Zug, 18.06.2020

Camaraderie in the saddle over 125 years

The Kavallerieverein  Zug is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding. What began as purely military group is now a union of like-minded people. A look into its history shows that there have even been royal visits.

Formerly a military duty for cavalrymen, today a voluntary leisure activity for horse lovers: membership of  the Kavallerieverein Zug (Zug Cavalry Association). Founded in 1895, the purely military association had the aim and goal of maintaining the equestrian training, keeping the horses available for service and the camaraderie. 125 years after its foundation, however, the military aspect has largely disappeared, says President Susanne Zürcher. "Although some structures and umbrella associations have still been preserved," she adds. For example, the name "Kavallerieverein". A vote to change the name has been submitted several times at general meetings, but has failed each time. "And, in the end, it is nice that the origins of the association remain recognisable in the name."

Susanne Zürcher has been with the club for 17 years and knows it correspondingly well. "The association has become more open over the years and decades," she says, describing the changes. This is confirmed by Alois Hegglin, who has been a member for 55 years and also witnessed the military period of the Kavallerieverein. He has been involved in various functions, such as a trainer, the material manager and president of the association. He currently acts as president of the 45 Zug cavalry veterans. "Many things have changed," he testifies: "The mood is much more pleasant without the strict hierarchy."

Photo 1: A large parade took place in 1991 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary
Photo 2: The Kavallerieverein was originally a military matter. The program also included long distance rides, such as a two-day ride in 1931.
Photo 3: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (left) in Zug in 1981
Photo 4: A show- jumping competition in 2018.

Instead of military duty – because members of the military cavalry had to join the association – it has become a union of like-minded people. "Unlike in the past, women and civilian riders are now allowed to participate," admits the President. The association accepted its first woman as an active member in 1959, and Vreni Dossenbach became the first female president in 1990. Women actually dominate today, with around three-quarters of the 200 members being female.

Several days in the saddle
But it’s not only the composition of the club that has changed, but also the basic handling of the horse and the purpose of the club. Alois Hegglin remembers his beginnings at the club. "Back then, it wasn't just about horseback riding." The material, the condition of the saddle and the horse were also checked, and stable inspections were carried out from time to time,. "Two times a year, it was also necessary to report how diligently the cavalrymen took part in exercises." And the horses were kept much busier: "In the past, the animals were used to draw carriages or pull the plough during the week, and travelled to the tournaments on the weekend."

He adds: "There were few tractors on the farms in those days." In the past, he used to ride with the cavalry club to the jumping grounds in Wädenswil or Schwyz. "We left at 3 o'clock on Sunday morning and returned on Monday in the morning," he says with a smile. They also rode to the military repetition courses (WKs) in Hallau (SH) – this took one day and one night.

Things are different at the Kavallerieverein nowadays. The "Rösseler" now use a trailer to go to the tournaments. But the camaraderie, which was already a goal at the time of its foundation, has remained. "We create something by working together, and we pursue a passion," says Susanne Zürcher. "That's the biggest thing." nods Alois Hegglin approvingly.

Organiser of many major events
The association has many activities: there is a wide range of courses and trainings for horse and rider training, and the Kavallerieverein also takes on the task of linking with the public in the interest of the riders. And also offers horse lovers a platform for exchanges. "The association also guides the riders a little." Thanks to the camaraderie in the club, various events have taken place. Last but not least, the Zug show jumping competition is a flagship of the club, which it has organised for more than 100 years. Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled this year because of the corona pandemic. "The show jumping competition is the main event in which we invest a lot of time and energy," says Susanne Zürcher. This event has also grown over time and has gained in popularity. "As a child, I was always there to watch with my parents," she recalls. Even today, she sees that many people from Zug are attracted to the big event and watch some of the rides. The jumping competition in Alois Hegglin's childhood was different. While admission is now free, it cost two francs at the time and the area was fenced. "That was still a deterrent for many, so you didn't just pass by quickly to see," he says. The "Rösseler" were more among themselves.

Blue-blooded celebrities in Zug
Some other tournaments were also real highlights in the club's history. In 1981, for example, the European Four-in-Hand Championship took place in Zug. As can be read in the 100th anniversary book of the Cavalry Association, around 100,000 equestrian enthusiasts found their way to Zug in one day. Among them royal celebrities: Prince Philip of England, the Duke of Edinburgh, attended the big event. According to Manfred Ciotto, then OK president of the championship, the Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed his stay – and a coffee kirsch here and there.

New standard for the anniversary
The great Military in Deinikon was also a success a few years later, and was organised on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the association. According to reports in the Zuger Zeitung about the competition weekend in 1992, the event attracted a strong field of participants and provided some "spectacular" sport on the approximately four-kilometre-long off-road track.

Susanne Zürcher and Alois Hegglin remember these events with pride. "Thanks to dedicated members, beautiful memories have been created that are still being talked about today." Committed, that's what the active members are to this day. But, like many clubs, the Kavallerieverein has to work hard to attract young talent. "Winning new members is a challenge," says Zürcher. At the moment, however, the association tends to see an increase." Which may also be due to the fact that riders who want to start at a concours have had to belong to a club again for some time. "The mentality is now different," says Zürcher. It is no longer as self-evident as it used to be to join a club. "Those who belong to it are very faithful souls," she continues.

The 125th anniversary was to be duly celebrated at the show jumping competition. As the Corona virus has put a stop to these plans, the celebration has been postponed until next year. And there will be a special feature: the association will receive a new standard.

Note: Further information about the club and trainings can be found on the website  www.kvzug.ch