Local equestrian team, program competes with highest expectations
The Canadian Valley Rangerettes revolve around family and championships.
Out of the team’s 16 riders, there are four mother-daughter groups, one pair of sisters and Drill Master Nila Birchett’s granddaughter Ellise Foreman, 15.
“I like to see the mother-daughter groups together because they enjoy going out with each other,” Birchett said. “We all just have a good time.”
Ellise moved up to the main team in 2014, but also still competes with the CVR Youth Team. Ellise’s sister Lundon Foreman and their cousin Claire Foreman, both 11, are part of the youth team, which consists of children and grandchildren of the Rangerettes.
“Grandma bought them horses and told ‘em they were gonna ride,” Birchett said. “As far as actually coaching them? Sure, I taught all of them how to ride. They were all taught early.”
Ellise got her first horse before she was even two years old. Birchett keeps her granddaughters horses at her house in Mustang so she can feed them and take care of them.
“All they have to do is come out and ride,” she said.
Although Birchett taught her granddaughters how to ride, she has never been the Drill Master for the youth team.
“I always had somebody else do that because I just barely have the patience for an adult team and I’m really hard on my adult team,” Birchett said. “I didn’t want to be the Drill Master for the youth because I didn’t want my grandchildren crying all the time.”
Birchett said she leaves other people in charge of the youth team and just helps out when they need it.
“It’s always worked out that way,” she said.
The Rangerettes began in 1968 as the “Mustang Roundup Club Drill Team,” but due to a conflict with Mustang’s Rodeo, they reorganized as the Canadian Valley Rangerettes in 1969. They also performed publicly for the first time that year at Frontier City.
Birchett is the only founding member left and has been Drill Master for 22 years now. She said she is strict on the Rangerettes.
“I’m very tough,” Birchett said. “I expect perfection and I get a little upset when I don’t get it, and I let them know it.”
Prior to Birchett being Drill Master, there have been four other Drill Masters, three males and one other female.
The first Drill Master, Bob Hill, was also tough, a trait Birchett said she learned from him, seeing him as an idol.
“That’s where I learned to be mean because he was always really mean,” Birchett laughed. “Not really mean, but he expected perfection.
“If it hadn’t been for him encouraging us like he did, we probably would’ve fallen apart years ago.”
The Rangerettes are six-time national champions, all of the titles won during Birchett’s time as Drill Master. The team’s most recent title was won at the United States Equestrian Drill Championship Super Ride XIV last month in Lindale, Texas where they competed against teams from Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia.
The main team won the Division 1 National Championship and “brought the buckles home,” according to a press release from the Rangerettes.
They also captured first in the Rodeo Division and Adult Division, and third in the Ride of Champions. The youth team won first in Youth Novice division and second in Youth Novice Quad.
The Rangerettes also took two adult quad teams that both placed second.
“The most exciting thing for me when we go to nationals is knowing that all the teams that show up down there are out to get us,” Birchett said. “It just thrills me that we can win.
“I’m not trying to brag. We have been beaten before, which is understandable because we can’t win every year. But I really get upset when we go there and don’t win because I know they’re the best team there, and when they cry because they lose, I tell ‘em to ‘suck it up, it’s your fault, I did all I could do.’”
Birchett said the Rangerettes have never really had any arguments or conflicts. Most riders stay about eight to 10 years then they move on to something else, she said.
“But there’s always new riders who want to come in,” Birchett said.
The team has tryouts every fall in October and November. Women interested in trying out must already know how to ride. The fall practices are for learning how to drill.
The Rangerettes have four rodeos left for the season, including Western Days in Mustang in September.
“Riding in Mustang is always our favorite,” Birchett said.
To view the full schedule or to find out more information, visit the Canadian Valley Rangerettes Facebook page.