It was created in 1967 and today represents the USMC in rodeos and parades

Mounted Color Guard, the last cavalry unit of the United States Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps is the largest naval infantry corps in the world, but it doesn't just have infantry.

The Polish Army uses the cavalry to defend its borders once again
The myth of Polish cavalry charges against tanks in September 1939

Marines and horses are not two worlds that seem closely associated, but this Wednesday I came across this photo on the Flickr account of the 1st Infantry Division "Big Red One" of the US Army, which I have subscribed to for years:

The photo was taken at Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world's largest rodeo, held every summer in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The riders behind in red shirts are soldiers from the "Big Red One", but in front of them we can see Marines on horseback. The image pleasantly surprised me. The Marines have some of the most beautiful military uniforms I know, and seeing them on horseback offers a picture worthy of the best military regalia of yesteryear.

I kept looking and found this other photo from the same event. It is curious to see US Marines in riding boots and jockey pants. But which unit do they belong to? Unlike the US Army, whose history has been closely linked to horses, cavalry has historically played a very token role in the Marines.

Although the Marines had occasionally used horses during the 19th century, the first USMC cavalry unit, the Mounted Detachment, was formed in China in 1912, after the outbreak of the Chinese Revolution of 1911. That detachment on horseback, known as the "Horse Marines", consisted of 16 horsemen and was part of the guard of the diplomatic delegation of the United States in Beijing. In the mid-1930s their number increased to 32 riders. Later there were other Horse Marine units in Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, Hawaii, Iceland and elsewhere.

The photos you can see here are of the Mounted Color Guard, the last USMC cavalry unit. This unit was created at the Marine Logistics Base in Barstow, California, in 1967. There are currently nine riders.

Today, the Mounted Color Guard represents Marines at rodeos, parades, and other events, especially in Midwestern states where there is a strong agricultural culture but little presence of USMC, so this unit also serves as an occasional recruiting flag in those locations.

The first horses of this unit were bought by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lindsley, its founder, going to Utah with 600 dollars. Today, the Mounted Color Guard purchases its horses through the Horse and Burro Program of Carson City, Nevada. These Marine riders don't enjoy many amenities and often sleep in their trucks instead of hotels wherever they travel, in the USMC tradition of austerity.

You can learn more about the Mounted Color Guard in this video published a few months ago by the Marines Youtube channel:


Photos: U.S. Marine Corps / First Infantry Division U.S. Army.

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