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Parsons Mounted Cavalry

Stephanie Cannon '06 July 29, 2013 12:53 PM

Financial support of the Parsons Mounted Cavalry is just one of the many ways Texas A&M is impacted by the generous donors to The Association's Annual Fund. Click to see more ways in which your gifts make an impact on Texas A&M students, faculty and staff.

For its size, the Parsons Mounted Cavalry is one of the most visible student groups in Aggieland. From Aggie Ring Days, where the firing of the famed Spirit of ’02 cannon serves as the starting gun, to their dependability to incite celebration during an Aggie football game, the Cav is involved in much of what makes the Aggie Spirit so great.

They attend military funerals, march in parades and represent Texas A&M across the state.

As event requests flow into the office of the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, the cadets in charge are faced with a list of decisions.

“For instance, I’ll tell you about when we went to the Battle of Flowers Parade in San Antonio,” said Travis Gardner ’14, the Cav’s commanding officer. Known for being long, loud and jovial, taking horses into a parade like the Battle of Flowers could have been disastrous. “It’s the most intense horse event I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been doing it for 50 years,” said Bob Byrns ’74, the Cav site manager and advisor. 

The clip-clop clip-clop of the horses’ hoofs could hardly be heard over the roar of the crowd. Horns blared, people cheered, and the Aggie Band played the War Hymn as they marched in front of the horses.

“It’s hard to duplicate a scenario more demanding,” Byrns said, but because of the work put in by cadets, the horses excelled.

“The Cav is a unique learning opportunity for students,” Byrns said. When you are responsible for horses, everything is critical, “there’s no busy work.”

If you tie a horse incorrectly or girth them incorrectly, there will be consequences. If you hitch up a team incorrectly, the horses can run away. “These students put the horses through ride school and training,” he said. “They see these horses under stress and they themselves are under stress.”

The Cav owns 40 horses and four mules. They care for the horses, barns and fences. The horses need to be fed twice a day, 365 days a year. They have two trucks, one tractor, seven trailers, and during football game days, “safely move a registered destructive device and fire it in front of thousands of people in Kyle Field,” he said. (Read the steps that go into firing the cannon as told by 2013 Cav Commander Travis Cardner ’14 on AggieNetwork.com.) They ride horses weighing 1,600 pounds around campus during Aggieland Saturday and hitch a team to pull a wagon through a path lined with thousands of people.

And most of these students have never been on a horse. “To learn to master an animal that is a lot bigger and a lot stronger than they are is a real critical lesson,” he said. “It has to do with finesse, not force.”

Because of that lesson, Byrns has former cadets that are now active in the military, leaders in business and serving as law enforcement. A former commander of the Cav went on to join the military and was deployed to Iraq. “He told me ‘I didn’t see anything as a commander that I didn’t already know how to deal with,” Byrns said. “There are lots of opportunities for leadership. What I tell these young men and women is that this is a leadership laboratory.”

Gardner said he’s been in several leadership positions before, but the Cav is different from all of them. While other organizations are about carrying out individual tasks, the Cav has taught him how to fulfill a mission.

This fall, the first football game will mark the Parsons Mounted Cavalry’s 40th anniversary for riding around Kyle Field. As a founding member, Byrns was there for the horses’ very first lap around Kyle. (Read about Byrns’ role in the founding of the Cav on AggieNetwork.com.) To celebrate, the organization is hosting a mini reunion Aug. 31 for the Cav’s founding members.

The Cav has a long history of making leaders. See how they're planning their future through the Equine Initiative.


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