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Find Your Adventure: Equestfest at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 2016: Practice Failure and Success

20151228_093739_00220151228_111650We are back from our great adventure to Burbank and Pasadena where my two horses, Granite Chief and Pro Bono had the honor of performing in Equestfest on December 29th, and then were ridden in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2016.  I thought it would be fun to do some blog posts detailing our adventure and how the trip went.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience on so many levels.  CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE.

We headed down to the LAEC (Los Angeles Equestrian Center), over 400 miles away, on December 27th.  Fortunately the weather cooperated and we were able to get down Hwy 395 okay.  The horses both traveled well and when we got there we pulled up into the barn area and unloaded the horses, their feed and other barn accessories and necessary items to take care of them for a week in an enclosed barn stall.

20151228_111742_00220151229_080140_001I put several bags of shavings in each stall, filled up the lids on the Porta-Grazers with water (they each hold 7 gallons), stuffed the PG’s with hay, made Chief and Bo both a Stable Mix EGM mash and put everything into their stalls.  I had also brought them both a Redmond rock on a rope, hoping that would give the something to do to alleviate the boredom.  That, and of course I knew Bo would have fun moving his Porta-Grazer around. I was also concerned about Bo trying to eat shavings, so having the Porta-Grazer for him was a lifesaver, he would have had hay pulled out and all over the place had I tried to feed him out of a hay bag or hay net.

20151229_080455_002Everybody in our group was busy like a group of worker bees getting the stalls decorated.  We had laminated posters of each horse and rider along with our bios to post on the barn doors.  In addition, the Riding Warehouse had donated bridle hook holders and a blue breakaway halter and blue lead for each of our horses.  We also had metal stall name plaques with the rider and horse names on them.  When it was all done, it looked super nice!  I’ll explain in the next blog post why doing this was so important.

20151231_091228_004We also got set up and parked into our RV spot.  LAEC gave our AERC group an entire row of spots so that everybody could camp together.  Maybe the word “gave” isn’t the correct term, since they charged us $40 per day per spot, lol.  It wasn’t the most ideal spot, mainly because the electrical hookups were behind the rigs and as many of you know our LQ rigs have their power plugs up front, and usually do not have cords long enough to reach that far back.  Fortunately I had planned ahead and brought an extension cord.  The only problem is the power outlet behind our rig would not accept a regular plug it needed an RV plug.  We solved that by simply plugging in to our neighbors outlet which was different from ours.  The spots were close together, but that was allright because the horses weren’t there.  Endurance riders are known for making things work and it was kind of fun seeing all of the friendships and comradery develop among our group.

20151228_112029That evening we had our first scheduled practice for Equestfest.  Equestfest is an event put on by Wells Fargo and shows off all of the equestrian units that are going to be in the Rose Parade.  This was really cool for us, because we got a chance to see all of the other equestrians and hang out with them for a week.  I thought it was pretty cool in the morning when I could take Chief and Bo out for a walk and blend in right behind (well, okay so blend in is probably not the best term to use, lol) right behind the Budweiser Clydesdales.

20151228_115726I had another rider coming in the morning for the group practice, but nobody that first evening to ride Bo in a practice.  That was kind of a mistake, looking back – I should have skipped the practice.

My horses had been in a trailer for 10 hours for one thing, had not been worked for the previous week due to the weather, and then when I did get Chief tacked up and mounted, both Bo and Chief’s mental capacity to handle being separated was obviously diminished.

Then to make things worse, another rider was put in the lead of the group as we went single file at a trot, 20 feet apart around one of the large practice arenas.  That, well…how shall we say it…..wasn’t going to work for Chief “jiffy pop legs”.  Dave (husband) brought Bo over on a lead and that didn’t help.  Finally I asked Dave to put Bo back in the barn stall, however since the barn was directly parallel to the middle of our arena area that just made things worse.

20151230_170207 20151230_19522220151230_151047_001So now I”m thinking great, everybody here is for sure thinking I am the biggest doofus in the group showing up with a horse that can’t even trot around an arena behind another horse in a group.  I did at least have the sense to stop before Chief got out of control or did anything bad.  I then went over and put his tack on Bo and tried with Bo  Same result.  Now I look like a double doofus having two horses that are acting silly.  They really should have been rested overnight, then warmed up, and worked into it.

I was really frustrated and felt that I wasn’t going to be able to do Equestfest on Chief, and maybe not even on Bo.  The plan all along had been for Chief to be in the lead next to our marshal.  Then at the last minute, it changed to having us go in single file, and now Chief was 4th in the row.  I texted our marshall Gayle and told her that I was sorry but didn’t think I could do Equestfest because I didn’t feel that Chief would be able to handle it, but that I would try the practice the next day and we would see how it went but I wasn’t making any promises and I wasn’t going to put Chief into a situation that would cause embarrassment to the group.

20151228_135109_001We took care of the ponies and tucked them into their stalls for the night.  I went to bed with a heavy heart because I didn’t want to let the group down, and did not want to embarrass them, or myself and wondering what happened to my horses brains because they have been so excellent at all of our previous arena practices, and in all of the parades they have done.  I didn’t care about not being the first horse in but was concerned that the horse they had me behind is one that Chief had gotten wound up being behind during previous practices.  I felt so defeated.

Up early in the morning getting the horses fed, stalls cleaned and having breakfast and coffee with the rest of our team and our excellent hosts – Terry Howe and Jennifer Bishop who set up an entire wonderful spread of breakfast food and beverages for us.  This was a nice way for everybody to start to get acquainted and to get the day off to a nice start with a hot meal and some caffeine.

20151229_153507_001One of the young gals that Gayle brought with her up to Tevis to crew and stayed with us was coming to ride Bo for the official Equestfest practice, and then in Equestfest the next day.  I had her come early enough so that we could get some riding time in with both of my horses.  I told Gayle that I was willing to at least try the practice and see how things went.  We got the horses tacked up and ready, the mounted and started riding them around.  The main thing was to get them familiar with the area and all of the other horses.

Resting overnight and being able to work together resulted in two completely different horses in the morning.  The Equidome doors were open early and it was empty, so we took the opportunity to bring the horses in and ride them around inside.  We had been practicing in local fairgrounds arenas for months with the horses so this was no big deal for them.  Of course, things are different when there is loud music, an announcer, and an audience of thousands, so I knew the more I could expose the horses to everything and get them comfortable the greater our chance of not embarrassing ourselves.

20151230_094709_002Many members of our group were now assembling and starting to work together to get our spacing down as well as the proper order of each horse and rider.  Chief and Bo seemed to settle in mentally and were handling that Chief was horse #4 in the lineup and Bo was #16 in the lineup, out of 22.  This was all stuff that we had previously worked on, thank goodness.  We knew that most of the equestrian units performing at Equestfest had a lot more to show off than we did.  Endurance horses are mainly known for going down the trail, mile after mile and not so much known for arena work.

20151228_123413_001Finally it was time for us to go through our final practice inside the Equidome complete with the music and announcer.  Paul Sidio, who came all of the way from MO, was doing our introduction and explaining the sport of endurance and AERC.

We entered the arena single file, with our marshall Gayle in the front carrying a flag.  Then, horse #2, horse #3, and Chief and I – #4.  It was going great, everybody kept coming in behind us and the spacing was looking pretty good.  We were going really slow and I ended up walking quite a bit of the practice.  When it was time to line up in the center my spacing was off a couple of feet – it was really hard to get the spacing right at a walk, lol.  Fortunately I was able to sidepass Chief over in time so as to not throw off the entire rest of the group and get into proper position.

After the rest of the group lined up, we started our exit in order, and still Chief was mostly walking.  We knew that for the actual performance that we were going to need to speed up a bit.  My husband filmed the practice, which was useful to review and know what things we had to work on – such as going a little faster, and on how the group exited.  All in all, it went well and I think was a big relief for the group.

Everybody was starting to relax and calm down a bit now.  The horses were handling being at the LAEC and around all of the other horses.  I think their main issue when we first arrived was having separation anxiety, which is something that they usually don’t have at rides but then at rides they are staying at the trailer and not in an enclosed barn stall.

A lot of it is still a blur.  We were all busy cleaning our tack, and our horses.  Keeping the stalls cleaned, walking our dogs, and horses, all while the excitement was building, not just for the Equestfest on the 29th, but for the upcoming parade.  We’d been told over and over from many different people that if our horses could not handle Equestfest, that they would not be able to handle being in the parade.  So you can imagine how relieved I was that Chief and Bo had handled that final practice so well.  Whew!!!

20151228_202229_00120151228_191841_001Then, it was time to get dressed and ready to go to the Equestrian Reception Dinner hosted by the president of the Rose Parade for all of the equestrians in the Rose Parade.  This was held at the Pasadena convention center inside of the Sheraton hotel.

We had a bit of trouble parking our F450 truck.  The parking garages weren’t tall enough and after driving around and around we finally found out that the only way to park was to valet park.  Once finally inside, we got checked in and then had a group photo taken in front of a stagecoach that they had inside.  In a matter of minutes, we were all handed a nice print of the group photo!

20151228_195020 20151228_195045_001 (Small)  We were then treated to a really nice dinner and a live band.  They even provided drinks for everyone.  The food was excellent, and the deserts divine.  It was a nicely put together event, very professionally done.


One of the highlights of the evening was that we were able to pick up our 2016 Rose Parade Equestrian belt buckles.  They were beautiful and everybody was beaming.  It was a nice evening filled with a lot of fun and excitement among everyone in our group.  Our marshall Gayle was presented with her buckle that the group had all chipped in and paid for, and she was thrilled.

Next up – the actual Equestfest performance!

Scroll down to see a video showing our practice.






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