That Was Then…This Is Now: Palomino Horses in the Tournament of Roses Parade

By Lisa Kemp

What horse lover hasn’t marveled over the all-Palomino horse troupe in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade? Prancing golden horses in shining silver-encrusted saddles, their riders bedecked in colorful costumes and waving red, white, and blue American flags; it’s a sight to stir anyone’s patriotic sentiments. Me, I just drooled over the horses, trying to decide which would be the fanciest mount for my own dream parade.

The stuff of horsey dreams for decades, the Long Beach Mounted Police’s (LBMP) all-Palomino troupe rode in their first Tournament of Roses (ToR) Parade in 1948; they’re still going strong in their 62nd year of parading, with the LBMP celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2010.

Carla Routt, granddaughter of troupe co-founder Jack Turner and the first female member and female president of the LBMP, says the all-volunteer riders are really ambassadors for the LBMP and the city of Long Beach.

“We often travel to different events, presenting gifts from the Long Beach Police to various governments. We’ve been in the Eisenhower and Nixon Inaugural Parades, and have traveled extensively throughout North and South America,” she says. The troupe also provides an average of 8,000 hours of annual service at charitable events and functions, and has a scholarship program for deserving young equine-science candidates.

While the Palominos are the true stars, every horse’s tack can certainly stand on its own in terms of glitz. Each one-of-a-kind black leather Western saddle is encrusted with handmade sterling silver created by artisan metalsmiths of the 1930s and ‘40s, and has a breast collar, bridle, and reins to match. Saddles are so heavy they often take two people to lift them onto a horse’s back!

For many horse lovers, the Palomino horses and their riders are synonymous with the annual New Year’s Day parade. Held every January 1st, the first Tournament of Roses was in 1890 in Pasadena, Calif., staged by Midwest and East coast transplants who wanted to showcase the mild winters of their new home.

Early festivals included not only marching bands and motorized floats, but also bronco-busting demos and even ostrich races! Collegiate football was added in 1902 with Stanford University against University of Michigan, but Stanford was trounced 49-0, and football was dropped in favor of Roman-style chariot races. Football bounced back in 1916, and has been a sell-out ever since 1947, according to the official Tournament of Roses Web site.

For 2010, the Tournament of Roses Parade will kick-off at 8 a.m. Pacific time, and be broadcast in the U.S. on multiple networks, including RFD-TV, HGTV, ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel and the Travel Channel. The Parade is broadcast in more than 200 countries and territories internationally; for information on everything about the Tournament of Roses events, visit their Web site at For information about the Long Beach Mounted Police including even more photos, visit

This year’s Parade theme is 2010: A Cut Above The Rest. When it comes to the gleaming glitterati of the Long Beach Mounted Police, it’s a sentiment they’ve lived daily, both past and present.

About Lisa Kemp: An award-winning writer and marketing consultant, Lisa has devoted her expertise to the equine industry through her company, KempEquine. Her writings have appeared in publications such as The Horse, Equine Chronicle, Equine Journal, Holistic Horse,, Paint Horse Journal, Massachusetts Horse, Women & Horses, EQUUS, and Blaze magazine. Lisa believes a good day is one spent with horse people, horse pictures, horse information, and yes, actual horses. Lisa lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Photos Courtesy of the Tournament of Roses Archives

3 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisa Kemp, Lisa Kemp. Lisa Kemp said: Golden horses & silver saddles in the Tournament of Roses Parade: and […]

  2. Thanks for a history of one of my all-time favorite parade groups. When I watch the parade, I always wish the cameras showed more of this group.

  3. Rose Parade Horses and interview with founder of RFD TV

  4. I always secretly loved these horses with their gleaming tack. Now, who cleans up the poop?

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