Riding with the Governor Generals Horse
Guards Cavalry Squadron has been one of my personal passions.
The traditions of the cavalry are the source
of the code, indeed the very word, of chivalry. As such, cavaliers
symbolise the ideals of another era: the symbiotic relationship
between man and beast; self-sacrifice; duty; gallantry; and personal
honour. In essence, then, the cavalry is proudly anachronistic, incompatible
with modern mores, and alien to the contemporary spirit of mechanised
And did I mention cantering about, waving a
musketeer's sword and lance, one tumble away from grotesque self-immolation?
Really, what more could any man ask for?
I stood down as an active member of the Cavalry Squadron when I moved to the Ottawa Valley. But no one ever really hangs up his spurs.
GGHG Mounted Swordsmanship Click image for my tent pegging page
GGHG Regiment at Arnhem 1945 Click image for the regiment's history
Role of the Horse Guards Cavalry Squadron
The Governor Generals Horse Guards, the
Governor Generals Foot Guards, and the Canadian Grenadier
Guards collectively form Canadas Household
Division, the branch of the Armed Forces notionally attached
to the vice-regal household. The Horse Guards are Canadas
sole Household Cavalry regiment, while the Foot Guards and the Grenadier
Guards are both Household Infantry regiments.
The Horse Guards rode to war on horseback from
its inception in 1810 until the First World War, when the regiment exchanged
its horses for armoured vehicles. However, it maintains
its ceremonial cavalry squadron to provide an equestrian guard on
occasions of state and moment, and to celebrate the abiding traditions of military
Today, the cavalry squadron is staffed by a combination of military
and civilian volunteers. The squadron remains under the command and control of the regiment's commanding officer, but it is formally incorporated as a not-for-profit, to operate without drawing upon public funds.
GGHG Remembrance Day Parade Click image for full photograph
Horse Guards Tack and Equipment
The official 1907 British Cavalry Training
manual famously held that, It must be accepted as a principle
that the rifle, effective as it is, can not replace the effect produced
by the speed of the horse, the magnetism of the charge, and the
terror of cold steel. Hence, as late as the Battle
of the Somme, château generals more enamoured with the
imagined romance of past wars than familiar with the real carnage
of modern combat stood ready to despatch wave after wave of young men in suicidal
cavalry charges, pitting swords against machine-guns and lances
In this context, it is, perhaps, easy to regard
the regalia carried by the Governor Generals Horse Guards
Cavalry Squadron as extravagantly out of place in the modern world.
However, these items are more than artefacts of another age, and far more than simple props of pageantry.
Members of the Horse Guards have wielded the same steel swords and red plumed helmets for more than a century.
Moreover, the pattern of these tokens were set by our antecedents
in the old world Household Cavalry regiments well before Samuel
de Champlain set foot in New France.
Our regalia symbolise our fellowship with the
cavaliers who came before us, and are the outward manifestations
of a covenant of public service unimpaired by the march of time
or the convulsions of fashion.
GGHG Cavalry Squadron at St James'
Cathedral Click image for the full photograph
Tent Pegging and Manoeuvres
The classic cavalry squadron public performance
is the musical
ride. Executed by groups of four to thirty-two mounted cavaliers,
the musical ride is a series of interlinked precision movements,
choreographed to martial themes, which develop and display the courage
of the horse and its mastery by the rider, the skills necessary
for formation deployment of cavalry in battle.
However, my favourite manoeuvres with the cavalry
squadron are the tent
pegging and skill-at-arms exercises. In the basic discipline, the
rider spears a course of ground targets; this has its origins in
the clash of horse versus elephant cavalry in the Indian Empire.
In ring jousting, the rider threads his weapon through a course of small
hoops suspended in mid-air; this mimics skewering mounted opponents
in battle. Both exercises can employ either the sword or the lance and both may include
jumping horses over obstacles.
GGHG Change of Commanding Officer Click image for my contact details
Anyone interested in learning more about the experience of volunteering with Governor Generals
Horse Guards Cavalry Squadron from the perspective of a rider should feel free to contact me.
Experienced riders may be inducted directly
into the squadron. New riders may take lessons with the junior troop, and join the squadron
once they become comfortable with essential equitation skills. The squadron itself is always eager to induct new members.
The squadron's stables are
in King City, 45km north-west of Toronto.