstration pattern and how to safely use weapons while on horseback. Students also learned how to conduct cavalry charges both in the arena and in an open field.
The ladies must learn the peculiarities of sidesaddle riding. With only one leg available for cueing the horse, they must learn how to use a riding crop as their right leg while balanced atop the bulky sidesaddle.
Upon graduation, Wilcox will enter B Troop as a cavalry private while the two women will join the Ladies Auxiliary.
All three graduates had at least some previous riding experience, although none is required. Wilcox grew up on a ranch in Colorado where his father raised quarter horses. He is a Navy helicopter pilot assigned to the Joint Interoperability Test Command.
Venditto is a local who has been riding for many years. She is a member of the United States Pony Club and is a riding instructor for the Cochise Area Network of Therapeutic Equestrian Resources. She is employed by Raytheon here on Fort Huachuca.
Virden had only recently started riding before entering the school, but has been an enthusiastic learner. She is employed by Northrop Grumman and is a contractor on Fort Huachuca.
During the graduation ceremony, Wilcox will receive his cavalry spurs while Venditto and Virden will receive monogrammed riding crops. This will be the first time that a naval officer will graduate from the cavalry riding school and the first time that two ladies will graduate simultaneously.
The graduation ceremony will be open to the public, and everyone is invited to attend. Refreshments for guests as well as apples and carrots for the horses will be available in the gazebo on Brown Parade Field immediately after the ceremony.
B Troop will begin recruiting for another riding school soon. The exact dates have not been determined, but they will be announced on the B Troop Web site at http://www.huachuca.army.mil/pages/garrison/units/BTROOP/.