Pikes Peak Rangerette Drill Team celebrates 60 years in the saddle | TheFencePost.com

Pikes Peak Rangerette Drill Team celebrates 60 years in the saddle

Colorado's western traditions will continue for a long time to come if the Pikes Peak Rangerette Drill Team has any say in the matter — and they do. In fact, the organization was created in 1957 for that very purpose.

The Rangerettes are an offshoot of Pikes Peak Range Riders. Colorado Springs, Colo., area businessmen began the association in 1949 to promote the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. Some of those gentlemen had daughters with horses so, eight years later, the drill team was formed. Membership doubled from six the first year to qw the second. The group is dedicated to molding girls ages 12 to 20 into poised, successful young women through teamwork, development of communication skills, a sense of responsibility and horsemanship.

Stacy Reid Bandock was a team member from age 14 to 19. Then, in 1995, she earned the title Girl of the West, which is the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Queen. Her 14-year-old daughter, Sasha, is excitedly following in mom's bootsteps.

Among the useful disciplines learned is how to work as a cohesive group through committees, an Activities Group, conducting outside events for PPRR, practices, drills and election of officers, Bandock said.

The current team is limited to 20 girls, mainly for safety reasons when they perform their intricate, close-contact, mounted drills. More horses performing simultaneously in an arena could cause injuries, and safety for riders and horses is paramount.

Members volunteer hundreds of hours yearly to promote western heritage and support military families. Charitable fundraisers are held to benefit causes like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club. Rangerettes eagerly volunteer for Special Kids' Rodeo, an annual event that offers special needs kids the excitement of participating in their very own rodeo. Events such as a stick horse race, wheelchair barrel race, and the opportunity to pet a real horse make it a memorable day for all.

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"I'm passionate about this organization," Bandock said, "because I don't know of another that teaches young women social skills, etiquette, team building, communication skills, a work ethic and bonding with one another to carry on Western tradition and heritage; and all while bonding with their horses, such amazing animals."

FORMER RANGERETTES

Bandock shared some impressive statistics. Since 1957, there have been 37 former Rangerettes who went on to become rodeo queens. Additionally, four former members became Miss Rodeo Colorado. There have been at least 26 sets of sisters. So far, only two mother/daughter sets have been discovered, and one is Bandock and Sasha.

Amanda Summers Hensen and her younger sister, Kayla, are among the sister-sister sets. Hensen served in Rangerettes from 2008-2012, became El Paso County Fair Queen in 2011, and Girl of the West for 2012-2013. Third-generation, native Coloradans, both girls were in 4-H, showed horses and attended the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo with their grandfather, Frank Sala, every year since they were toddlers.

Hensen laughed as she recalled that she and her Palomino gelding, Montego, were known as "the blond duo" because of their matching golden coifs.

"Rangerettes was like a sisterhood I grew up in. It made me the woman I am today," said Hensen, now a vet student in Arizona.

After graduating with two bachelor of science degrees (equine and animal science) from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, she continued pursuit of a veterinary career at Midwestern University in Phoenix, where she just completed her second year.

Another former member, Amy Fields Rogers, spent five years (1996-2001) riding with the team. Her sister, Nicole Fields, had joined first and Rogers later followed her. Rogers became 2003 El Paso County Fair Queen, Girl of the West for 2004-2005 and Miss Rodeo Colorado 2007.

Rogers wasn't, however, the stereotypical horse-crazy little girl even though she grew up around the family's horses since birth. When she was seven, Happy the pony impolitely bit her, scaring her far away from horses and riding for six years. She recalled always racing from the gate to the house when horses were around.

But she dutifully travelled for Rangerettes with her family and sister until she tired of sitting on the sidelines. She asked her dad for riding lessons and, within eight months and at age 13, was doing well enough to join the team. Throughout her tenure with it she always rode the same horse, who died just recently at age 34.

"We were kindred spirits," Rogers lovingly said of herself and her loyal steed.

ANNIVERSARY

As the team's 60th anniversary approached, thoughts turned to all the young ladies who'd been members over the years. A hunt was on for the MIAs. Bandock served on the reunion committee designated to locate these graduates in time for the festive celebration to be held during the July 12-15 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.

Facebook and word-of-mouth found numerous strays. After only three months, more than 100 names had been listed on the registry. Many had become veterinarians, marketing directors, political figures or had other successful careers.

On Saturday, July 15, between afternoon and evening rodeo performances, current and former Rangerettes gathered in North Penrose Stadium for their grand celebration. Bandock and other speakers talked about the organization in general and topics such as old versus new team rules. There was specific recognition of Drill Masters, Assistant Drill Masters, Uniform Moms, the rodeo board, sponsors, and PPRR for each decade in the group's history. Next came a presentation for 2017 college scholarship winners, followed by a speech by current Drill Master Dwayne Watson. With so many alumnae present, naturally they and present team members got together for a group photo.

The 60th anniversary celebration was a lope down memory lane, an opportunity to reunite with old friends, make new ones, and to build for the future on past successes. The Pikes Peak Rangerette Drill Team alumnae registry continues to seek former members to keep them aware of upcoming events, reunions, etc. So, if you or someone you know is a past member still 'in-hiding', please get in touch at http://www.atlatigo.com. Colorado's western heritage needs you.

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.