The art of riding in formation is deeply meshed in the military, ceremonial and civilian histories of nations on all continents.Drill team maneuvers first began on the battlefield, where to effectively move horse soldiers around (the field), there had to be some semblence of order. The order was created through riding drills, which helped soldiers learn to ride more skillfully and in unison. As a result, each troop became a team better prepared for battle.
Prior to the mechanization of cavalry units and the transfer of U.S. equestrian sports leadership to civilian entities, drill competition was principally a military exercise. In the 1930's, drill team competition was a popular feature of horse shows throughout America, including the National Capital Horse Show in Washington, DC and the National Horse Show held at Madison Square Garden in New York. The legendary horseman John Clarke, an officer in the 9th U.S. Cavalry, helped to train and coordinate U.S. Army drill teams that successfully competed against many of the world's best, including members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, known internationally for their famous 'Musical Ride'.
The same type of maneuvers used by the cavalry can be used by riding clubs to create a sense of teamwork among members. Not everyone is interested in show ring competition, so a drill team offers them another avenue for participating with their horse. They can ride with a group and feel successful.
Based Upon the fundamentls of Dressage (or training) and military formations, equestrian drill is a well established tradition in many parts of the world.
With a predominance of stock saddles and colorful western attire, and with the popular choice in theme music clearly skewed towards Country and Western, competitors may seem quite unrelated to the continental elegance epitomized by the famous horses and riders of the Spanish Riding School, Le Cadre Noir de Saumur or the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. To the knowledgeable horse person, however, the skills on display merely represent different branches of the same firmly rooted tree.