Cowgirl drill team expresses appreciation for freedom and those who protect it – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Cowgirl drill team expresses appreciation for freedom and those who protect it

All decked out in their red, white and blue outfits, three members of the newly formed Kansas Pride & Glory Riders patriotic drill team practiced earlier this week for their debut performance at the Santa Fe Trail Rodeo in Burlingame, May 17-18. From left are Amy Bermudez, Berryton, Bonnie Thorne, Wakarusa, and Lori Walker, Overbrook.

Story and photo by Frank J. Buchman

“Thank you for preserving our precious freedom.”

A deep appreciation for those who protect their freedom, and the red, white and blue representing that God-given right, coupled with a “dear love” for horses, are the heartfelt reasons for a new cowgirls’ patriotic drill team.

“We are so proud to be Americans, and of the military men and women who continue to generously serve our country, as well as the many veterans who have fought to protect our treasured rights and privileges,” said Melba “Mel” Rhudy, of Americus.

“We had seen other groups that had done patriot tributes honoring our country, our military personnel and our veterans, on horseback, with American flags. Those presentations always drew such widespread acclaim, and spectators were so appreciative, and typically became so sentimental,” added Topeka horsewoman Sheryl Tasker.

“The thing is we all enjoy riding our horses, too, so it was just natural to form the Kansas Pride & Glory Riders,” explained Rhudy.

Word spread among horse circles, and a dozen-and-a-half women have been meeting on horseback and practicing for their first public performance as a highlight of the 43rd annual Santa Fe Trail Rodeo at Burlingame (8 p.m. May 17-18).

“We are so excited to have the Kansas Pride & Glory Riders in their debut appearance at the our rodeo, and they also plan to ride in the Saturday afternoon parade at 1 o’clock,” said Pat Rusher, secretary of the Burlingame Saddle Club, rodeo sponsor.

No stipulations on ability of riders, or the type, color or competence of their horses were made for participation in Kansas Pride & Glory Riders.

“We are all horseback enthusiasts who love our country, and those who protect our freedom, so we ride to express our appreciation with the hope that it becomes contagious,” Rhudy said.

“We actually have a wide age range of riders who vary considerably in horsemanship abilities,” Tasker said. “There are several very talented riders, but we also have riders who are continuing to improve every time we get together.”

Feeling fortunate to have indoor facilities for practice sessions, the group has met several times at an arena near Dover.

“It’s smaller than most of the places where we intend to perform, but we appreciate being able to ride there,” said Rhudy. “We hope to practice at the Burlingame arena before our first performance.”

Nearly every color and shape of horses are included the team.

“Whatever there was in the pasture is fine. There are mostly stock horses, but we have gaited horses, too,” described Tasker, enthusiastic participant on her 20-year-old sorrel and white Paint gelding called Kota.

While horses are very close to her heart, and she had ridden all of her life, Rhudy has been sidelined after being seriously injured in a fall from her horse a couple of years ago.

“I sold my horses, truck and trailer, but my love of horses is still there, as is my appreciation for my country and those who serve it,” said Rhudy. “I have my ideas and suggestions on patriotic and military music and routines, but everybody has their opinions. The choreography has been a team effort.

“It’s really interesting how the horses and riders seem to naturally perform to the beat of the music. If the music picks up, horses speed up, and move to it,” Rhudy said.

While now critiquing and making suggestions for team maneuvers from the sideline, Rhudy foresees the possibility of again mounting up and riding in the future.

“There are horses available when I get ready,” she said.

Patriotic image of the riders shows through in their matching red, white and blue outfits.

“We’ll wear all red vests, white shirts and hats, as well as blue jeans, and our saddle blankets are red, white and blue with large stars,” Tasker said. “All of our horses will have blue leg wraps, and every rider is going to be carrying a flag.”

All five branches of the military are to be represented with their individual flags, in addition to a MIA/POW flag, the Kansas flag, and, of course, Ole Glory adds to the most colorful and more importantly inspirational, respectful spectacle.

An important part of the performances, and every appearance of the group, will be a riderless horse with a “McClellan” saddle, and boots backwards in the stirrups.

“That’s in memory of the many service men and women who have given their lives for our freedom,” Tasker related.

While the rodeo at Burlingame will be their first official outing, the Kansas Pride & Glory Riders hope to contract more events throughout the summer.

“We are group of Kansas horse lovin’ women with a lot of American pride in our hearts,” Rhudy said. “We intend to go to different towns for rodeos, parades and special events, ride our horses with the flags as a salute to our country and in tribute to our military, veterans and Ole Glory.

“I’ve been a part of patriotic horse and flag routines in the past, and the spectators always seem to have tears of joy, pride, love and appreciation for our country, and those who protect our freedom, while remembering a lost loved one who made a difference by making the ultimate sacrifice.”

Rhudy and Tasker agreed: “This is what it is all about to us.”

The Kansas Pride & Glory Riders can be seen at the Santa Fe Trail Rodeo at Burlingame and contracted for performances by calling 620-443-5858 or 785-249-2891.

The 43rd annual Santa Fe Trail Rodeo will begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, at the Burlingame Saddle Club Arena. To get to the arena from Highways 56 and 31 (South Topeka Avenue), go west on Banks Avenue to Rodeo Street, then south to the arena entrance.

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