Well, the story begins early this past spring when I saw my first cavalry battle at a reenactment. I had done the "hoopskirt" thing for a couple of encampments and had not really enjoyed it much at all. I was bored sitting in camp while all of the men were out having all of the fun! In April, our group went to Fort Pillow in Tennessee, though, and I was hooked! When Randy, our commander, suggested that I try portraying a soldier, I knew that I would never truly be happy until I could ride cavalry.
Randy started looking for a horse for me to shareboard, and by June, he had given me the name of an acquaintance of his who might be interested. I contacted her, but it seemed that she was in rather dire financial straits and was being forced to sell her horses. I could not afford what she was asking, but we wound up talking for a while, anyway. A week later, I received a call from her, this time telling me that she had found a buyer for her filly but when he came to pick her up, he began beating on her when she balked at being trailered. The woman rescinded the sale and told the man to leave her property. She called me the next day and told me that if I would give the horse a good home, I could have her.
So, after looking her over, having her vet-checked and getting a coggins test completed, I brought her home at the end of June to the farm where Randy keeps his horse. I started working with her right away. Her registered name is Bronze Award, but her previous owner had only called her Filly. Well, that just wouldn't do, so after some contemplation, I named her Akasha for Anne Rice's long-legged, black haired Egyptian vampire queen. It just fit! lol
It was obvious from the start that Akasha had been spoiled at her previous home. According to what I had been told, she had been two weeks away from her first race when Arlington International Racecourse had closed over almost two years ago. She had virtually no manners whatsoever, though, so I braced myself for the lessons to come. We started out by just handling her a lot. I had been around horses for my entire life, but this was the first time I had ever owned one of my own. I was ecstatic! It was a 25 year old dream come true.
In order to get Akasha accustomed to the commotion, etc., associated with a Civil War reenactment, we first took her out in one of the larger pastures. She was saddled, bridled and on a lunge line. Randy brought 4 blackpowder pistols with him. We started out with him approximately 10 feet away and with me on the ground holding the lunge line. He fired off six shots, and she did a lot of dancing and head tossing but for the most part took it very well. Next, I mounted her while Randy got a bit closer and held the lunge line. He fired 18 more shots, and believe me, it was quite a ride! She was a bit more animated with me in the saddle, but all in all, she did very well.> We next took her with us to a couple of reenactments and stood her on the sidelines to get her accustomed to the commotion. At the first one in August, she did wonderfully, appearing more interested in the activities of the horses on the battlefield than the gun- and cannon-fire. The problems seemed to come up, though, in her one-on-one interactions with me. So, we went home after that one, I did some reading, and then we started some round pen work. I was amazed at how well she responded. When I took her to the next reenactment in September, after only 3 weeks of round pen work, those who knew us and had seen us at the previous one, teased me that someone had slipped me a different horse because she was so well behaved.
At this larger event, Akasha and I took our positions next to the artillery--a row of 6 cannons and a mountain howitzer. Again, she did beautifully, concentrating more on the horses and the activities on the battlefield than on the cannons going off next to her. A few head tosses here and there and circles around me, but that was it. Another horseman that we knew who had trained thoroughbreds in the past was amazed at how calm she was and asked for the opportunity to ride her in the next day's battle. I was not ready to do it myself and was intrigued at the thought of an opportuntiy to watch another rider work with her. After conferring with my commander, we agreed that he would ride her alongside Randy for the> next battle.
She did wonderfully, to say the least. I had positioned myself with an artillery unit on the battlefield where I could keep an eye on them, but aside of a few balks, she behaved beautifully.
Two weeks later, at the next reenactment, Randy suggested that I try her in a battle. I would run messages between the field commander and the other units. I was nervous, but I agreed. Before the battle, we got her ready, complete with a tie-down and neoprene girth which are non-negotiable essentials in our unit. We positioned ourselves on the battle, standing within the artillery lines, and when the cannons began firing she behaved like a trooper. Again, some head tossing to the extent she could due to the tie-down, but other than that, she stood when told and moved when told but always with one ear cocked, listening to me. We moved in and out of the six cannons as they were firing, through line upon line of infantry, surrounded by firing cannons, muskets, pistols, men yelling, yet she did not fight nor protest once.
I was euphoric by the time the battle was over, and we participated the next day, too, with essentially the same effect except that this time, we were able to move around the battlefield independently (Randy had been at my side for the previous day's battle), and she actually seemed to enjoy it! I think that's when I really knew that we were going to be all right! lol
We were all geared up for the last reenactment of the season until I got injured a week before. Apparently, she saw a "monster" in the grass as we were out trail riding, and the rest is history. We are hoping, though, to do a living history presentation or two during the rest of fall and winter, though, and then the big project is to teach her to neckrein before the reenacting starts again in the spring. It is very difficult to fire a pistol while on a horse that plow reins! lol But she has taken so quickly to everything else that I don't think it will be much of a problem.
On the Forrest Trail: Reenacting Site