You can see an old-fashioned cavalry, live and in action at Fort Cavazos…for free! Every Thursday at 10:00 am, the Horse Cavalry Detachment of the 1st Cavalry Division does a Mounted Weapons Demonstration and Barn Tour that is open to the public.
I added this activity to our Fort Cavazos and Texas Bucket List when we first moved here, but I put it off for almost 3 years.
And why did I wait so long?!?
We had a great time at the Mounted Weapons Demonstration and Barn Tour! Not only was it fun and entertaining, but I learned so much there.
How to Watch the Demonstration
The Mounted Weapons Demonstration takes place at the Fort Cavazos stables outside of the main gate. Which is off of the TJ Mills exit from the interstate.
It’s open to the public, so you don’t need a military ID or even a visitor’s pass to attend. We didn’t get there and find parking until a few minutes after 10:00 and the stands were full. So, I recommend getting there a little early to get a seat.
After the demonstration, you can pet the horses, talk with the soldiers, and go on a barn tour.
Mounted Troopers Have a Long History
In the 1830s, what would become the 1st Cavalry Division protected settlers from hostile Native Americans as they traveled out west. Then, the division was known as the US Regiment of Dragoons and they patrolled the vast area from Minnesota to Arkansas. The cavalry was a crucial part of the success of the Indian Wars, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and even parts of the First World War.
It was 80 years ago that the last of the 1st Cavalry Division’s mounted Troopers traded in their horses for jeeps, trucks, and tanks. In 1943, after giving up their horses, 1st Cav Troopers were invading Japan at the height of WWII.
While horses are no longer used on the battlefield, the spirit and traditions of the Mounted Warriors that came before them live on in the Horse Cavalry Detachment at Fort Cavazos.
They Use 3 Historical Weapons
During the demonstration, you watch riders on horseback move into intricate synchronized formations while they shoot balloons, chop watermelons, stab sandbags, and thread rings onto sabers. All of these skills are directly from the Drill and Tactics Manual from 1874.
The weapons they used for these impressive feats are replicas of those used in the Indian Wars: an 1875 Model 45-70 Springfield ‘Trap Door’ Carbine, an 1875 Colt Revolver (known as the ‘Peacemaker’), and an 1860 Light Cavalry Saber.
There is also a Light Mountain Howitzer cannon that fired at the beginning of the demonstration.
Horse Cav Soldiers Don’t Wear Regular Camo Uniforms
The only soldiers ‘in uniform’ at the Mounted Weapons Demonstration and Barn Tour were the ones in the stands. The Horse Cav soldiers were wearing navy long-sleeved shirts, Wranglers, tall leather riding boots, and the standard black Cavalry hats.
Even the soldiers working in the shops and barn wore this non-traditional uniform. Except they sported regular work boots instead of riding boots.
The Soldiers Do Everything
One of the most surprising things I learned during the Barn Tour is that all of the leather items used by the Horse Cavalry Detachment are made by soldiers that work in the leather shop. They make saddles, boots, belts, and more!
The saddles were seriously impressive. They make and maintain all of the regular riding saddles, as well as the fancy saddles used in ceremonies.
In fact, our tour guide mentioned that it is cheaper to send someone from the unit to learn the saddle making trade and get certified than it would be to buy all of those saddles. Considering there are more than 30 horses in the detachment that each have their own saddle, it’s understandable.
Some of the soldiers assigned to the Horse Cavalry Detachment are also trained farriers. They make all of the horse shoes and take care of the horses’ hooves.
Mules Are Freaking Expensive
There is a separate group of Horse Cav soldiers that constitute the mule team. They take care of the 4 mules and the maintenance of the wagon that the mules pull.
And I had no idea until this Barn Tour, but a pair of working mules typically cost $20,0000-30,000!!
The pair that we saw came from an Amish community at a very steep discount, but still cost several thousand dollars. When I asked why they were so cheap, the tour guide said it was because they were lazy and difficult to work with.
I genuinely enjoyed seeing the Mounted Weapons Demonstration and Barn Tour at Fort Cavazos. The only thing that could have made it better would be cooler temps, as it was a 100-degree day.
My kids tolerated it, but I think they would have loved it when they were younger. They’re ‘too cool’ to get excited about petting horses these days.
I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area!