When the Arlington Park Race Track officially opens on Friday, Culver Academies’ Friesian Mounted Color Guard will be part of the ceremony. The color guard, under the command of Paul Foersch ’15 (Culver) is comprised of six Friesians, will carry the colors during the opening ceremony and Squadron commander Leonardo Rodriguez ’15 (Acapulco, Mexico) will sing the national anthem.
Horsemanship Director of Instruction Mark Waller said the color guard was invited to participate in the opening day ceremonies by the Craig Duchossois ’62 family. It also kicks off a very busy season for the Friesians, which are becoming increasingly popular each year.
Standing more than 16 hands high and weighing more than 1,500 pounds each, the all-black Friesians make quite an impression. The horses already lead Culver Military’s parades on Sunday, being ridden by the Squadron commander and Troop leaders. Waller said he wanted to use the Friesians to create a one-breed mounted color guard similar to the United States Marine Corps Palomino Mustangs. That became possible after adding the sixth horse, he said.
The Friesians performance is based on the Marines. And Waller asks a friend who rode with the Marines color guard for critiques. The Friesians and the Palomino Mustangs may be the only two military single breed mounted color guard units in the country, he added.
This month’s schedule includes a return trip to the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade on Saturday, May 23, where they will be carrying a new set of colors purchased by Mitchell Murphy ’10, a former Lancer. The parade will be televised in the Indianapolis area on WTHR (Channel 13) and nationally on the NBC Sports Channel. The parade kicks off at noon.
Another nationally televised appearance will a return to the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago. Regional television exposure has come from the Grand Floral Parade in St. Joseph, Mich. Another major venue has been the Horse & Carriage Parade at West Virginia Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon. The horses and riders have also appeared at smaller functions in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
The Ohio trip was particularly moving, Waller said, because the color guard participated in official ceremony for the deployment of members of the Ohio National Guard to the Middle East. The National Guard families held a picnic for veterans, then conducted the deployment ceremony with the Friesians and Troopers doing the presentation of the colors.
The Culver Summer Schools & Camps horsemanship program has also taken the Friesians on the road. They have participated in the Support Our Troops Festival in Baroda, Mich. The summer group gives Waller the opportunity to include two girl riders as the saber bearers.
When the students return this fall, they will immediately begin practicing for major appearances at the Breeders Cup in Lexington, Ky., and the grand opening of a horse park in Aiken, S.C., Waller said. Both appearances have been arranged through Culver horsemanship alumni, he added.