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Hubbard County 4-H Drill Team advances to state contest

A lot of the maneuvers involve partner work. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)1 / 3
Coach Amber Booge, in pink, guides the Compulsory Team during practice at the Hubbard County Fairgrounds. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)2 / 3
The Freestyle Team practices a maneuver called, "the whip" where the horses stand shoulder to shoulder before moving in an outward circle while staying in formation. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)3 / 3

Hubbard County 4-H Equestrian Drill Team is sending two groups of riders to the state competition on Sept. 16.

"We created this drill team four years ago," Coach Amber Booge said. "We have two teams going down to state this year, which is super exciting."

Booge explained a drill team is a group of riders that performs choreographed maneuvers to music of their choice. Hubbard County 4-H has two drill teams, freestyle and compulsory, both of which will be performing in the AgStar Arena at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. The winner will get the opportunity to perform their pattern in the Warner Coliseum.

The freestyle team consists of 6 to 12 riders that create their own pattern, choose their music and perform it to the best of their ability in front of judges.

The compulsory team also has 6 to 12 riders with a set pattern they need to learn and perform for the judges, also to music of their choice.

This year marked the first year a regional competition was held due to an increase in participation. Too many teams throughout the state wanted to compete and the state horse showgrounds has limited stalling.

According to Booge, the last three years each participating county created a team that could automatically qualify for the state competition.

"This year, for the regional competition they took a ratio between the teams that were in a region and the top three in each division got to continue on to state," she said.

The regional competition was held July 22 in Park Rapids at Northwoods Arabians. Booge said there were six teams competing in the freestyle and seven teams competing in the compulsory.

The team has put a lot of work into the competition this year, she said. Hubbard County's drill team has nine riders, with five riders that ride on both the freestyle team and the compulsory team.

In 2014, their first drill team competed only in the freestyle. This year, Hubbard County had enough riders to form two teams, making it their first year to compete in compulsory.

They started practicing once a week in April and in May they began practicing twice each week. They performed at the Hubbard County Fair twice in the main arena and during the rodeo. They also performed at Clearwater County Fair at an event called Rhythm and Riding.

"It's fun to see the horses and riders come together and perform these maneuvers," Booge said. "At the beginning of the season they were a little nervous about the pattern I had created but they're doing wonderful."

This year, Booge arranged the pattern by consulting a book of maneuvers and looking at past competitions and the maneuvers that may or may not have worked.

"It's a lot of trial and error," she said. "I've had to change it quite a bit to make it flow smoothly."

Booge said the horses are very versatile. Most of the riders have gaming horses that they will show at barrels or poles, while some have pleasure horses that they will show for western pleasure or showmanship and trail.

"Your horse needs to know a lot to be able to be on drill team," she said, "especially rating, speed control, stop and turning and riding one-handed is a huge thing. For freestyle, we carry flags so the riders are expected to lope one-handed while carrying a flag and doing all of these maneuvers and that takes a lot of skill."

Both the freestyle and compulsory teams has two team captains per team that were elected by their fellow riders. Hubbard County Freestyle Captains are Molly Stack and Evan Booge, Compulsory Captains are Macy Miller and Nolan Booge.

"The kids had to write an essay describing their leadership skills and their horsemanship skills and then the team as a whole voted," Amber Booge explained. "They are really good about showing leadership and communicating."

Compulsory Team Captain Macy Miller said, "Drill Team pushes me to be a better rider and to have a better trained horse. It has given me a team experience that I did not get from high school. I have learned to be a better rider and to work as a team."

She also said that the drill team has pushed her to learn new things and improve, learning a lot from other riders, either from other experienced riders or by helping less experienced riders herself.

"Being on drill team is a ton of fun and has made me a better rider," Compulsory Team Captain Nolan Booge said. "It confirms that with practice and hard work, along with a great team of horses and riders, you can accomplish almost anything you put your mind to."