Cavalry Qualification

by Michael Blum

With information from War Department manual TR 50-70 "Saber Exercise", June 21, 1926

"In the vigor and rapidity of his attack, in the strength of his arm, and in the correct position of his body lie both the trooper's best protection against an opposing weapon and his greatest chance of success in overcoming his adversary."

"One of the principal results sought in a course of instruction in riding is to increase the effectiveness of the pistol and saber when employed by the trooper in mounted action. In civil life there are specialties in horsemanship, as, for instance, to be a good breeder, a good judge of horses, a good driver, or a good rider in races, in polo, in horse-show exhibitions. But in the Army to be a good military horseman it is essential that an officer or soldier possess, over and above all these excellent qualities, skill in the use of arms while mounted."

"... in order to complete the [qualification course] circuit within the time limit the trooper must ride his horse with a certain confidence, dash and spirit. In order to make the sharp turns and pass the obstacles encountered en route, he must be fairly proficient in the use of the aids and have a good seat; and, finally, in order to pierce each target, and in good form, he must be strong and energetic in action and quick, accurate and fearless in bearing down upon an adversary at full speed and in delivering the attack at the right moment."

The qualification course is about 435 yards in length (effectively 400 meters), with various turns and swerves; there are 20 dummies (high, low and prone), 3 jump obstacles and a ditch. All of the jumps or obstacles have a dummy associated with them, except the last jump; thus there are 21 'things to do' (attack or control the horse). The course must be completed in 100 seconds, and none of the obstacles may be avoided. Completion in less than 90 seconds, missing none of the dummies and showing excellent form, is required for the Expert Swordsman qualification badge; even a bare qualification (as Swordsman) requires hitting at least 16 dummies perfectly within 90 seconds. Probably, a trooper qualifying as Swordsman would miss two or three dummies and show poor form on a few more -- but still all within 90 seconds. Between Swordsman and Expert Swordsman is the grade of Excellent Swordsman.

To have a 50% chance of making 20 successful attacks, the individual attacks have to average 96.5% chance of success (this is ignoring the increased difficulty of the obstacle dummies). The horses are moving at 4.4 meters per second through the course to finish in 90 seconds, about 10 miles an hour. The record for dirt-track race horses is 39 miles per hour over a mile distance; steeplechase horses move along at more like 20 to 25 miles per hour.

Runequest/Call of Cthulhu/BRP: Horses have an average DEX of 13 per RQ III; they thus have ten strike ranks to move in a twelve second turn; on the qualification course, this translates to just over 5 meters per strike rank -- hmm, about half of the Move 10 given . We will ignore the fact that RQIII characters have to make a skill roll at 1/2 of their usual skill level to hit a location (such as the head); this should make up for the non-moving character of the dummies. The riders presumably have a Saber skill of 95%, and a Riding skill of 95% (since mounted weapon attack skills cannot exceed Riding skill).

Hero System: A 15- roll has a 95.4% chance of success; the dummies have a DCV of four, being head-sized. If sabers give a +1 bonus to OCV, the soldier must have an OCV from Dexterity and skill of 7 to qualify as an Expert Swordsman (maybe 8 or 9 to add that quality of 'good form' required -- as opposed to barely hitting the target); a barely qualified Swordsman could be as little as a 4 OCV from Dexterity and skill combined. Of course, a skilled individual might be unlucky, or an inept one can be lucky; the element of chance is reduced by having 21 actions to perform, though. Including starting, there is an action required every four seconds on the average (Speed 3). The horses move about 2" per segment -- 8" per Speed 3 phase. If the attacks are all 'half-moves,' then a full combat move for a horse is 16" per phase at Speed 3.

"In an individual attack with the saber it is essential that the trooper retain the fullest control of his horse. It is also essential that he should not divulge the manner in which he intends to use his saber until he is very close upon his adversary. His adversary will not have time then to avoid the attack or adopt a counter measure. It has been prescribed, therefor, that in approaching to the attack the trooper bear down upon his adversary at full speed, the saber at the Guard, and that the actual attack should be delivered in the form of a lunge at the right moment directly at his adversary's body."

"In a collective attack, however, as when a squad, platoon, troop or squadron charges in line, it is not so essential that the trooper actually guide his horse; moreover, the more threatening the aspect of the approaching attack, the greater will be the adverse effect upon the morale of the enemy. Therefore, in the charge in line, the position of Charge Saber is assumed at the command: CHARGE, which is usually given at a distance of 60 yards from the enemy. The position of Charge Saber is then held until collision with the enemy, the effectiveness of the attack being dependent upon the determination with which the charge is made. Upon collision with the enemy, the attack in line may be followed by a melee; the action of each trooper thereafter is that of an individual, and his saber should be held and used accordingly."

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Page first created Friday, February 15, 2000
Page last modified Saturday, August 6, 2005 11:07 PM