|Ride ’Em, Cowgirls
‘Girly-girls’ need not apply for noted equestrian team
|Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor|
June 10, 2005 - With a reputation for speed and precision timing, The Lone Star riders don’t horse around when it comes to performing at rodeos across Northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma. And they’re looking for new, dedicated and skilled cowgirls to become a part of their all-female equestrian team.
“It can be pretty intense,” said Tina Janes, captain of the drill team. “We’re considered one of the best teams out there. And the main reason is because we don’t just trot through the drill like some teams do. We’re going as fast as our horses will go, which can make for a very exciting show.”
Riding with The Lone Star Riders is not without risk, according to Janes, who said you can’t be too much of a “girly-girl” if you want to ride with them.
“You’re gonna get dirty, nasty and stinky. Sometimes it gets so dusty we can’t even see,” she said. “Horses fall, girls get bucked off — we’ve had horses hit head-on. You’ve got to be pretty tough. So far, I’ve never had a girl get bucked off that didn’t get right back on.”
Riders are trained to make their way to the side of the arena if they get hurt or fall off, but according to Janes, the girls aren’t the only ones trained. Janes recalled one “crash” when one of her riders fell off during a performance, and the horse got right back in line and finished the drill without her.
“The horse got a standing ovation,” laughed Janes. “They know the drill and even get irritated if they sense that the timing is not right. When I blow that whistle they know right where to go and just what to do. It’s amazing.”
Not only are The Lone Star Riders considered one of the best teams, they have also been around a long time, according to Janes, who has been a part of the team for the past 18 years and is the team’s only remaining original member.
“We are one of the oldest consecutive running drill teams in the area,” said Janes, who explained the group derived from a Lamar County team known as The Saddlettes, which disbanded in 1987. Janes, who was a Delta County team member just getting started, along with a few Hopkins and Franklin County riders, picked up where that team left off, forming The Lone Star Riders.
Since the late 1980s, equestrian drill teams have gained in popularity, according to Janes, who said there are now probably more than 50 teams throughout the state. Yet The Lone Star Riders have remained in high demand, performing 14 or 15 shows from May to September, as well as participating in local hometown parades and the Fort Worth Stockyard Parade for the past 10 years.
“Our calendar is as full as we want it to be,” exclaimed Janes, who is a home health nurse. “We’re gone just about every weekend during that period of time, but we’re hoping to slow things down a little bit. Several of us are students, all of us are full-time employees, and most of us are mothers and wives with families and responsibilities.”
Team members come from Mount Vernon, Sulphur Springs, Yantis and other parts of the surrounding area, and are all required to have their own horse and trailer, as well as a willingness to dedicate their time with a commitment to attend all practices.
“If you’re going to ride with us, you have to practice with us,” said Janes. “We’re all busy and have hundreds of things we need to be doing at home. It is definitely a time commitment.”
Performing flying figure 8’s, wagon wheels and serpentines at top speed demands practice, according to Anita Beasley, a 14-year-member and co-captain of the team.
“You have to have the skill to practically ride with no hands since we carry flags, good posture and a healthy horse, because it’s a pretty good workout for them,” explained Beasley, who said performing with the horses is the highlight of the night. “We’re like a half-time entertainment show at a football game.”
With sparking sequins and fringed costumes, the equestrian drill team adds color and flare to the rodeo events, according to Janes. Since they represent the Lone Star state, their colors are primarily red, white and blue, and they routinely perform a patriotic tribute to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The U.S.A.”
“It can be very emotional at times,” said Janes. “Especially after Sept. 11. We did a patriotic tribute that whole following year.”
Since the group does not get paid, the spectators’ applause is their only reward.
“We do this because we love it,” said Janes. “We love horses, and this keeps us active doing what we love to do.”
The Lone Star Riders are a close-knit group, according to Beasley. When not rodeoing, the group often gets together for trail rides and camping.
Riders usually become long-term members, said Janes. And mother-daughter teams are a long-standing tradition among the group. According to Janes, support of the whole family is a must when it comes to preparing for performances by helping to groom the horses, prepare the tack, load trailers, make the trips and often having cookouts while the team practices.
“You’ve got to have the support of your family if you’re gonna do this,” she said. “It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, and it’s a lot of hard work for everyone involved, but we have a really good time. And mainly, we just hope everybody is still in the saddle when we’re through.”
The Lone Star Riders will be performing at the Cooper Rodeo on Saturday, June 18, at the Cooper Rodeo Arena.