Forty-five years ago, some young
riders from a Southern California equestrian drill team decided to form a group
of their own. With the motto "Leadership Through Guidance" as its
basis, the Blue Shadows Mounted Drill Team was established in 1957 and continues
to flourish today. By emphasizing the importance of proper guidance and
responsibility, members work to instill and maintain a high level of
horsemanship, safety, teamwork, and dedication throughout the organization.
This non-profit group is
dedicated to encouraging interest in horses, horsemanship, and leadership
through proper instruction in riding and drilling (a series of voice commands
combined together to form a drill presentation that is fun to ride and pleasing
to watch). Blue Shadows is open to any child ages 9-17 who wishes to learn to
ride as well as any adult wanting to volunteer. Neither riding experience nor
ownership of a horse is required for membership; drill horses are available for
every member to rent if needed. As a club, Blue Shadows also provides organized
activities for members such as shows, fundraisers, picnics, and parades.
Modeled loosely after the US
Cavalry, the organization is divided into several levels of troops that ride at
two different posts or locations in Southern California: Agua Dulce and Lake
View Terrace. Riders progress through a series of ranks as they show increased
dedication, horsemanship, and leadership. Each post has a Remount or beginning
troop where riders are taught correct Western riding skills, information about
the horse, and basic drilling techniques from qualified adult officers. Upon
mastery of the basic skills, riders are transferred to one of four intermediate
troops at their post that ride weekly, Tuesday through Friday. At this time, the
Remount advances to the rank of Trooper and purchases a uniform consisting of a
turquoise shirt, black riding pants, black western tie, black western boots,
black belt with silver buckle, silver collar tips, and most importantly, an
ASTM/SEI certified riding helmet and black helmet cover.
The eight intermediate troops,
averaging 16-20 riders each, form the core of Blue Shadows. Within these troops,
riders receive additional training in riding, drilling, leadership, and
teamwork. As a rider demonstrates increased proficiency and responsibility, they
are promoted through the ranks of Trooper First Class, Corporal, Stable
Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, First Sergeant, Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant,
Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and finally, Colonel. Each troop is
commanded by at least one adult officer who volunteers his/time time and
ability. The intermediate troops participate in two shows a year where the
troops compete against each other for the Troop Drill Trophy by presenting two
drills. They are judged on the accuracy, flow, neatness, safety, creativity, and
unity of their drills. In addition, individual equitation classes are held for
each rank contributing to a Troop Equitation High Point Award. Despite the broad
age range, the troops tend to become very close-knit and participate in a
variety of troop activities such as trail rides, field trips, and parades.
Riders from intermediate troops
may then be invited to tryout for the Junior Advanced Troop (JAT). Because these
riders will represent both their troop and the organization as a whole at drill
team competitions all over California and Nevada, they must demonstrate advanced
riding skills, have excellent attendance, show ongoing dedication and enthusiasm
in their intermediate troop, and act as role models for every member of Blue
Shadows. Members of JAT practice every Saturday and work to develop and perfect
intricate precision drills to be done primarily at the lope and set to music.
Four riders will carry flags throughout the drill as well.
In 1999, 2001, and 2002, JAT performed at the Western States Drill Team
Championships in Reno, Nevada where they have received third place in their
division each occasion. In 1999 and 2000, the Junior Advanced Troop received
Reserve Champion at the ETI (Equestrian Trails Inc.) Drill Team Championship in
Burbank, CA. In 2001, JAT became the ETI Champions. Both JAT and the
intermediate troops have also received countless awards for parades.
Surprisingly, however, at all of these events, Blue Shadows is generally one of
only two drill teams, youth or adult, requiring its members to wear helmets.
Blue Shadows feels that the large number of horses, fast speeds, and tight drill
patterns only further INCREASE the risk of accidents.
If you would like to find out
more about, join, volunteer, or support Blue Shadows Mounted Drill Team, please
feel free to contact Colonel Nancy Chefalo at (661) 268-0324 or visit our
member-designed website at http://www.blueshadows.org.
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