The sound of thundering hooves can be heard distinctly at Klippety Klop Farm in Cassian these days. From a small pony whose legs piston in a galloping blur to a tall and stately saddlebred, poofs of dust are raised every Sunday as the Northwoods Equestrian Drill Team takes to a fenced arena.
Forming a drill team isn’t new for Kendy Hess, who lives at Klippety Klop Farm. A few years ago, she started The Mane Event, a horse team that was comprised of young women and their mounts. It disbanded when a lot of the riders grew older and went their separate ways. But a few months ago, she decided to revisit the idea. “We always have kids coming out here to ride and play with their horses,” she said. “So I asked their parents if they would be willing to put in the time to form another equestrian team.”
Not only were the parents enthused about it, they also wanted to be part of it. “I thought it would really be fun to do this,” said Alison French, a member of the team, along with her daughter, Desi, 12. “I love riding my horse and this is also a good way to spend time with my daughter.”
There are other benefits as well. The riders get a chance to hone their skills in more formal exercises and, like any sport, being on a team builds positive self-esteem and confidence. “By the time we are ready to perform, everyone will be a better rider,” said Kendy.
A drill team that practices on foot is hard enough to coordinate, but the challenge of doing synchronized drills on horseback is a practice that requires lots of perseverance and of course, good horsemanship. So far, there are 11 adults and children that belong to the drill team, and their ages span three generations.
“That’s what we found really great about forming this team,” said Kendy. “It’s an exercise that almost any age can participate in.” The horses are also a mixture of sizes, colors and breeds.
The team is planning on developing a routine that is set to music. Kendy learned a lot about that when she formed The Mane Event. “When we formed that team, I didn’t know anything about how a drill team was operated or even how to do routines to music,” she said. “But we worked hard at it and the team was very successful. We performed at the Oneida County Fair one year and our shows were really popular.”
With this team’s formation, Kendy feels more confident. “With that experience under my belt, I have a lot more confidence,” she said. “But it still takes a lot of coordination.”
The team’s first practice was last Sunday, and that’s the day set aside for future practices. The team’s goal, once again, is to be ready to perform at the Oneida County Fair this year, which is the first weekend in August. They plan on bringing their mounts to the fair and then staying with them throughout the event. Campers will be used as sleeping quarters for the humans and the horses being on the grounds will give fair goers a chance to pet the animals and ask questions. “I think this experience is really something the kids remember all their lives,” said Kendy. “They get a chance to educate people about their horses and it’s just a lot of fun for everyone.”
The team is also hoping to raise some funds so they can purchase matching breast collars for their horses and matching shirts to make the members look even more coordinated. They are also looking for sponsors who would be willing to donate larger sums of money in exchange for advertising on the horses’ stalls and announcements during their presentations. The team will perform at least five times at this year’s fair, in addition to participating in a parade of breeds, and doing barrel racing and pole weaving demonstrations.
Kendy also hopes other riders who are interested in joining the drill team give her a call. Requirements include a level-headed horse and a desire to have fun while working in a team atmosphere. “Not only are we going to have lots of fun, but we will also have the chance to show people what horses are all about,” said Kendy. “We’re very excited to be back in the saddle again.”
To learn more about the Northwoods Equestrian Drill Team, call Kendy at (715) 360-2704 or Cathy Papineau at (715) 420-0277.