University of Vermont AAHS

Blue Shadows Mounted Drill Team flourishes since 1957

Erin Shelley
Commander of Troup S
Blue Shadows Mounted Drill Team
AAHS Safety-Certified Riding Instructor Basic

[reproduced from Summer 2002 Caution:Horses]


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

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