Countdown to Equestfest

By November 21, 2011
A regal carriage of gold pulled by four high-stepping Paint horses.

The Scripps Miramar horses conjure romantic fantasies of yore.

For better than a century, the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena has captured the attention of the world on New Year’s Day, selling Southern California like the enviable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…

Editor’s Note: As we gear-up for the 2012 Rose Parade, The Equestrian News dipped into its archive to present this article that appeared in our December 2010 issue, examining the annual Equestfest, which provides barn tours and up-close demonstrations in an extravaganza of equine spirit. The 2011 Equestfest takes place Dec. 30, presented by Wells Fargo.

…Magical images of beautiful horses, flower-bedecked floats and marching bands are among the sumptuous visual treats. The theme for the 2011 parade is “Building Dreams, Friendships & Memories,” and the equestrian committee, headed by Jon Montgomery, has been busy checking and rechecking last-minute details—everything from security at the staging area to providing extra ribbons for riders who lost theirs—to ensure that when the 122nd Rose Parade kicks off bright and early on Jan. 1, 2011, everything goes according to plan.

Equestfest, which takes place each year at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on the eve of the Rose Parade, showcases the equine contingent featured in the big event. Of the 23 equestrian units that will parade through Pasadena on Jan. 1, nineteen are making return appearances. Equestrian selection committee  captain Jolane Weist said of the selection process: “each team is tied into the parade’s theme, color, variety and balance, plus previous parade experience.”

A team of dainty miniature horses pulls a jewel box of a carriage at the 2010 Equestfest

Miniature horses from the Scripps Miramar equine program.

With the parade route lined with crowds, many of whom have camped overnight for a good spot, not to mention the millions of television viewers around the nation and the world, Weist said creating a great parade experience “is essential.” She worked with the selection committee for two years to review the equine participants. The application process requires a lengthy review and in some cases takes several years before final approval.

New to the parade this year is “equine extremist” Tommie Turvey, who will ride Roman-style. Yes, that means standing atop his two black-and-white Paint horses, Ace and Joker, along the entire six-mile parade route. “I’ve done longer parades,” Turvey said. “Milwaukee was actually longer, but it’s not the length of the parade but the starts and stops that make it difficult.”

For 70 years the Kern County Sheriff Mounted Posse has appeared in parades and special events, raising funds and awareness for children with disabilities. Marshal Tom Svare said the group is the oldest functioning posse in California and parades nearly seven times a year, but 2011 will mark its Rose Parade debut. “This is an absolute honor,” said Svare, who along with 15 members of the posse will be dressed in full cowboy regalia. Look for them parading atop their mounts in spotless black tack, dressed in burgundy shirts, white scarves, silver hats and those very distinctive Western chaps emblazoned with their names.

A man sits astride his massive, black Brahama Bull, Wild West Willie.

Doug Rogers and his Brahma Bull, Wild West Willie.

Parade goers may think they are seeing things when Doug Rogers comes riding down the boulevard atop his bull Wild West Willie. In years past, there have been camels and elephants, but this is the first year a Brahma bull has actually been saddled up. But according to Rogers, Willie is really nothing more than your average family pet. Coming from Alberta, Canada, and measuring 6’9” at the withers, the big guy is an eight-year-old cross-bred Brahma steer weighing in at 2,800 pounds. As a pet he may be a bit unusual, but this is a bull that can ride, drive and, for the fun of it, take a bow when need be, and, says Rogers, “he’ll do just that and more along the parade route.”

Joining the parade for the first time will be wild horse advocate Madeleine Pickens and her husband, billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens, as they promote their foundation Saving America’s Mustangs. For the last two and half years, Madeleine Pickens and her nonprofit group have worked to educate the public about the plight of America’s wild Mustangs. In early November the Bureau of Land Management officially agreed to move forward in the development of an eco-sanctuary for the wild horses currently in holding facilities. “This is great news,” Pickens said. “I’m looking forward to the parade and Equestfest and showing off what a beautiful and useful horse the American Mustang is.”

Two mustang horses ridden by colorfully-clad riders carrying flags.

The Saving America's Wild Mustangs emphasizes our cultural heritage.

To ride in the Rose Parade is the dream of many an equestrian. For the 205 riders and 305 horses who’ll march on January 1, their work to qualify began years before. For paraders, the final countdown to the event is a flurry of activity that includes private parties with members of the Tournament of Roses, including the 34-member equestrian committee, and finally onto the big show at Equestfest and then, the parade itself.

“It’s all a lot of fun and a very big honor,” said Montgomery, adding that, “I feel fortunate to work with such a great group of people…and their horses!”


For horse lovers who’d rather sleep in than brave the crowds and the chilly weather at the Rose Parade, the annual Equestfest at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center is a chance to get an up-close look at the parade’s equestrian units. Billed as the best family equestrian event of the year, Equestfest takes place Wednesday, Dec. 29, and will feature exhibitions and performances by groups like Medieval Times, the Spirit of the West Riders and the All American Cowgirl Chicks. “Equine extremist” Tommie Turvey says he plans to jump a wall of fire Roman-style and do a little chariot racing around the LAEC Equidome.

Trick rider Tommie Turvey performs "roman riding," riding two horses "astride" (standing with one leg on each) as they gallop around the arena.

Tommie Turvey performs what's known as Roman riding.

Offering barn tours and a chance to meet the people and horses who will march in the Rose Parade, Equestfest is as much a showcase for the tireless efforts of those who labor behind the scenes to make the horse portion of the parade perfect as it is for the actual equestrian paraders. There’ll also be food, music and fun for the whole family.

Equestfest takes place Dec. 29, 2010, at Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. Gates open at 11 a.m., and the formal program begins at noon and runs through 3 p.m. Admission is $15 (children 5 and under are free), and parking is $5. The Rose Parade begins at 8 a.m. on Jan. 1. For tickets and information for both events, contact Sharp Seating, at 626-795-4171, or go to

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