The U.S. Cavalry provided the foundation for the equestrian industry of the U.S. It wasn’t until 1912 in Stockholm that equestrian pursuits were routinely included in the Olympics. Led by Capt. Guy Vernor Henry Jr. the first U.S. team was fielded from the U.S. Cavalry.
In fact, until the cavalry was disbanded in 1948, every single U.S. equestrian Olympic team was made up of members of the cavalry or U.S. Army equestrian team; civilians were not invited to take part until the Helsinki games in 1952, the same year women were first allowed to compete in Olympic equestrian events.Harry Dwight Chamberlin was born in Elgin Illinois in 1887. Following graduation from West Point in 1910 Chamberlin was commissioned a lieutenant of Cavalry and posted to Custer’s famed 7th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Lieutenant Chamberlin’s early Army career were spent fulfilling the duties of a cavalry officer and he came to command of a troop of cavalry in the Garry Owen Regiment. Then in 1916 hr was a promoted to Captain and assigned to West Point as an instructor of Cavalry tactics.
Captain Chamberlin met one of the most influential cavalry officers and horsemen of the twentieth century, Lieutenant Colonel Guy V. Henry
Returning to Fort Riley after WWI Chamberlin was assigned to the department of horsemanship. He earned a position on the 1920 US Equestrian Team which was preparing for the 1920 Olympics. The 1920 Olympics Harry Chamberlin competed in both the "Military" as the Three Day Event was then called, and in the Prix de Nations (Prize of Nations) show jumping.
From 1925-1927 Harry Chamberlin was stationed at Fort Bliss,Texas where he taught horsemanship and played polo. With his leadership, the 8th Cavalry Polo team won championships in 1925 and 1926. In addition toplaying polo his regular duties and responsibilities.
Commanding a cavalry squadron of more than 300 troopers and 500 horses. His squadron patrolled the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Chamberlin returned to Fort Riley in 1927 to serve in the department of horsemanship. Here Harry formally instituted the more forward riding, the balanced seat accompanied by a shorter stirrup became the basis for all of the horsemanship instruction at Fort Riley. Many Riley graduates knew this forward for cross-country riding and jumping, as the "Chamberlin Seat."
He became a member of the Army Equestrian Team which competed at Madison Square Garden in New York, and across Europe. He was selected to the 1928 Army Equestrian team and competed in the Olympics in Amsterdam.
Harry Chamberlin was captain of the record making Army Olympic team in 1932 . Once again he competed in 3 Day Event, winning team gold, and also in Show Jumping where he won the individual silver medal.Harry Chamberlin’s five qualities needed to become a good horseman.
- a normally alert mind
- a mind with an analytical turn asking “how” and “why”
- average physique
- regular practice
- theoretical knowledge
Harry Chamberlin was responsible for the riding instruction of thousands of men during his career and he he oversaw the training of more men than horses. His training and teaching produced the generation of American Cavalrymen, who trained the civilian riders in the decades after the Cavalry was dismounted in 1946-47.
Because of his ability to lead men, understand horses, and comprehend the various theories of horsemanship and relate those concepts in ways that could be understood by the average cavalryman, Harry Chamberlin was probably the finest horseman ever produced by the U.S. Cavalry. He was a soldier and a horseman, laying foundation for modern riding in the U.S.
Chamberlin’s method not only became models for the balanced seat/eventing riders and the forward seat/hunter riders, he effected stock seat/western riders through men like Monte Forman and John Richard Young (The Schooling of the Western Horse 1961).
"Every rider is a horse trainer." - Monte Foreman
The most important principle that transfers from the Fort Riley/Balanced Seat to any kind of riding is the rider’s base of support, which is the lower body. It is there that the rider must balance and keep the upper body quiet. This is called muscle group separation.
One of the western riders from Fort Riley who went on to become well known was Monte Forman. Forman who delveloped the ‘Basic Handle’ system, was amongst the last of the instructors at the U.S. Calvary School at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was at the Cavalry School where he discovered the value of using film in the training program of the soldiers learning to ride. Foreman used the training methods he learned in the Cavalry to develop a program that could train both horse and rider, to move together as one, as quickly as possible. The rider being made to understand the mechanics of the horse. After leaving the military at the end of WWII, Foreman went to work at the legendary King Ranch in Texas. At the King Ranch he ran the horse training and horsemanship programs, and further developed the principles used in the ‘Basic Handle’
In writings published from 1951 to 1954 in the Western Horseman magazine Monte Foreman made reference to Chamberlin’s writings, as published in Riding and Training Horses, and Training Hunters, Jumpers and Hacks
Figure 1: “Excellent jumping: rider's weight in heels; balance perfect; hands light; horse contented and free”
Figure 2: "Correct form during descent. Note rider's weight in heels and on knees; seat out of saddle; hands feathery light" (In many outfits cavalrymen were taught to jump at least three feet without stirrups, maintaining the same form. It can also be done bareback, riding the same place, same form.)
Figure 3 "Correct form in landing. Weight received principally in heels; seat kept out of saddle by stiffening knee joints and setting muscles of back; hands low and soft; loins free of rider's weight which allows painless engagement of hind legs under the belly as they come to ground." (This is the best way invented so far to ride in balance and is timed with the horses actions. Any time the rider's timing or balance is lost, he must hang onto something with his hands, usually ending up with something like English riders over the Liverpool Ditch.)
This program successfully served the needs of the US military, it also created a ripple effect in the U.S. economy and created the basis for today’s horse industry in the US. From 1914 to 1918 it is reported tht the Army purchased more than a half million horses at a cost of about $150 each, pumping an estimated $82.5 million into the agricultural economy of rural America.
The military's rigid purchasing standards were the motivating factor for obtaining the quality bloodlines seen in many of today's horses, across multiple breed lines.
"This has probably been the best-kept secret in the horse industry," said Phil Livingston, one of the oauthors of “War Horse: Mounting the Cavalry with America's Finest Horses”. He went on to say, "These Remount studs were among the finest in the country. And with the extensive breeding that was going on, they helped establish a foundation of great horses. There are very few Paints, Palominos, Quarter Horses and Appaloosas that cannot trace their lineage back to these great studs. Not only that, but the Remount program vastly increased the horse population-of not just horses, but great horses-and we've been seeing the results from that for years."
His co-author, Ed Roberts agreed. Who at one time ran one of the fastest growing breed asociation in the US -- the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) -- he has seen the connection to the Remount Program, first-hand.
"Today's horse industry, without a doubt, owes a lot to the war horse," Roberts said. "The large breeding pool that was established by the U.S. Remount Service became the core of the superior stock that helped shape some of our most popular breeds today."
The Remount Service maintain excellent records, which allowed for some extensive pedigree research for their book, "War Horse." The depth of this research into individual horses is illustrated by the heritage of Roy Rogers' mount, "Trigger," whose forebears are to be found in the U.S. Remount Service breeding program.