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Synergy is the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.
With eight team members, each on a horse, the Synergy equestrian drill team from Blue Ridge, Texas aptly fits that definition. The team was one of 13 to compete this weekend at the 6th annual Red Dirt Ride hosted by the Oklahoma Equestrian Drill Association at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center.
Mother and daughter, Cathy and Charley McGill have been leading choreography for Synergy for seven years and have attended Red Dirt Ride since its inception. This year is bittersweet for the two because at 17, this is Charley’s last year on the team before going off to college at Texas A&M.
“It’s been a good thing because we haul and ride together,” said Cathy of the years spent with her daughter. “We enjoy coming up to this (Red Dirt Ride), everyone is friendly and we have fun.”
Horses have been a part of the McGill family’s lifestyle for many years and when Charley decided she liked drill team, they got a team together. Now, they have a consistent team of girls ranging in age from 9-17.
Cathy takes the team to watch competitions, where they pick out maneuvers they like and she works them into a choreographed type of “dance” on horseback. From figure-eights with horses and riders criss-crossing between one another to a straight line with all members turning in perfect unison, it’s a sight to see.
“It’s lots of practice,” said Cathy. “On occasion, the situation gets a little hairy but in six years we’ve only had one accident. Safety is always first.”
In order for an equestrian drill team to know when it’s time for the next maneuver, the leader blows their whistle. Charley has that role on the Synergy team.
“I don’t get anxious about it because I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just part of the routine,’” said Charley. “It’s like driving, you just have to pay attention to everything around you.”
Each team’s choreography is set to music and most choose country and western but not Synergy. During their first performance Saturday, their moves were set to a couple of hit pop tunes.
“We typically pick a different genre because it mixes it up and it helps keep up our tempo,” Charley said. “Everyone brings their songs in and we choose.”
Along with tricky maneuvers and a good beat, Synergy also brings forth a snazzy outfit and bright grins. Even with the whistle tucked securely between her teeth, Charley shows off her pearly whites.
“We call that our ‘Synergy smile,” said Charley. “We picked out the fabric (for the uniforms) and took it to a taylor to be made.”
On Saturday morning, Synergy team members were in black jeans and chaps, paired with silver shirts under a glittery silver and green tiger-striped vests.