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The Hoof Beat January 2007

2007 Tournament of Roses Parade "It wouldnít be the Rose Parade without Horses"

Photos courtesy of Steve and Carol Ford

There really would not have been a Rose Parade without horses. According to the official history of the Tournament of Roses, it was members of the Valley Hunt Club who voted to stage the first parade on January 1st, 1890. "A parade of flower-decorated horses and buggies."

What a difference a hundred years makes. Two thousand plus people attended the first Tournament of Roses. Today, itís estimated nearly one million people come to Pasadena for the festivities. The parade is televised nationally and in 75 countries around the world.

It wasnít until 1901 the first motorized vehicle was allowed as a float entry in the Parade. The autos were relegated to the rear of the parade so they would not spook the horses. Football joined the festivities in 1902.

Although it was equestrians who founded the Rose Parade, there was a slight undercurrent at the 2007 Parade that equestrian entries were being relegated to the rear half of the parade. The tradition of rotating a horse, float, and band entry seemed to have changed this year to only a few equestrian groups in the parade lead.

Starting with CBS television opting out of live coverage of the parade in 2006, USA Today reported Parade organizers to be looking at new ways to bring entertainment to the Tournament of Roses. It was certainly true in 2007 as the delightful inclusion of Star War Storm Troupers marched down Colorado Blvd in full regalia.

Itís not a short road for an equestrian to join in the Rose Parade. Participation in the parade for an equestrian group or entrant starts months and even years before one may be invited. Applications for the coming year must be received by the equestrian committee prior to May 15th.

With a million people coming to watch the parade, experience of both the rider and horse is of paramount importance to ensure safety of both riders and spectators. Breed, costume, presentation, riding proficiency and experience are all factors weighed in the riding groups selected for each yearís parade.

Two events make up the equestrian participation in the Tournament of Roses--the Equestfest held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in late December and the Rose Parade itself on New Years Day.

Experience and training are important factors for equestrians wishing to participate in a parade on the scale of the Tournament of Roses. Smaller parades and public exhibition are steps on the path. One of the qualifying parades for equestrians is the Spanish Days Festival in Santa Barbara. Each year more than 500 horses and riders, and a 100 entries participate in the Santa Barbara Parade held the first week of August.

A variety of equestrian organizations participate each year in the Rose Parade--drill teams and show riders, special breeds, mounted platoons, traditional and heritage to carriages and wagons.

Is it worth it? Well, one always hears about how much work it is and the preparation. The stories abound about arriving the night before with rig, horse, tack and costume. Trying to catch a few hours of shut eye in the cab of the truck or on a pile of tack. Waking long before the winter sun rises to tack up and be ready for your position in the parade. For some, the adrenalin runs all night with nervous anticipation and worry about this piece of tack or that piece of decoration.

The parade starts as the sun clears the buildings along Colorado Blvd. Riders, floats, bands and the Parade starts down Orange Grove and turns down Colorado along the five mile route. Is it worth it? Not one rider doesnít shine with a bit of pride and answer the question with a quirk of a smile and say, why yes it is. It's the Tournament of Roses.

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