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'Westernaires' of Jefferson County celebrate 70 years of riding and performing

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 20:26:36-04

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — It’s not often the term “family” applies to 800 young people, dozens of volunteers, and a few hundred horses. For the Westernaires of Jefferson County, it fits.

“These kids live and breathe horses,” Sandy Carroll-Howard, a senior instructor for the group, told Denver7.

The group does a lot of things, according to Carroll-Howard, which include teaching kids how to ride and perform on horseback as well as teaching the “fundamentals” of the western way of life. There are about 800 young riders that make up the various skill levels within the group, all ages 9 to 19. The program has been around since 1949.

“Seventy years, it’s our anniversary this year,” Carroll-Howard said.

Denver7 caught up with the group as they were preparing for a show.

“Show day is exciting! It can also be nerve-racking,” member Kylie said, as she was brushing her horse.

“This is a bit of a process,” another rider added while putting on her signature red and white costume. “It’s like a movie set.”

Inside the Westernaires Equestrian Center, hundreds of small children were taking their seats for the performance.

“We bring these little kids in from various daycares and the area so they can see what cowboying is all about, what people did back in the west,” Carroll-Howard said.

The drill team then performed a variety of talents, from criss-crossings, to patterned riding, tricks on horseback, and more.

“This is the thing. This is what they work for. This is what they love,” Carroll-Howard said with a smile.

“It’s cool to see in the middle of this big city, kids that are riding horses,” one spectator said.

“I leave here with a smile every time I’m here. And I've been here 50 years,” Carroll-Howard said.

For more information on the Westernaires, head to