Student leaders reflect on journey
January 14, 2021
***Update: As of January 18, Culver will officially be included in the 59th Presidential Inaugural Parade.
They aren’t sure whether they will be part of the pared down inaugural celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 20, but the student leaders of Culver Academies’ Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes do know the many hours they and rest of the 71 riders put in were worth it.
“It’s been something,” Troop Commander Jacob Graham ’21 (Granger, Indiana) said. “Ever since Covid came out in March we always had our eyes on the future. We’re like will this happen or not? We’ve always been prepared for both possibilities. But, at least, we’re here.”
“Here” was at the Vaughn Equestrian Center Wednesday afternoon taping a simulated inaugural ride across the Henderson Parade Field. That video has been requested by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which now has possession of the finished product.
“America United” is the theme for the inaugural events to honor President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The parade is to celebrate America’s heroes and highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions; and reflect the country’s diversity, heritage and resilience.
With riders coming from 14 states and six countries and a history of parade appearances dating back to Woodrow Wilson’s first inaugural in 1913, those bases are covered. This virtual parade would mark the 18th time the Troop has marched and the eighth for the Equestriennes.
“It was a really surreal experience,” said Ralea Fatzer, one of two co-captains for the Equestriennes. “All of us have worked so hard and put in so many hours of work just leading up to this. So even getting to be a part of this – even if we’re still at home – has been amazing for the team.”
“Everyone is just so happy,” the senior from Yukon, Oklahoma, added. “Getting to see everyone all dressed up and ready has been amazing.”
After Wednesday’s taping was over, co-captain Carly Chandler ’21 (Indianapolis, Indiana) said, “I’m definitely relieved. That was a lot of pressure and we worked hard. We had a lot of long nights practicing.”
But she also had a sense of sadness because “it was really fun and a really cool experience.”
The Indiana boarding school's horsemanship units have been preparing since October for the opportunity to ride in Washington, D.C. But as the pandemic continued, the realization set in that any parade or celebration would be a virtual one. And while the official notification has not been received, the Presidential Inaugural Committee did request a video with some specific instructions on what should be included.
“We’ve been working hard,” Graham said. “We’re really proud of where we are and the ability to be in, or potentially be in, this virtual parade. Even though, we’re not physically in D.C., it’s still an honor and still something special.”
And all three understand their unique place in Culver lore. They will join the riders of the second Reagan inaugural with a special story to tell. In 1985, that group traveled to Washington, D.C., only to have the parade canceled due to dangerously cold temperatures and wind chill. It would have been the Equestriennes’ first ride down Pennsylvania Avenue.
For the 2021 riders, they will have their own personal footnotes to add to the history pages – whether they are included or not. Naturally, everyone is hoping for the best. And they will also be in the unusual position of watching themselves participate in the inaugural festivities.
“It’s really something cool to be able to look back on,” Graham, who is riding with his younger twin brothers Matthew and William, mused.
“I’m excited for the rest of the community, and my family and friends, to be able to see what we’ve been able to accomplish,” added Chandler.