In June 2021, April Evans, coach of the Allen, Texas, National Champion Woodhaven Wranglers Equestrian Drill Team, was inducted into the United States Equestrian Drill Coaches Hall of Fame.
The native Texan proudly received state and national recognition for her dedication to this unique team sport and for her accomplishments. We chatted with Coach Evans ahead of the team competing in Nacogdoches at the Drill in the Pines event Mar. 12.
When did your interest in horses begin?
I grew up in El Paso riding horses with my dad and friends. We would just ride along the irrigation canals or through the pecan orchards. I have always loved horses but never did any riding that was of a specific discipline.
How did coaching the Woodhaven Wranglers come about?
I started coaching Woodhaven Wranglers 11 years ago when the previous coach left unexpectedly. My oldest daughter was on the team, and I could see the value the team had in her life so I decided to read books about equestrian drill, watch YouTube videos and go to coaching clinics to learn everything I could so that the team could stay together. I had previously coached other sports so I knew I could coach but I needed to learn how to choreograph and coach riders on horses and that was new.
Tell us about a few of the events the Wranglers have participated in.
We do a lot of traveling for competitions and rodeos mostly in Texas and a few in Oklahoma. One of our biggest events that we look forward to every year is our performance at the Kueckelhan Ranch rodeo in Bonham, Texas, every July. There’s great crowds and it’s a really fun event to participate in. Everyone on the team looks forward to being able to entertain the audience.
What are some awards the team has won?.
One of the divisions that we compete in is called “theme”. We have won it pretty consistently over the past 10 years. The team dresses in costume and rides to coordinated music. It’s really a lot of fun because the horses are in costume also. I try to put a lot of creativity into this division. Some of my favorites that we have done are Les Miserables, The Sound of Music and Wonder Woman.
What is the theme for this year?
This year our theme is going to be Rosie the Riveter but not in a traditional sense. We are going to dress in traditional Rosie costumes but ride to music about strength and power and really show how young women have contributed to the growth of our country. I hope the message we convey is that these little girls can grow up and do anything they want to do because they are strong and they have value.
How does being on the team help the participants?
Most equestrian activities are individualized between the rider and the horse. One of the things I love most about the drill team is that it takes horse riding to a team event. I believe in the benefits of team sports and this combines the two. These young ladies are learning to be a team player and learning the value of hard work. The lessons they are learning will carry into adulthood and we’ve already started to see that as some of the original team members have gone through the program and gone on to do great things as young adults. I know the alumni from our youth team see the benefits of being a part of this organization also because many of them come back and ride with our adult team.
What does it take to coach a professional equestrian drill team?
Time, patience and a love for what you are doing.
What do you look for in a rider?
I look for girls who are hard workers and know how to commit. I don’t necessarily look for great riders to start off with, the skill will develop but I can’t teach someone to be coachable.
Tell us about the competition coming up on March 12.
It’s our first competition of the season and a fun one that is free to the public — it’s usually a great start to our competition season. We’ve been very successful at this event in the past and hope to have success again this year.
Share one fun fact most people don’t know about you.
I have been a stay-at-home mom for 22 years. I spend most of my time with my family either traveling or going to horse events. An interesting thing about me is that I don’t actually ride horses anymore. I absolutely love them and enjoy watching people ride but I don’t enjoy riding myself which people find very unusual considering it takes up so much of my life.
What are some of your future hopes and dreams for the team?
My short-term goal is to hold onto the title of national champions. My long-term goal is for this team and this program to continue growing and thriving even after I am no longer a part of it. I am very proud of everything we have built and I hope that continues to help young ladies in the future.
Cover photo courtesy Woodhaven Wranglers
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.