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Find Your Adventure: It’s New Year’s Eve!

20151231_094913_001 The week seemed to fly by, though at times it seemed to be in slow motion.  Today (the 31st) reminded me of the Heinz Ketchup commercial — anticipayayayayaytion.

Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin’


Photo by Lisa Peck. Formation practice.

The previous week had been filled with lots of social events for our group, breakfasts, lunches and dinners plus the Equestrian Reception, Equestfest, trail rides and practices.  Lots of campfire time and hanging out.  It was a fun mix of people for the most part, we had a wide range of endurance experience amongst us, some new AERC members in the last year side by side with others that have been members for 20, 30 or more years.  Hall of fame riders (Julie Suhr), and a couple of hall of fame horses (Granite Chief, and Remington).  It was cool to be part of a group that had worked so hard towards the goal of riding in the Rose Parade.

Finally the countdown to the final hours was underway.  You could feel the excitement in the air.  Everybody was busy attending to all of the last minute details.  Who knew there was so much to do just to do a parade?


Formation practice. Gayle is giving us instructions. Photo by Lisa Peck.

After coffee and breakfast we headed over to the barn to tack up the horses and get ready for our final formation practice.  Even though we were missing a few members, most of the group was there and this was the first time we had been able to practice our formation and order of lineup with that many of us.

Kayla and I got an early start and were on Bo and Chief long before the scheduled practice.  This gave us a chance to work the horses and get them paying attention to us.

While Kayla rode Bo around in circles at a trot and canter I trotted Chief around the large arena for about thirty to forty minutes.  The horses were used to being worked in arenas for the last few months and settled in right away.  By the time we started to line up for the formation practice, it was no big deal and they were both good.

We started out riding around in one of the large outer arenas.  Getting in order, spacing and then walking as a group.  Then we left the arena and rode around the equestrian center, which was better for the horses because of all of the stuff going on and all of the things there were for them to look at.  This is when I suggested we move Julie over to the middle rather than having her and Aubie on the outside.  We went all the way around a couple of times and by the time we finished the horses were all on board with the program.  The practices were great because it gave everybody the opportunity to see which horses worked well together, and which did not and allowed for the lineup to get dialed in to keep all of the horses happy.

Next on the list was bathing the horses.  I’d been working on getting Chief’s mane and tail as white as I could, and then was keeping his tail braided and in a tail bag.  Once we had that done we walked the horses and then put sheets on them to keep them clean.  Cuz you KNOW they were going to roll as soon as we put them in their stalls.  I even used some Show Sheen on Chief’s knees and hocks, so that they would clean up easier in case he happened to lie down and get dirty overnight.  I had tons of shavings in their stalls, but unless you are there every half hour to pick up after them they are going to find a way to get dirty.

Connie Creech, Karen Chaton, Julie Suhr. Photo by Lisa Peck.

Connie Creech, Karen Chaton, Julie Suhr. Photo by Lisa Peck.

Final tack cleaning now, which was super easy with our biothane tack and our Pandora saddles.  Rinse, wipe, dry off and put away.  That maybe took ten minutes.  Everything was double checked and put in the tack compartment – saddles, bridles, reins, helmets, girths, check it all off of the list!

Now it was time to get the trailer ready for going to the ‘pit’.  We did not know yet whether or not we would be able to get the horses out of the trailer or if they would have to stay inside.  I was supposed to haul a third horse, so took all of the horse feed and other items out of my first stall and added another bag of shavings.  I never use shavings but since I thought the horses would be in the trailer overnight I wanted them to feel comfortable enough to pee inside.

20151231_162019_001 20151231_162011_001While we were doing our formation practice, the rig drivers were going over the course together to see where they were taking us that night and then where to go to the finish the next day, and finally how to get back to the LAEC from there.

In the afternoon we had a group bbq with tri-tip and potluck side dishes.  I think we were all having a good time and enjoying each others company and getting a chance to go over any last minute details, and just sharing in the excitement of what was to come.

Soon after, our flowers arrived and were getting handed out.  Each horse was to wear a wreath of flowers over their breastcollar.  The riders were to wear a garland of flowers on their helmets, and a boutonniere.  We decided to send the boutonniere’s to the staging area in the morning and put them on there.  That way they wouldn’t get messed up with our jackets on while we rode from the trailers to the staging area.

20151231_182136_00120151231_20210820151231_202025The plan was to leave the LAEC with the horses no later than 9 p.m.  We went over to the stalls at about 8:15 to get everything ready and organized.  We had extra stalls to store things in and that worked out well because I had zero room in my trailer. As it turned out, I didn’t need to haul that third horse so could have kept all of my stuff in the first stall instead but we’d already moved everything and no point in moving it back now, besides there wasn’t enough time.

Everybody must have been on the same page because we were all loaded up and ready to go before 9 p.m. and were rolling out of LAEC a couple of minutes early.  My husband was glad that he had been able to pre-drive the route earlier so he knew where we were going since the group was split up due to stoplights.

20151231_203426 20151231_213126 20151231_213118 20151231_211250 20151231_213143 20151231_225331 20151231_225618_001 By about 9:30 p.m. we were parked in our spots on the I-210 freeway.  The amount of planning that goes on to do a parade this size is incredulous.

We had previously had to submit information on our rigs including measurements.

We had 23 horses in 8 rigs and were given a pre-measured off section that we all had to fit into.  The freeway was closed to all but emergency vehicles and we did have a few cars, trucks and other vehicles going by.

We got to meet our “white suitor”, named J.J.  A white suitor is a parade representative that is responsible for getting the groups into staging and through the parade.  They are there to help us and to direct us and to make sure everything runs smoothly.  They are dressed in white and zoom around on white Honda scooters.

Turned out, we were allowed to get the horses out of the trailers if we wanted.  I knew mine would be happier if they could be outside and watch all of the goings on and I think they would drink and eat better out of the trailer.  So we unloaded them.  It was going to get down to 40 degrees, though a couple of previous morning there was frost on the ground when we got up so I changed the horses sheets over to blankets so they would stay warm.  Elk Grove Milling (they make Stable Mix) provided Chief and Bo with their beautiful blue and black blankets.  They looked stunning in them!  Perhaps it was the contrast to the blankets they were wearing at home before our trip and were so covered in mud they could stand up on their own!

20151231_231042We were able to walk the horses up and down the freeway and see some of the other equestrian groups.  I found a couple of spots off to the side that were dirt so the horses were able to pee comfortably.

It was a magical evening, getting to walk our horses on the freeway under the overpasses where one above had bleachers with people already camping out, and another overpass was used to stage the parade floats.  It was dark so we could only see the silhouette of the floats as they went by above us.  Way cool!

I had five people, two dogs, and two horses in my rig.  Being endurance riders, we all made it work and I think we all did get some sleep, about as much as you’d expect anyway.

Two of us were riding, one was an out-walker, and the others drivers and helpers.  I’m still not sure how we all got ready without getting in each others way.  I guess all those years of doing point to point endurance rides taught us something.  That experience sure was helping my horses handle everything super well.  Kayla wondered if the horses were going to think they were doing an endurance ride in the morning, since we were up and getting them ready early just like if they were on an endurance ride.  I think that the parades we have done and the practices plus being at LAEC all week had convinced the horses that this was not an ordinary endurance ride, unless you count it as a 5.5 mile ‘controlled start’.  LOL

Rose Parade officials had every last minute detail scheduled and planned out and we were told by the head driver that we should get up by 5:22 and be tacked up and mounted by 7:22.  I think that many got up much earlier so they would have plenty of time to get ready.  I think I could have slept in until 6 or 6:30 and still been ready in time, but it was fun being up and getting to experience all of the excitement and laughter amongst our group.  It was pretty special to get to do this.

It helped that I had put Chief’s wreath on his breastcollar the night before, and we had also put the black hoof polish on the horses then as well.  Since they were standing on pavement that worked fine and was one less thing to do in the morning.

20160101_064852 20160101_064940_001 We had been told not to drink anything after midnight, since once the parade started it wouldn’t be very convenient or even possible to run to the bathroom.  The first thing we did after getting up was get the horses ready.  Got their blankets off, tail bag off. Saddles and tack on the horses, then the last thing for our outfits was to attach the flowers to our helmets.

Since it was so cold the glue on the sticky squares came right off of the ribbons that the flowers were mounted on for our helmets so we improvised using duct tape and stuck them on that way.  We couldn’t heat up the glue without risking damaging the beautiful flowers. We had used zip ties to attach the horses flowers.  I lent out almost an entire pack of 100 zip ties and also loaned out fishing line and dental floss.  Another instance where being a well prepared endurance rider paid off – you can’t do an endurance ride without duct tape and zip ties, and now I know you need them for parades as well!

20160101_072756_001The last thing to do was to throw on our makeup, including the Mac Russian Red lipstick, and roll our tights down (they were rolled up so we wouldn’t get them dirty).

We heard the call that it was time to go, and before we knew it we were riding our horses down the freeway, up the offramp and over to the staging area.


Next up…..riding in the Rose Parade!


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