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    Dreams Come True

    Norco Cowgirls ride their way to Rose Parade

    From Horsetrader staff reports - January 16th, 2014 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

    CoverPASADENA — A funny thing happened after the Norco Cowgirls applied a third and final time to be an equestrian entry in the venerable Tournament of Roses Parade.

    They got in.

    The Norco-based drill team, formed by Mychon Bowen in 2008, had previously turned in its comprehensive, three-ring binder of an application for the 2010 and 2011 parades, but didn’t get the call.

    “The girls were like, ‘Let’s apply one more time!’,” says Bower, who did just that. “We got in last year and were so excited –it was a fabulous, fun time for everyone. Then they begged me to do it again.”

    Once again, the Norco Cowgirls were selected, this time for the 2014 parade, which meant extra because equestrian entrants were whittled this year from 23 to 15 — 16 counting the color guard. Some longtime horsemen would miss the parade for the first time in decades.

    “We were very honored this year,” Bowen says. “They cut the number down, but included us, so we were very, very honored.”

    "The kids, especially the little girls, come down in droves with stars in their eyes... and they have a million questions... it's really neat." -- Mychon Bowen, Norco Cowgirls

    “The kids, especially the little girls, come down in droves with stars in their eyes… and they have a million questions… it’s really neat.”
    — Mychon Bowen, Norco Cowgirls

    Stephanie Grimm photo

    The Norco Cowgirls are a dozen horsewomen who ride for fun, but with a purpose. From 7-9 p.m. every Monday night at trainer Judy Bonham’s facility on Hillside Ave. in Horsetown USA, these gals ride their American Paint and Quarter Horses through their drill paces.

    They perform not only in one of the world’s most-watched parades, but also in a collection of events both large and small. In 2013, they rode in 18 events across Southern California, up from the four local events in their inaugural year. By Bowen’s count, the team has made 120 appearances since August 2008.

    The biggest, of course, is a 5.5-mile ride down Colorado Boulevardin Pasadena, in front of more than a half-million on-lookers and a television audience of millions more.

    “It’s very exciting to walk down the parade route because the whole crowd is so excited to see you, wishing you a Happy New Year,” says Bowen. “There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of energy.”

    Bowen laughs at the energy that came from her cellphone this year.

    “I had my cell phone in my pocket, and I’m smiling and waving down the parade,” she says. “I can feel my phone buzzing. It kept going off, getting text messages from people seeing me on the TV, the whole way down the parade route.”

    The excitement and energy of the march did not feature what the Norco Cowgirls are known for – their drills.

    125th Rose Parade Buckle

    125th Rose Parade Buckle

    Stephanie Grimm photo

    “We can’t really showcase what we do in the parade,” says the captain, whose unit performed a few maneuvers en route, but had to be mindful of holding things up.

    “They ask that we not do maneuvers in front of camera on TV corner because it holds the traffic up, but we did do maneuvers further down,” she says. “We just can’t go at a full gallop and do the really fun stuff that we get to go at EquestFest.”

    Sponsored by Wells Fargo, EquestFest is the two-hour show held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank a couple days before the parade. In its 25th year, the popular event treats an audience to up-close and personal moments with the parade’s equine performers, who get the chance to do more than proceed down a street.

    “We really appreciate EquestFest — that’s a major portion of the fun,” says Bowen. “Afterwards, we get to go to the audience — like we do, too at rodeos and other events — and we go up to the rail. The kids, especially little girls, come down in droves with stars in their eyes. They want to pet the horses, and they have a million questions. How old do you have to be to ride? What kind of horse is that? It’s really neat.”

    The Norco Cowgirls are self-financed, Bowen says, and each rider pitched in $100 for the $1,200 entrant fee. They use the monies they collect from events throughout the year to keep well-dressed in uniforms like the sequenced black and silver shirts they wore in the parade. Last year, they wore red and white.

    “We have six different shirts,” Bowen says. “The shirt we wore this year is a brand new shirt for us.”

    Bowen says she rode for another Norco-based drill team, the Painted Magic, for 10 years before starting the Norco Cowgirls.

    “My husband had been telling me for a long time to start my own team. Then came time to do it, and I jumped in with both feet,” she says. “I thought it would be harder than it was. The shows kind of came to us. We did pursue some of the bigger PCRA shows, but the littler shows — they just kind of came to us, especially last year after being in the parade. We got quite a few extra opportunities because people had seen us in the parade and at EquestFest.”

    And, the wonderful community of Norco embraced their newest stars.

    “The community in Norco just loved last year and that we were in the parade,” she says. “They were so excited. We have kind of a small town here in Norco, and so everybody knows everybody. Every time I went anywhere in town to get something to eat or get something in the grocery store, I’d hear ‘I saw you in the parade — you guys looked great!’ It was a real positive experience.”

    Bowen says the only requisites to be a Norco Cowgirl are (1) own or lease an APHA or AQHA horse, (2) be age 18 or over, and (3) have intermediate to advanced riding skills.

    “Quarters and Paints are well-suited to the work that we do,” she says. “They have a good mind, they are nice-looking, they are well-built and can handle the work load. Plus, we like some consistency, so we don’t have a Mutt-and-Jeff mix of a Pony and an Arab and a Mule — we have some conformity.”

    If someone expressed interest in joinging the team, they were invited to come down and check out the Monday night practices.

    “If they have enough want to come on down, then sometimes they bring their horse, sometimes they come on foot,” she says. “Sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t. We want them to have enough initiative to pursue it.”

    Once she conducted a try-out, and seven riders showed up.

    “We went ahead since they were all similar riding abilities and took all seven,” she says. “I expected the cream to rise to the top and there would be an immediate dismissal of the other ones. But they were all pretty much of the same riding ability, so we said,’Hey come ride with us for a while, let’s see how you get along.’ It’s important that we all get along,” she adds.

    2014 Norco Cowgirls
    Mychon Bowen
    Jennifer Brown
    Tyger Fawcett
    Sharon Dewdney
    Mynon Sullivan
    Kim Cheek
    Judy Magargee
    Libby Magargee
    Natillie Bachetti
    Cathey Burtt
    Lacey Clarke
    Lynette Mooney

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