Horsing around for perfection
THE CALIFORNIA Rhythm Riders Equestrian Drill Team practices at Pioneer Park in Fair Play. Left to right are Deanndra Sather, 17, Placerville; Kassi Smith, 16, El Dorado; Cathy Becker, 44, Plymouth; Cindy Eichelbaugh, 55, Mt. Aukum; Shelby Eichelbaugh, 21, Folsom; and Courtney Becker, 15, Plymouth. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins
The whistle blows and the dirt starts to fly. Deanndra Sather, Kassi Smith, Cathy Becker, Cindy Eichelbaugh, Shelby Eichelbaugh and Courtney Becker take off.
Hooves prance through the air as The California Rhythm Riders Equestrian Drill Team starts practicing.
The group of women of different ages choreograph and perform various maneuvers on horseback. They weave in and out of each other and synchronize their patterns to toe-tapping music. All the moves are metered to create a pleasing visual show for the judges and the audience.
“When you … get it all together and are fine tuned, and these wonderful horses are almost dancing to the music, it is the most awesome feeling,” said Cindy Eichelbaugh, one of the two captains of the team said. She has been a member since 2000.
Every week the members transports their horses to Pioneer Park in Fairplay to practice.
With great teamwork, precision and a lot of fun, they practice hard to achieve their goals of perfect synchronisation.
The group recently went through a long break and new members have joined the team. The riders are now focused on getting ready for a big competition.
They will perform at a competition at the Cow Palace in South San Francisco in October where they will compete against drill teams from throughout the nation.
They have performed at Turlock, Ceres, the Cow Palace, Reno and exhibited in many local venues.
“We have participated in community service events in El Dorado County. One was working with Ride and Shine, a non-profit group that teaches children with disabilities to ride. We raised money every year and performed for them at the organization’s annual fundraiser. We also donated $500 to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds for the new footing they wanted and put it in about four years ago,” Eichelbaugh said.
The riders are now working to raise money for new uniforms, according co-captain Cathy Becker. The group plans to do car washes and yard sales.
Cindy doesn’t regret her hard work for the team.
“I love doing this sport. I took over as co-captain in 2010, it has been challenging but it is worth it all.”
She has a spirit and dedication in her eyes while she talks about the team.
“It’s the thrill, the love for horses and the desire to entertain the audience that keeps me going,” she said.
Observers don’t need specific knowledge of horseback riding to see that the drill team does not only provide great entertainment but that it is a great example of good horsemanship.
Watching them gallop in perfect harmony with their horses is almost magical. Giving their horses invisible signals, the riders are able to perform maneuvers many riders are incapable of doing.
The group welcomes new members and volunteers. The California Rhythm Riders is looking for intermediate to advanced riders who have a horse and a trailer and the time to commit to one night a week for practice and two nights when it gets closer to competition. Any breed of horse is welcome.
The California Rhythm Riders practices the first, third and fourth Monday of the month at Pioneer Park in Fair Play. To be a part of the competitive team call Cindy at 530-620-2771 or Becker at 209-304-0091