Over at the Breeds Barn, the horses with the masses of silver glitter on their rumps are the property of the California Cowgirls. The horses, who do not seem to mind the glitter, are Palominos and quarter horses and paints. The girls who ride them are the team with the Thrill of the Drill.
They are the performers who are set to execute their drills at high speed each of the 16 days of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Who've been planning to be here for two years. Who've had their hearts set on coming to Kentucky after appearing at rodeos, horse shows and parades throughout California and Nevada. Who brought 13 different show outfits with them, including custom-made red, white and blue leather chaps.
Who are nurses, a mother-and-daughter pair, high-school students and grandmothers.
They have ridden with broken feet and weathered a broken dream or two, but not this time. No, sir. And do not, for one minute, be confused by the fluffy white hairdo-dads or the matching silver halters on their horses.
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At the dress rehearsal Friday, at last on the biggest stage of their lives, after 15 years of twice weekly practice sessions, of blood, sweat and daily stall muckings, the cowgirl who put the California Cowgirls on the map went down. In a collision with another cowgirl, both astride horses doing drill maneuvers, while WLEX was filming, Sara Curtis fell, breaking her arm.
"I'm still on top of the world," she said from her home in Wilton, Calif., after watching the equestrian drill team she founded make a triumphant twirl through the opening ceremony Saturday night without a glitch.
On Monday, they performed again without her. This time it was raining, and the crowd, mostly Lexington schoolchildren, watched as 13 women, ages 17 to "Social Security is calling," answered the Thrill of the Drill. "We're pouring our hearts out there for her," said Linda Benhase, who had to take over for Curtis.
Because this, everyone of them agrees, is a team.
Take the time 17-year-old Autumn Teach was supposed to graduate from high school on a night there was a performance. Autumn rode with the Cowgirls instead, picking up her diploma later. (The girls gave her a fine substitute in the interim.)
Or the time one of them moved to Northern California just so she could be part of the team.
Or the fact that they are each paying their own way to Kentucky for 16 days, including the freight on their horses' transportation, because most any fund-raiser they tried just didn't seem to get them much closer to the money they needed to get here.
June Harrison said they tried garage sales and a wellness clinic, begging for sponsorships from tack and feed suppliers — anything. The slow economy just hasn't allowed for a lot of extra money to go to help out the Cowgirls on their quest.
So Harrison made a T-shirt to pick up their morale. On it: One heart, one team, one dream, Kentucky.
June's own morale was almost broken when her horse was injured a few months before the Games. Maybe, she says, it was good; he was saved the long trip here. He is old.
Now that they're here, they are undeterred: They will shine. They talk to Curtis every day. Curtis says she is disappointed not just that she fell but that she "is not seeing Kentucky and all those wonderful horses."
After the daily Equine Village performance, a few Cowgirls will greet those interested in their work in a special paddock area.
Then they will all go back to the barn, untack their horses, speak sweet things into their ears, rub them where they hurt, brush them softly and give them treats. After all, this is their long-awaited trip to Kentucky, too.