After 27 years, drill team stages last show

Professional rodeo photographer and Ramona resident Reed Settle of Roughstock Photography captures the Rainbow Riders at a Lakeside event.
Professional rodeo photographer and Ramona resident Reed Settle of Roughstock Photography captures the Rainbow Riders at a Lakeside event.

By Marta Zarrella

In 1986 Dottie Pierce and her mother, the late Dee Miller, rode with the Shooting Stars Drill Team at the Poway Valley Riders Association in Poway. It was an opportunity to ride together and enjoy memory making and mother/daughter good times with good friends.

“We can do this,” Pierce recalls her mother saying. “Let’s start a drill group in Ramona.”

And so it began.

The first performance by the group, called the Rainbow Riders, was in 1987 at a rodeo in Gilbert, Ariz. The group became known as the “Blue Angels on Horseback” and received the endorsement of the late rodeo legend Casey Tibbs and Bob Tallman, 18-time National Finals Rodeo announcer.

Ramona’s award-winning equestrian Rainbow Riders Drill Team has developed a reputation for thrilling audiences with heart-stopping, fast-paced and intricate precision drill maneuvers. They have performed at the Del Mar National Horse Show for the Night of the Horse celebration every year since 1993, often showing off their skill and precision during the Hunter/Jumper and Dressage nights as well.

Their photo albums include many memorable rides all over Southern California and Arizona, including regularly wowing crowds in Santa Barbara at the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Horse Show, Rodeo and Parade. From 2002 to 2010 they participated in the Burbank Fiesta of the Spanish Horse after participating in the Burbank Cool August Nights Dressage Competition in 1999.

The Rainbow Riders Mounted Drill Team is a favorite of Pro Rodeo producers, performing regularly at the Ramona, Lakeside and other Southern California and Arizona rodeos.

Asked to share their most memorable moments, Pierce, the team's director, with assistant director Marilyn Arnaiz and other team members shared the following stories. Enjoy a walk down Rainbow Riders memory lane, first person accounts from the Rainbow Riders themselves.

Performing at a Del Mar Night of the Horse are, from left, Carlie Harries, Vicky Morris, Marilyn Arnaiz, Dottie Pierce, Cindy Halms, Marie Settle, Emily Junk, Chris Harries, Sherry Carr, Darci Van-Meter, Marlene Holmquist, Nancy Sumeral, Jan Stallman and Lynnette Hamilton. Roughstock Photography

“We were asked to perform in the 1994 movie ‘Horses and Champions.’  The movie was shot in Winchester. It was hot and the day was long.  The horses were fantastic, they were tacked up and ready to go, but we had to stand there and wait our turn which didn’t come till late in the day.  We got the shot in one take. The director couldn’t believe it!  He had us ride one more time just because they never get a shot in one take.” 

Dottie Pierce

“We have had performances where bridles got hooked together, one time a bridle broke.  Once Marilyn was bucked into the horse’s neck and managed to get herself back over the horn and into the saddle without missing a beat.  One time Marie Settle’s horse spun her not only out of the saddle but right out of her boot!” 

Dottie Pierce and Marilyn


The Rainbow Riders spend many hours in the saddle practicing together.  These women also rack up hours on horseback just because of their love of riding.  When unplanned events happen in front of hundreds of people at a rodeo or other horse show, the show does not stop.  The team is so connected that they follow their line leaders and keep the performance moving.



Be relevant, respectful, honest, discreet and responsible. Commenting Rules