The McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team has had a busy summer, performing at nearly a dozen parades and rodeos around the central Kansas area, but their biggest event is yet to come.
After the team's performance in February at Equifest in Topeka, they were invited to entertain crowds at the American Royal Youth Rodeo on Sept. 28 and 29 in Kansas City, Missouri.
"We're all super excited. It's a great opportunity for us. This will be one of the biggest rodeos we've ever gone to," said Claire Jordan, the 14-year-old captain of the McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team.
The invitation is a big honor for the team, noted Claire's mother, Carrie Jordan.
"We're supremely excited and proud of the kids," Carrie said.
This is the first time the McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team has been asked to the event, which typically draws in an audience of around 2,000 students.
"It's a whole new thing for us," Claire said. "We're hoping it will be a big gateway rodeo for us. We're excited to have everybody watch us perform."
The McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team sent videos of their routines in for review to the American Royal's organizers several months ago. Since that time, the group has met weekly to continue improving their riding skills
"We've had lots of practices, we've all been working pretty hard," Claire said.
The team will perform three different routines for audiences — a main routine, a cancer routine and a flag routine.
"I get goose bumps every time they perform the flag routine and tears come to my eyes, because the crowd stands," Carrie said.
Standing in the stirrups while a horse is running, riding backwards and executing handstands in the saddle are just a few of the drill team's moves.
"We're going to be doing some more tricks than we have for the past few rodeos," Claire said.
Those tricks are practiced year-round, even when the weather turns too cold for outdoor events.
"We try to practice all winter long," Claire said. "Repetition is key. We do it over and over again and make sure tricks are always practiced before going to a rodeo."
The McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team is composed of nine riders between the ages of 12 and 30. Each member of the McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team puts in long hours of riding and traveling.
"It's a lot of miles, a lot of gas money, but it's definitely worth it. It's so rewarding, so amazing," Claire said. "It's so much fun, just getting to be with people my age, ride, hang out with the horses and getting to do cool stuff with the tricks."
"We could fill up every weekend if the parents would allow it," Carrie chuckled.
Transporting the riders and their horses to an event takes strategic planning.
"It's pretty cool watching a convoy of us all pull in with our trailers," Carrie said. "People think hauling a baby is a challenge, try hay bales and grain and muck buckets. You can't forget anything."
During the American Royal Youth Rodeo, there will be times for the public to meet and greet the members of the drill team.
"Little kids love to pose for pictures with them in their sparkly, blingy outfits," Carrie said.
Hearing the comments and seeing the smiles from those who view the routines is gratifying for the team.
"We like to hand out pictures to people afterwards and sign stuff, it's a lot of fun," Claire said.
The group hopes to present quality entertainment and horsemanship to new audiences.
"Hopefully they'll get to do bigger rodeos than this and step outside of Kansas," Carrie said.
For more information about the McPherson Saddle Club Silver Buckle Drill Team, call 620-242-4539.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.