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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Equestrian Drill - Precision from the Mount

The fable of the centaurs through the mounts of the Calvary, equestrian drill has grown far beyond just the lead presentation of flags into today's Rodeos, Parades or Horse Shows. The dedicated riders compete across a nation judged by the event of presentation, dress, precise movement and complexity of the ride as the equestrian teams perform choreographed maneuvers to music.

Drill Teams often for the sole purpose of entertaining audiences still require utmost dedication from the members who participate. Uniformity showcasing everything from unique outfits of attire, horse tack and even some teams with perfectly matched horses, set out in venues showing a pride of heritage, abilities and team comradery.

Some competition venues have established special division for the novice, youth or rodeo to the most complex on the national level.  These team vary from size, as small as four riders know as Quad teams to large groups performing with over 20 plus riders. Teams regulate their themes, type of stock performing from at their discretion though all must perform following guidelines of competitive events rules.

Robert Lorbeer who has over 18 years of experience performing Equestrian Drill often instructs and Judges events. Robert complimented teams from coast to coast. "Drill exercises have long been part of any mounted organizations. Calvary, Sheriff Posse, Canadian Mounted Police. Although organization in California and Washington state have long supported drill competitions" commented Lorbeer.

"Judges look for many things as team compete. Precision in maneuvers, complexity, speed, originality of the exercise all share important values grading teams during the drill competitions. There are over 160 different maneuvers that teams may use while demonstrating their capabilities. Drill Teams include male and female riders although some teams may just be all male or female members. Drill Teams do have youth divisions and Adult division. Gary Bonner, Managing Director of  The United States Equestrian Drill Association which formed in 2004 headquarters in Van, Texas have helped unify rules and judging across the nation. Many long existing teams from California, Oregon and Washington state have contributed greatly perfecting this sport. Washington Ladies Riding Club Association-WLRCA  founded in 1980 create their Drill Team Handbook which had become a reference tool for other drill teams and associations," as Lorbeer continued.

The California Cowgirls Equestrian Drill Team had the honor to open each day during the The FEI World Equestrian Games sixteen day event held last September 2010 in Kentucky. The FEI World Equestrian Games comprised of the world championships for eight equestrian sports. They are held every four years, two years prior to the Olympic Games, and are recognized by the International Olympic Committee. As these equestrian sports are predominately English riding, this allowed the California Cowgirls Equestrian Drill Team to share "A Real Western Experience" - to a whole new crowd of equestrian enthusiasts.  They also had the privileged hosting and escort dignitaries and athletes in attendance during the World Games.


Valerie Kim Mathis Cranford is a member of the Lone Star Cowgirls (shown right) where several ladies just wanted to ride created their group. "Some of our girls found us on our web-site, but a lot of 4-H clubs have riding teams and some boarding facilities may have one or want to start one up. Riders come from all walks of life," state Valerie. "You do not have to qualify to go to the National competition. We are members of the United States Equestrian Drill Association. Summer is the big season for drill competitions but it is becoming popular and there will be a few more competitions in the fall this year," said Valerie.  

Questioned about the cost of Equestrian Drill, Valerie further stated, "Some teams have business and club sponsors.  We usually raise money for some of our expenses through fund-raising (raffles, dinners, silent auctions, etc.) A lot of ours is personal expense too. Most of the girls own their own horse although a few will borrow one. They are also required to purchase their own hats, belts and boots. The team provides blouses, chaps and pays for competition fees along with stalls at competitions or performances requiring overnight stabling." Valerie mentions that often non-members assist, such as Valerie's sister that helps make and sews many of the outfits. " We have a wardrobe closet full of beautiful costumes along with matching tack for the horses. We could not have this without the support from others like my sister," said Valerie.
"The Lone Star Cowgirls won First Place in Division 7 Adult Novice event, First Place Division 16-1 Adult Theme Quad event and Second Place in the Division 5A Adult Youth Competition held at SUPER RIDE XIII in Lindale, Texas additional represented as the Official Drill Team for the American Paint Horse Association during the 2010 Summer Paint World Show.

The National Championship at Super Ride XIII was award to the Spalding County 4-H Club, Georgia. The Equestrian Mounted Drill team has also won many awards including the Freestyle 4-H and Freestyle Open classes, earning the team 2010 Georgia 4-H and Georgia State Championships.  the Spalding County 4-H mounted drill team synchronized riding to the music medleys of  “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and “We Will Rock You” by Queen,  overwhelms judging and spectating  audience. “This is a national competition that’s against all age groups,” he said. “Many 4-H groups are out there and there’s 4-H divisions but the championship goes to the top team in the nation no matter what the age group is,” states Don “Sport” Hulon,  the coach of the Spalding County 4-H Team.

"We all know horses improve as does the rider through practice. Performing drill helps get you and your horse working together as a team.  Mounted drill is a sport that can be done with a group of people and is a great way to help others to improve their horsemanship skills along with honing your own. You also get to spend time with friends," states  Jada Lancaster Wiley, director of the Bellville Heritage Cowgirls, TX.  The BHC Bellville Heritage Cowgirls won 1st place in Division 2 Rodeo,  1st Place Division 5 Adult/Youth and 4th over-all in the SUPER RIDE XIII National Championship.

Pictured Right is Bellville Heritage Cowgirls while 
conducting a drill exercise during Super-Ride XIII

The United States Equestrian Drill Association is a proud member of the American Horse Council, the Unites States Equestrian Federation and is a non profit organization. The USEDA currently has 72 teams which will be competing at the next national champion SUPER RIDE IX  June 20-25, 2011 hosted by the City of Lindale and the Lindale Area Chamber of Commerce. 

The USEDA hand-book is available on-line at showing the events, rules and drill. The competitive events include many different levels and style of drills which team may compete although listed are the more general events;

Parade An event in which teams are judged on how they perform maneuvers in a parade setting – occasionally on a street type format. If a street is not available, the arena can be marked off to simulate a street. The maximum time limit is to be determined by the route used.

Compulsory  An event in which a drill having a set pattern and proscribed spacing and music would be performed by a maximum of eight (8) riders.

Free Style   An event in which anything goes, no requirements other than it must be performed under a specified time limit (maximum of twelve (12) minutes) and no outside items, such as jumps, may be brought into the arena.

Team of Four A mini-free style of four (4) riders with a maximum time limit of four (4) minutes. Themes and costumes allowed and encouraged. Commonly referred to as a Quad.

Short Program  An event in which twelve required maneuvers, or types of maneuvers, are put together in a free-style format, and a maximum time limit of six (6) minutes. Six maneuvers, or types of maneuvers, remain the same every year. Six additional maneuvers, or types of maneuvers, will be drawn every year.

The Impromptu  MAY be included, however is NOT part of the event Overall High Point Championship. An event in which a list of ten or twelve maneuvers, or types of maneuvers, are drawn the first day of the Competition and each group performs a drill in a free-style format, with a maximum time limit of five (5) minutes. Groups are drawn from participating riders and usually are not all from the same team.

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