Thursday, March 8, 2012

Debbie Sams: Drill Team Beginnings

. . . on this upstate New York farm (Springer’s Stables).

My dream job became a reality in 1979, when the director of the Sacandaga Bible Conference Camp and Retreat Center across the road from my dairy farm home asked me to help them start a horse program for their campers!

As time went on people from the community began asking me to teach their children to ride, and eventually, it seemed like a good idea to put on a recital of sorts to showcase my students’ skills each year. In the early days our exhibitions consisted of a short Wild West skit and games on horseback.

Annika Sams riding an individual freestyle

Each year I enjoy taking my students to Dressage at Saratoga, a big local show. When my students saw the drill teams — I believe it was the Blue Angels and the Saratoga County 4-H drill team who were performing at that time — they wanted to do drill team at our farm. We also saw drill team performances at The Equine Affair in Massachusetts, so we came home and put together a drill. From then on our exhibitions included drill team and drama on horseback.

Kayla Savage preparing for Granny’s
Kidnappin’ and the gypsy dance

The horses enjoy the music, and you can often see them perk right up when we start it.

At some point we began raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during our exhibition. It has been great to be able to help provide free care for children who have cancer and their families.

Performing the pinwheel in Mucker Ella, our version of 
Cinderella on horseback are, left to right, Linnea’ Olson on Ringo,
Annika Sams riding Stoney, Katie De Rosa mounted
on Peppermint, and Clair Celery on Jazzy.

Did we have perfectly matched steeds? No. Were our riders at the grand prix level? No. Did we have a blast working on learning the patterns? Absolutely! It is truly the icing on the cake when parents come up to me afterward and say, “That brought tears to my eyes. It was so beautiful!”

Debbie Sams is author of 101 Drill Team Exercises. Debbie has been teaching horseback riding at Springer's Farm in Broadalbin, New York since 1979.

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