Infantry: November 17, 2002


The pictures of American Special Forces on horseback during the Afghanistan war were striking, and typical of how the Special Forces improvise no matter where they are. But there's more to this story than that. The Special Forces team was working with Northern Alliance warlord Dostum, and his men moving by horse, and the Special Forces had to as well if they wanted to keep up. But it got worse. Some of the trails they had to move along were three feet wide paths cut into the sides of mountains. On one side of the trail was the mountain, on the other was a long drop, in some cases over a thousand feet straight down. They often moved by night. Fortunately, the Special Forces team leader had been on the rodeo team when he attended a Kansas high school, and was an expert rider. None of the other eleven men in the Special Forces team had ever ridden a horse. The training for the new riders was brief and to the point. They were told to keep their downhill foot out of the stirrups and to lean uphill. That way, if the horse lost its balance, the rider would fall onto the trail as the pony went over the edge.. On particularly rocky parts terrain (Afghan rocks tend to be very sharp), the team commander ordered his men to travel with their rifle ready to shoot immediately any pony that bolted. Otherwise, the rider would be thrown and dragged to death over the sharp rocks. After a few days on horseback, the Special Forces troops were comfortable, if a bit sore, in the saddle. 


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