After a challenging year of isolation, the Calgary Stampede Showriders are back in the saddle and ready to rock the audience again.
A young group of equestrians, the Showriders combine incredible horsemanship with music as they promote western culture and the spirit of Stampede. The team visits local rodeos and parades throughout the year and has even showcased their skills internationally throughout the US and Europe. Some notable performances include the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena in 2019 and the privilege to be the personal mounted honour guard for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their Canadian Tour in 2011.
The group consists of riders between the ages of 14-22. Tèa Di Lillo, who is currently the longest-serving Showrider, started at the young age of 14 as she has been with the group for the last seven years. Di Lillo faces the end of an era this year as she turns 22, however, her passion for riding doesn’t stop with Showriders. She hopes to continue with Stampede as a part of the prestigious Stampede Royalty Trio.
While Di Lillo found a passion for the beautiful animals, she wanted to challenge herself and her horse with something more than trail riding. Showriders has given her the perfect environment to learn and improve her horsemanship skills.
“You can’t master Showriders; it is always new, exciting and challenging,” Di Lillo said.
The training for Showriders is no walk in the park. It involves months of skills, clinics and training to master the musical ride. The training spans every season with a combination of independent and group sessions.
The equestrian troop relies heavily on teamwork which has created a challenge throughout the past 16 months. Practicing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the riders had plenty of time to ride solo; allowing them to work on the bond with their horses.
According to the team, it’s been a rollercoaster ride with lockdowns.
“It has been difficult to find motivation without the certainty of show season,” said Di Lillo. Even without the promise of Stampede, their passion and love of the sport have kept them going throughout the difficult moments.
“We are all stoked to be here. It puts in perspective what a great honour and privilege being on the team is. Even if it’s not the same and changed and different, it’s amazing we get to be together, and all the hard work is worth it.”
The team hasn’t taken their time back together lightly. The energy from being together has fueled the fire and focus.
Time, work and practice are all needed for the difficult maneuvers and this year, the team didn’t have the gift of time to prepare as they would normally.
Di Lillo said, “You can work on our horsemanship at home, but it’s a different ballgame with 12 extra riders in the arena. We had to come together, work hard and be a team”.
Seeing their individual effort pay off during their first show season back at the 2021 Calgary Stampede was rewarding enough.
Di Lillo urges anyone with a horse and passion, no matter their current skill level, to try out. As she says, “If I were a young kid, I would do it all over again for as long as I could.”