Member's Guide


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Guide for Prospective Members:

Anyone interested in starting a new hobby or joining an organization often has many questions. To introduce prospective Black Horse members to our unit, we've put together this narrative that should be at least a good start at describing who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

Activities We Engage In:
The Black Horse participates in Civil War battle reenactments, living histories, presentations for the public, and films. We place strong emphasis on developing skills as a cavalryman, and members are expected to attend drills. Click here for more information on the types of events and activities in which we participate.

Average Black Horse Member:
He is a gentlemen horse owner whose hobby is riding but enjoys this historic twist to his equestrian pursuit. He is not extreme in his views about the Civil War. This is not a political organization.

 The average member is 52, works full time, and is married. Our youngest member is 12. Our oldest is 70. Some are retired. Most have kids who've grown up and left the nest. Others have pre-school and elementary school-aged children. About half our members served in the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps.

Must you have a black horse? Well, no. None of us are the first sons of wealthy pre-Civil War plantation owners and have the pick of a stable. You, as a new member, are going to bring the horse you have. Over the years, we've found that the horses best suited to cavalry reenacting are Quarter Horse geldings but we also have almost every breed represented in the unit including at least two Arabians, four TWH's, three Morgans, a Racking Horse, a Thoroughbred, an Argentine TB, an Appaloosa and many crosses: two QH/Morgan crosses, a QH/Paint cross, a Percheron-QH cross, a Percheron/TB cross, and at least four horses are mares. Thoroughbreds may be thought to have the toughest time adjusting to close order drill and gunfire but at least two that have been ridden in the unit seem to have coped satisfactorily.

Will the Black Horse Teach Me to Ride?
No, and Yes. We don't give riding lessons in a pure sense, but you will learn to ride in close order formation (kneecap-to-kneecap) at the walk, trot and canter. We prefer that novices and their horses have a fair amount of some trail experience. Many limited-experience riders have found a home in the Black Horse and matured into confident, determined horsemen. Whatever level you are, our experienced cavalrymen will take the time to work with you to make sure that you are safe and to build your confidence in yourself and your horse. If you want to work toward becoming an experienced cavalryman, there will always be encouragement and support. There will come a time when you will take the field at a reenactment with 10,000 infantry and 200 cavalry and feel comfortable with musket fire and artillery around you. You will not only be confident but feel a rush as the Black Horse charges into opposing forces with sabers drawn.

Will I Learn to Shoot?
Yes. The unit prides itself in using two firearms - the pistol and carbine. Both weapons are fired from horseback although the carbine is generally used dismounted - fighting on foot as skirmishers. 

If you are not familiar with firearms, we will teach you the basics. Both the pistol and carbine are loaded with of gunpowder and sometimes topped with an inert materal such as "Cream of Wheat" cereal. No lead ball, or bullet, or any other potential projectile is ever used. Even if we're not shooting but only carrying weapons, the unit's armorer always inspects weapons for safety. Ironically, the biggest difficulty associated with shooting is learning to clean and maintain the weapons so they go "Bang!" first time, every time (the horse, it seems, is more tolerant to us shooting off their back than the weapons are to the gunpowder residue that accumulates during firing). We stress safety and responsibility always with our firearms. They may be period pistols loaded with cereal but they are still capable of inflicting wounds. They will never be pointed or fired directly at a person or horse.

Reenacting ranks are de-emphasized in our unit. Everyone is a Private except the limited number of officiers, Sergeants, and Corporals. New members are "recruits" until after they have competently completed their first reenactment and, as such, are promoted to 'Trooper'. Unit leaders are elected. 

Trailering Your Horse:
Through the year, there are generally just one or two events more than 100 miles out of the area. Nearly all of our activities fall within a 70-80 mile radius centered on the Manassas Battlefield. Be the trip short or long, however, it's in your best interest to own a two-horse trailer and a vehicle to pull it. You can't count on bumming a ride all the time, but we do try to "trailer pool" as much as we can.

Weather Considerations:
The unit commander will cancel a drill if weather reports indicate it's prudent.

In approximate, big round numbers, you should be able to equip yourself fairly quickly with reproduction tack ($1500), basic uniform items ($400), and weapons ($1100) for about $3000. We are not "hard core" but we do make a real effort to be authentic, so please ask us for advice before you buy any horse equipage, uniforms or weapons. Depending on the unit's needs, annual dues can vary from $50 to $100. Don't immediately choke on these numbers. Getting outfitted properly takes some time so the cost is spread throughout the year. 

Tax Considerations: 
The members of the Black Horse Cavalry act as volunteers to the U.S. government (Manassas National Battlefield and other federal installations), State governments, local governments (Fairfax County, Prince William County), and various non-profit and charitable organizations. As volunteers we provide a service to those entities that cannot be afforded by them. We itemize most of our "out-of-pocket expenses" and deduct them on our individuals tax returns.

Uniforms & Equipment: 
Follow these links for information on our authenticity standards and for a list of recommended vendors.



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