Bull Valley group lassoes the crowd
Acrobatics on horseback are not just for circus performers. The Midwest Renegades Drill Team brings specialty acts to McHenry County that incorporate comedy, bull whip techniques, trick riding, Roman-style or rodeo riding, mounted cowboy shooters and more. The group is divided into three separate drill teams.
The brainchild of Bev Vlahos, the Midwest Renegades was created in 2004 after she had a bout of inspiration while visiting the Kentucky Horse Park.
“I always thought it would be fun to ride to music,” said Bev.
She runs the Midwest Renegades facility, based in Bull Valley, with her daughter, Jennifer Vlahos.
Jennifer, who has had a lifetime love affair with horses after she was given a gift of riding lessons on her 7th birthday, has been involved with the organization steadily since 2007.
“This is all my fault,” she said.
She said she likes to think the Midwest Renegades came about due to her love of horses as a child.
One goal of the organization is to teach people there’s a lot more to be done with horses aside from trail riding. The Midwest Renegades opens its doors to everyone who has a horse or wants to live out their rodeo fantasies.
“We want to encourage people to join us,” said Bev. “We welcome everybody and anybody.”
“Everybody’s got to start somewhere,” said Jennifer.
The troupe meets for practice three times per week, and members enjoy introducing new people to their wild world of trick riding.
Though they have a somewhat hectic schedule, the Midwest Renegades also offer classes for children.
The three drill teams perform at a variety of venues scattered throughout the Midwest and the United States. Past appearances include the Crystal Lake Parade; Wauconda Rodeo; the Midwest Horse Fair; events in Waterloo, Iowa; and Horse-A-Rama, in Manitowac, Wis.
‘‘Our World of Horses,’’ one of the group’s larger events, will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 21, at the McHenry County Fair grounds. The show will feature specialty acts such as the Northern Illinois Outlaws mounted shooters, trick riding stunts from all three drill teams, a raffle and an appearance by Mario Contreras, MC Horse Training owner and head trainer for horses at Medieval Times.
The Vlahos women want to present all that is possible with horses while making sure people have fun at the same time.
“We want to spread the awareness and try to expand peoples’ visions of what can be done with horses – from therapeutic stuff, which takes people miles, to [stress relief] for those people who need an outlet – working with horses does wonders for your brain and peace of mind overall,” said Jennifer.
The Midwest Renegades recently have chosen Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center for children and adults with special needs, located in Harvard, as its designated charity for the year. On June 4, they participated in Bravehearts’ Heroes on Horseback event, which showcased veterans using horsemanship skills. During the half-time show, the Midwest Renegades performed a Roman team “Tribute to the Troops” drill. Jennifer also demonstrated how to get her horse, Outlaw, to lay down, sans bridle or saddle, using cues. She said the best part of the show was speaking with the veterans afterward, and the Midwest Renegades plans on donating proceeds from the ‘‘Our World of Horses’’ raffle to Bravehearts.
“We want to let them know we appreciate what they do,” said Jennifer.
Both Vlahos women said they believe the Midwest Renegades helps give people a purpose and encourage the community to come out for the July 21 event.
The ‘‘Our World of Horses’’ show will cost $5 for adults. Admission will be free for children ages 8 and younger. For information, visit www.midwestrenegades.com.