The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 29, 2013

Horses also train for battle scenes

The Hanover Evening Sun

GETTYSBURG — Despite relentless blasts from cannons and muskets, Ringo didn’t flinch when pompoms were inserted into his ears.

Ringo, a 17-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse, was tethered to a rope and surrounded by tall oak trees while a Civil War battle was recreated in the background.

“This is the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” said Bob Green, a retired cattleman and computer programmer. “I don’t let just anybody ride Ringo.”

Green, of Polo, Mo., and several of his horses were in Gettysburg on Saturday for Blue Gray Alliance re-enactment, part of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the town’s bloody battle.

“He’s a very intelligent horse,” Green said of Ringo. “He just picks things up so fast. He’ll do anything I ask him.”

To prepare his horses for the gunfire and screaming, Green recorded former battle re-enactments and played the noises via surround sound in his stables at home.

To protect the animals’ hearing during the reenactments, he places yarn pompoms in their ears.

“Some horses don’t like them at all,” Green said.

The same goes for saddles, which are typically custom-made to fit the horses, he said.

“If the saddles won’t fit, the horses let you know,” he said.

To make the battles realistic and authentic, the re-enactors pay close attention to detail where the horses and their gear -- which can cost roughly $1,200 per animal -- are concerned, Green said.

At night, the reenactors take turns watching over the horses to make sure they’re safe, Green said.

While the horses are trained to ignore the battle noise, they seem to be afraid of the portable bathrooms, Green said.

“I think they think it’s a people eater,” he said. “(The horses) don’t want anything to do with them.”

Roughly 400 horses are participating in the re-enactment events, Green said.

Lukas Riley of Mound City, Mo., and his horse Drifter also participated in the event.

“We use fireworks,” Riley said of training horses for Civil War re-enactments.

Drifter performs well in the mock battles and works at home on the farm, he said.

“I ride him to check fences,” Riley said. “He’s my best friend, pretty much.”