You Know the Drill
Scott Valley Drill Team…
The wild west may be awash in images of a lone rider and horse, but being an equestrian can also be a team sport. Just ask Katie Menne, who recently stepped into the role of drill team leader for the Scott Valley Drill Team. “Drill team is a group of kids who perform a choreographed pattern on horseback while carrying our American, California, State of Jefferson, Pleasure Park and local support flags. They do this while riding in the local Scott Valley Rodeo.”
For the kids who join, Menne explains it requires a strong time commitment. “Horses can be very nervous and typically spook at the end of the National Anthem when the applause begins. So, the kids practice every Friday night starting in March. They learn teamwork, timing, how to pace their horse and speed them up to make the pattern fluid. We try to also work on good, positive, safe horsemanship, taking the time to let the horse acclimate to the flags, the crowds, the loud music and commotion for the rodeo.”
The origins of the Scott Valley Drill Team go back nearly 70 years. “Scott Valley Drill Team was originally called Junior Pleasure Park, which began in 1958 when George Dillman, ‘Dad Dillman’, was tired of all the local boys and girls racing their horses down Main Street in Etna. George Dillman was part of the Siskiyou County Posse Drill Team and wanted to give the kids a constructive way to ride their horses. What they lacked in skill, they made up for in speed. Then, after their practice area was flooded out in 1964, a local named Jess McNames sold some land to the Pleasure Park board that year, which is where the rodeo grounds now still exist,” explains Menne.
Many longtime ranching families still participate, as well as those kids who want to get more comfortable on a horse. “Drill Team is an opportunity for our kids to continue some of the western ways, for grandparents and parents to watch their kids ride and for the kids to have pride in themselves and work on their horsemanship,” Menne says. The relationship is also mutually beneficial for Etna’s rodeo grounds.
“The Drill Team gives back to the Pleasure Park by cleaning the rodeo grounds on a work day. Drill Team has sponsored buckles for the rodeo and continues to make improvements to the Drill Team booth at Pleasure Park.” This year, the team even hopes to build some horse obstacles for “the kids to expand their skills, and for any Pleasure Park member to use.”
Youth of all ages are welcome to participate. “Kids have ridden as young as 6 and up through high school. And, some of the younger kids practice, but do not feel confident to ride in the actual rodeo performance,” explains Menne. The kids also become part of a tight-knit group. “The Drill Team is a kind of community within a community. They are all friends. They look out for one another. The older kids take care of the littles. It is neat to watch these beautiful friendships grow over a common love of horses.”
The time together also isn’t just all work. “In the summer we do a campout. We haul our horses to Carter Meadows, Hidden Horse Camp for several days. Each day we ride to a different lake with a packed lunch and lots of swimming floaties for the kids to play with. The bold kids get to take their horses swimming in the high mountain lakes.”
The kids are actively involved in the formation of their own drill formations. “They help design the pattern and choose the music that they would like to ride to,” notes Menne. And while the kids keep focused on their performance during the annual rodeos, their parents always have their sights trained on their kids. Even Menne, who has been involved with the Drill Team for the past six years with her own daughter, still gets butterflies watching them perform. “I have a mixture of feelings that range from nervousness to pride. To watch those kids glow with delight as they enter the arena is so cool. When the performance is over, I am honestly always relieved that it went well, and that all the kids and horses are safe.•
See the drill team in action at
Etna’s two annual rodeos:
April 30 and July 29