Tradition is a powerful thing. Whatever form it takes, it brings people together and honors history.
Such is the 18th Annual U.S. Cavalry Competition, a national event held at Historic Fort Reno.
And this year, the event will be free to attend.
The event will be held Sept. 25-28. The competitors are members of different military units across the country. Around 75 people will be riding their horses over obstacles and taking part in various challenges. About 60 of the men and women are active duty soldiers, the rest being civilians.
Though the teams will be wearing attire to match certain periods in military history, the president of the U.S. Cavalry Association assures the competition will not be a simple re-enactment.
“This is competition,” said Bill Tempero. “This will show the way the troops were taught in the actual Cavalry.”
The art of riding horses into combat existed in the United States for nearly two centuries. The branch went by several names over the years, including the Mounted Riflemen or the Dragoons. By the time the Civil War rolled around, they went back to being called the U.S. Cavalry.
Today, there isn’t really an American Cavalry for armed conflict, but soldiers still mount on horseback for certain missions such as in Afghanistan and other locations. The practice may have gone away for the most part, but the Army’s Color Guard keeps the tradition strong through ceremony, training and competition.
Tempero has been president of the Cavalry Association for 13 years and was involved with it at its inception. He said he is proud to be a part of the association. To him, the most important thing about the competition is the character shown by the soldiers.
“A lot of these soldiers have been wounded in action at some point, but they still have a good attitude. They’re happy to be alive, happy to serve, and they love horses.”
Tempero and his wife, Karen, come to Fort Reno every month to work at the Cavalry Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of Army memorabilia. This collection features saddles and weapons dating back to the Civil War and even the Revolutionary War in some cases.
As Bill and Karen give a tour through the museum, their faces beam. They know the history of most of the items by heart, and they are all too happy to show them to visitors.
They said they were particularly excited about the McClellan saddles, which were widely used in the mid-19th century. One of these saddles was on the back of a model horse that spent some time on display in Iraq.
“He’s an Iraqi horse veteran,” joked Bill, gesturing toward the model and saddle.
Karen said the museum, the competition and the organization itself serve a purpose.
“It’s important to continue educating people on the history of the Cavalry,” she said. “For the annual competition, I like to meet the people that come back every year. I enjoy watching the riders compete on the horses.”
Bill also said he’s especially proud of the historic figures involved with the Cavalry Association.
“One of the original members of the association was Ronald Reagan,” he said.
“He was an excellent horseman who loved the Cavalry. He was a part of the actual Cavalry in 1937, and then he joined the association when it started in 1976. This is heavy Republican country, so people will be real excited about that.”
This will be the fifth year the competition has been held at Fort Reno. Before that, the location changed nearly every year to a different part of the country.
“This is home,” said Bill. “We want to do it here from now on.”
The association will also be working with BlueSTEM AgriLearning Center to help educate visiting schoolchildren. Dozens of kids from various schools will be led in groups of 20 through several American history stations. Exhibits will include the Buffalo Soldiers, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
The competition will feature a variety of different challenges, each one providing entertainment. Events include Combat Horsemanship, Military Horsemanship, Mounted Pistol, Field Jumping, Mounted Saber, the Bolte Cup, the Major Howze Mobility Test and more.
The U.S. Cavalry Competition is supported locally by the Ashbrook Foundation.
The Cavalry Association is chiefly funded by donations. The group also raises money for the Army Hardship Fund, which helps the families of service members.
The Temperos have raised money for this cause for the past 30 years.
For more information, call 405-422-6330 or visit the Cavalry Museum at Fort Reno.