By Scott Prater
Lt. Col. Dan Burtz studied his target, gauged his distance and steadied his nerve. With a slight kick of the stirrup, he signaled his horse to run. In a full gallop, he unsheathed his sabre and swung deftly as he rode past the target.
It all happened so fast, Burtz could barely tell if his effort had produced the intended result, but when a pair of sliced melons dropped to the turf he knew this ride was indeed successful.
The next time Burtz rode down the course, he attempted to thread his sabre through a dangling ring, and the next time, he used a pistol to shoot a balloon while his horse, Peponita, jumped over an obstacle.
In all, Burtz, 50th Standardization and Evaluation section chief, competed in seven events at the National Cavalry Competition Sept. 18-22 at Fort Riley, Kansas and he left with more than his share of hardware. He took third place in Combat Horsemanship, third in Military Horsemanship and garnered a first-place medal in Authenticity for his portrayal of an 1861 Dragoon Trooper. A Dragoon is a Soldier who typically rode into battle on horseback, but dismounted and fought on foot once he reached the front line.
Not bad for a first-time competitor.
An avid horseman and cavalry re-enactor for much of the past decade, Burtz has always been stationed on either coast during past cavalry competitions, which he said usually take place at installations in the country’s midsection.
“This year, I was fortunate to be stationed at Schriever when the competition was held in Kansas,” he said. “But, I made the decision to compete about a month before the event, so I didn’t have much time to train. Thankfully, I received some help from the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard.”
The FCMCG’s full-time mission is to replicate the U.S. Cavalry from the 1800s, perform ceremonies on Fort Carson and at local parades and rodeos, educate the local community about horses and keep the cavalry tradition alive.
Army Master Sgt. Shawn Farnsworth of FCMCG invited Burtz to Fort Carson for training and said he got the most out of two days as was possible.
“He didn’t know quite what to expect and his horse had never jumped before so I rode one of our horses around, we played follow the leader and she [Peponita] figured it out,” Farnsworth said. “This experience, I think, worked well for both us and Lt. Col. Burtz. He executed the pointers we gave him and scored points during the competition and we gained someone in our cavalry who has extensive knowledge about the history and authenticity of the topic.”
According to Farnsworth, who also competed along with his team at the event, Burtz’s interpretation of an 1861 Dragoon Trooper was spot on.
“He looked great,” Farnsworth said. “His equipment was accurate and he really represented what the Army Cavalry looked like at the time. We made him an honorary member of our team and even asked him to lead our formation during the pass and review at the end of the competition.”
Next year’s U.S. Cavalry Competition is slated to take place at Fort Carson and Burtz is already prepping for it.
“This is a hobby so I don’t want to get too serious about it,” he said. “I’m pleased, however, with the way Peponita performed, especially not having jumped before. She has a good temperament and an easy-going personality and I’m excited to compete again. I plan to improve. Now that I’ve been through this experience I know what to practice and get repetition on, so next time I’ll be more prepared.”
For people who want to learn more about cavalry history or re-enacting Civil and Indian War battles, Burtz recommends visiting the U.S. Cavalry Association website at