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March 10, 2014

Upholding legacy of the Cavalry

11 ACR Troopers earn their spurs

A total of 83 Troopers from 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment earned their spurs in a time-honored unit event called the Spur Ride, Feb. 2-3.

Although the Cavalry no longer use horses tactically, the Spur Ride remains a long-standing tradition adopted by the United States Cavalry, dating back to the days of knighthood. While Spur Rides vary from unit to unit, the traditions all center on a heritage of horsemanship.

A Trooper throws a simulated hand grenade during a Spur Ride held by 1st
Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center.

First Lt. Andrew Roland, with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1/11 ACR, served as the officer-in-charge of the planning and execution of the squadron Spur Ride. Roland explained that candidates are referred to as “shaved tails” – a name that is derived from the days when cavalrymen were mounted on horseback. Spurs were not given to Troopers new to riding since a new rider’s lack of experience could present a danger to those around him. When a new Trooper arrived to their unit and received their horse, the mare’s tail would be shaved.  The bare tail warned other cavalrymen that the rider was inexperienced in handling the animal and room should be given for him to maneuver.

“By the time the horse was able to grow out its tail, the Trooper was considered trained and that horse was able to join him in combat from there on,” Roland said.

Spur Rides are seen as a rite-of-passage. They are not what some often confuse with a form of hazing. Hazing typically involves punishment as a rite-of-passage with no defined purpose; a Spur Ride creates a controlled stressful environment for candidates in order to promote teamwork – a crucial necessity for all Army training and more importantly, any battlefield.

Spur Ride candidates began separated into squads before rotating through several training stations involving everything from dismounted patrols to using hand grenades.  Only after shaved tails proved proficiency could they road-march back to garrison to be awarded their spurs. From then on, Troopers can wear the coveted spurs on their boots during military ceremonies.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I know what I am doing, to show that I can do this and uphold the legacy of the cavalry,” said Pfc. Ryan C. Abbott, a newly-made spur holder assigned to HHT, 1/11 ACR.

Traditions are passed down from one generation to the next, whether it is being told or shown to new spur holders.  “Being able to pass the knowledge that I had gained when I went through the Spur Ride makes me feel like I am a mentor to the new candidates,” said Spc. Caleb J. Smith, a Spur Ride lane walker from HHT, 1/11 ACR. “It makes me feel good that I was able to show these new spur hopefuls the ropes. Once they are inducted into the [Order of the Spur], there will be a feeling of camaraderie amongst us that wasn’t there before,” Smith said.




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