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Chinese rider to lead troop in DC parade

By HONG XIAO in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-01-17 13:12

Chinese rider to lead troop in DC parade

Chinese student Tsz Ham "Kevin" Tai (above right), who will lead the Culver Military Academy Black Horse Troop in the Presidential Inaugural Parade on Friday, practices with the troop on Sunday in Culver, Indiana. Provided to China Daily

Chinese student Tsz Ham (Kevin) Tai will be leading the Culver Military Academy Black Horse Troop as squadron commander, riding in the upcoming Presidential Inaugural Parade on Friday.

"We very much look forward to it," said Tai.

Tai will be leading the 56-member mounted unit riding with 24 members of the Culver Girls Academy Equestriennes. This will be the 17th inaugural parade for the Black Horse Troop and the eighth for the equestriennes.

"We are very excited to be participating in the presidential inaugural parade," Antonio Giraldi, chief international officer at Culver, told China Daily in an email. "We are very proud this year to have Kevin as our squadron commander and parade leader."

"A lot of people like me chose Culver because of an interest in joining its cavalry to do something really cool like this," Tai added.

Born in Neijiang, Sichuan province and raised in Shanghai, Tai moved to Chicago with his mom at the age of 10. In 2013, he joined Culver Military Academy in Indiana, where he got started with equitation.

"I watched our black horse troop join the inaugural ceremony in 2014, I was so impressed I applied to the squadron," he said.

With intense interest and hard work — an average of 2 hours practice a day — after three years, Tai stood out, becoming the squadron commander after several rounds of selection.

After receiving the formal invitation to join the inauguration ceremony, the troop started to prepare at the end of September.

Sacrificing nights and weekends to get prepared, the cavalrymen also put much effort into conditioning the horses to get used to crowds and commotion and not get startled.

Chinese rider to lead troop in DC parade

Tsz Ham "Kevin" Tai practices with the Culver Military Academy Black Horse Troop on Sunday in Culver, Indiana. Provided to China Daily

"There are many kinds of noises in DC, such as sirens and motorcycles, which are rarely heard by the horses on our campus," Tai said.

"So we added background noise by playing CDs of noises during our practices."

"We also used smoke machines during practice because we know there is smoke on the streets of DC," he added.

And coming up behind them in the parade will be a marching band, so to make sure the horses would not get spooked by the music, the school's marching band was invited to play during practice.

"I remember the first time we practiced with the band in October, all of the horses went crazy hearing the big sound, when I looked back, I saw seven or eight boys had been thrown from their horses. It was kind of funny," said Tai.

Tai said all sorts of unexpected things happened during practice. "But overall, we are doing great now," he added.

The troop will set out for DC early Wednesday. "Since we started training, we have sacrificed so much time of our own, so we hope our effort could be paid by making our best performance in the important day," said Tai.

In the parade squadron, 10 other senior students from China ride beside Tai.

Located on Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver, Indiana, Culver Academies is a boarding prep school known for using a military model to educate its cadets in practical leadership and responsible citizenship.

Annually, the school has an enrollment of 814 students representing more than 36 states and 22 countries. Approximately 20 percent of the students are international.

The 2017 Inaugural Parade will mark the 104th anniversary of the Black Horse Troop's first ride down Pennsylvania Avenue. The mounted unit served as the official escort for Vice-President Thomas Marshall during Woodrow Wilson's inaugural parades in 1913 and 1917. (Marshall was the former governor of Indiana, as is Vice-President-elect Mike Pence.

The parade will be televised live.

xiaohong@chinadailyusa.com

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