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EVENTS & FESTIVALS

Equines get to strut their stuff before the big parade

December 27, 2007|Elina Shatkin

THERE are the basics: the hippodrome , the one-foot, the fender drag. For the ambitious -- some would say fearless -- there's the lazyback, the Stroud and the Cossack, the last of which is essentially a scissor kick performed while hanging upside down, anchored by just your ankle, from a moving horse.

It's known as trick riding, and although it's one of the showstoppers at Equestfest -- a horse-themed celebration that allows visitors to get up close and personal with many of the equines that participate in the Rose Parade -- it's the horses as much as the riders that take center stage.

"We love the floats and we love the bands, but the horses lend a much more personal contribution," says Brad Ratliff, chairman of the Rose Parade's Equestrian Committee. "Watching how the rider and the horse work together, I think people gain a tremendous respect for what they do."

The centerpiece of Equestfest is a 2 1/2 -hour pageant of trick riding, Wild West performances, drill teams, roping, medieval jousting and other equestrian acts. Between the flips and vaults of the All American Cowgirl Chicks from Fort Worth and the living history of the New Buffalo Soldiers, a group of California firefighters will ride into the arena on a vintage 1902 steam fire engine pulled by a team of three galloping Percherons.

Joanne Asman, the coordinator of Equestfest as well as the marshal for USC mascot Traveler, puts a more personal spin on the festivities. "The horses keep me sane. There's a saying that goes: The outside of a horse is good for the inside of your soul." Asman and Traveler, a 16-year-old white Andalusian (he's actually the seventh Traveler since 1961), will be participating in the parade as part of the International Andalusian and Lusitano Assn. horse team.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Equestfest isn't the impressive riding, it's that 16 of the 18 teams participating in the Rose Parade will be on hand, and the paddocks will be opened, so that even non-horse people can get cheek to snout with a steed.

"It's a hard thing to understand until you see it yourself, but once you've been around a horse you can feel that presence," Asman says. "I think it's the heart. Horses have heart and that's what comes through when you deal with them."

-- Elina.Shatkin@latimes.com

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EQUESTFEST

WHERE: Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank

WHEN: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

PRICE: $8 general admission; children 5 and younger, free

INFO: (626) 795-4171; www.tournamentofroses.com

/events/equestfest.asp

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