On January 1, 2016, the annual Tournament of Roses Parade will be broadcast live from Pasadena, California. Those that tune in will have a chance to learn about the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) and endurance riding. AERC’s first-time participation fits in perfectly with the 2016 parade theme, “Find Your Adventure.” The AERC parade riders were among 19 equestrian entries chosen this year from a field up to 200 equestrian applicants for the parade. According to the Rose Parade website, more than 700,000 people watch the event, which is broadcast in 200 countries.
The AERC Rose Parade Riders, led by Grand Marshal Gayle Peña of Moreno Valley, California (Pacific Southwest Region), includes 25 horse and rider pairs. From record-setting living legends to brand-new ‘Green Beans’ in the sport, the parade group represents the diverse riders of the AERC. Three regions are being represented: Mountain, Pacific Southwest and West.
Their “crew” includes backup riders, volunteer walkers, drivers and others who have all pitched in to support this group’s parade efforts. The final group of 25 riders has a total combined endurance and limited distance AERC mileage of 218,996 miles, spanning more than six decades of endurance events. Riders ranging in age from 24 to 90-something and from brand-new to 40 year-plus members. Riders were selected early this year from those who responded to Peña’s call for interested riders, with a few “legend” riders needing some gentle prodding to agree. They had to be willing to participate in practice rides, rehearse riding in formation and ensure their horses were properly prepared.
“Living legend” riders including: Dave Rabe riding Chey’s Cocamoe Joe, Karen Chaton riding Granite Chief +/, Connie Creech riding LS Shardonney Bey, John Parke riding Remington, and Dave Nicholson, DVM, riding CH Satin Doll. Endurance’s grand dame, Julie Suhr, is slated to ride Rushcreek Aubie, owned by Anna Wolfe. Rabe, Nicholson and Suhr are AERC Hall of Fame inductees, as are the horses being ridden by Chaton and Parke.
In addition to the riders, the group has volunteers to help before and after the parade. Volunteer “out-walkers” walk alongside the group to assist riders and to help handle any horses should the need arise. Drivers will move the horse trailers from the start to the finish the day of the parade.
The diversity in breeds in the group mirrors the variety we see in breeds on the trail. The following breeds are represented in the group: Arabian, Shagya, Azteca, Tennessee Walker, American Saddlebred, Icelandic, Quarter Horse, even a Mangalarga Marchador.
The riders are spending a lot of time practicing. Not only do they have to ensure their horses are prepared for the noisy, distracting march on the parade route, but they have a riding routine that will be performed during the week before the parade. The Los Angeles Equestrian Center is host of the EquestFest on Tuesday, December 29, where the parade groups will be doing riding demonstrations, patterned and synchronized exercises. The horses will live at the LAEC over the days leading up to the parade.
One thing all the parade riders agreed on was the excitement, pride and honor they felt in being able to represent AERC in the Rose Parade.
The AERC office has contributed toward some of the sizable costs for riders associated with attending. If you wish to donate to this effort, there are two ways to do so:
• If you have a PayPal account, go to paypal.com, click “Send” and then after noting “firstname.lastname@example.org” note “Friends & Family” and you’re all set.
• If you wish to send a check, make it out to Amanda Waterfield-Gibson (note: Parade Group on your check) and mail to 11582 Santiago Peak, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91737.
In addition to promoting the sport of endurance riding, the AERC encourages the use, protection, and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historic significance. Many special events of four to six consecutive days take place over historic trails, such as the Pony Express Trail, the Outlaw Trail, the Chief Joseph Trail, and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The founding ride of endurance riding, the Western States Trail Ride or Tevis Cup, covers 100 miles of the famous Western States and Immigrant Trails over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These rides promote awareness of the importance of trail preservation for future generations and foster an appreciation of our American heritage. The American Endurance Ride Conference, established in 1972, is headquartered in Auburn, California, “The Endurance Capital of the World.” For more information please visit us at www.aerc.org.