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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Gunn

Drill team allows youth riders to grow

Elizabeth, Colo. – Madeline Wagner is the co-coach of the Blazing Saddles Drill Team. She coaches alongside Cindy Adams. Wagner studied horse training and equine management while at college, but she has had a long passion for helping the equine industry and the next generation of horse enthusiasts and riders, especially youth.

Upon returning home and selling one of her horses to a girl who was on the local drill team, Wagner soon became involved.

The 2022 season will be Wagner’s ninth year coaching, but the team has been around for the past 16 to 17 years, she shared.

Youth participants and riders

The primarily youth drill team, a non-profit organization, consists of riders between the ages of 11 to 21 years of age, shared Wagner.

“Anyone can join; however, we only allow 24 performance riders at one time,” explained Wagner. “We have had girls join and do our parades with us and train their horses getting ready for a performance spot when it opens.”

The team has a total of 30 to 35 girls with everyone combined, she continued.

The drill team practices at a local arena, where the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo is held, and their season starts mid-January and ends in August.

“Most of the girls are from Elizabeth but it’s not a requirement,” explained Wagner. “Some are from neighboring cities and drive-in.”

Time commitment and schedule

Being involved with a drill team is a big-time commitment. The team practices once a week and then travel to rodeos and events most weekends. It is not uncommon for the team to travel and perform three to four days out of the week depending on the shows they have during the season, she shared.

The Rocky Mountain Horse Expo marks the team’s first performance of the year at the end of February beginning of March depending on the year, and then takes about three weeks off in the spring and then picks back up and starts practicing for the whole summer.

The drill team travels and performs at roughly seven to 10 events throughout their season with their last show scheduled for the end of August.

The furthest the team travels to is Estes Park, Colo. for the Estes Park Rooftop PRCA Rodeo. The Rooftop Rodeo is scheduled for July 6-11, 2022.

Other stops on the team schedule this year include several parades; the PRCA Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo, June 3-5; Cowboy Up, Kiowa, June 24-25; Law Enforcement Memorial Fundraiser, July 23; and the Responder Relief Rodeo, Kiowa, August 20, in addition to other events.

Team drills and inspiration

The drill team has two drills they use throughout the season and uses different flags – they carry military-themed flags, a team flag, and blue and red lined flags to honor cop and first responder events, Wagner mentioned.

“We are the representative drill team for the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo and the Elizabeth Stampede, so we get to do those two shows every year for sure,” she said. “The Elizabeth Stampede is personally my favorite rodeo because it’s our hometown rodeo and all of the kid’s friends and family get to come.”

The team will perform three nights during the Elizabeth Stampede and it’s a lot of fun, she added.

“During the Rooftop rodeo, many of the families are staying in Estes Park, Colo. and we get to do some fun things with the kids, so, that one is fun too,” she shared.

The team utilizes horses a majority of the time and only does “walk-throughs” if the weather is permitting them to be on horses, otherwise, the team walks through the drills on horses as they are learning the drill, and then will increase speed as they become more comfortable, she noted.

One of the hardest parts about coaching a drill team is coming up with the inspiration for the drills, she shared.

“We run a new drill every year – we never run the same drill,” Wagner explained. “The kids come up with some of the maneuvers and Sindy and I research some of them in addition to doing more traditional maneuvers as well. We at least try to change it every year.”

Lessons taught

“The Blazing Saddles Drill Team is very unique,” she noted. “We have such a big age range of children. Not a lot of clubs allow young kids – all the way up to 21 years of age to participate in the same activity. So, it forces the older kids to really help the younger kids and become role models and show them what they need to do if they have been on the team for a long time.”

The team also doesn’t have tryouts, she adds.

“Anyone who wants to come, can try and we will at least let them ride in the parades with us and help train their horse until there is a position opened to perform in a performance,” Wagner said. “We try to be really inclusive to everyone who wants to participate.”

Wagner offers drill team members and future members a piece of advice, she shared, “always try your best and work as a team. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but as long as there is teamwork, it’s all that matters.”

“The whole point behind the Blazing Saddles Drill Team is to teach kids and youth how to work as a team and to provide skills that will help them in their future life and how to work with people,” concluded Wagner.

Be on the lookout for this awesome, youth drill team coming to a rodeo or event near you, and consider getting involved; because the world needs more cowboys and cowgirls.

For those interested in joining or getting involved with the Blazing Saddles Drill Team, reach out via e-mail,, or follow along on their Facebook page: The Blazing Saddles Drill Team.

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