If you've attended a holiday parade, camped out at the West Texas Fair & Rodeo, or attended school in Abilene and the Big Country, you've probably come across a perfectly-groomed team of six white horses marching in tandem.

Believe it or not, the riders are college students from right here in Abilene — and they're part of the Hardin-Simmons University's Six White Horses.

When did a horseback rider become an HSU tradition?

In the late 1920s, "Sheriff" Will Watson decided to play up the Western image of the HSU Cowboy Band by riding his horse ahead of the band on parade and carrying the flag. The pageantry was such a hit that horseback riders became part of Cowboy Band tradition, with Watson riding with the Cowboy band for over three decades.

But why Six White Horses?

Watson's flag-carrying expanded for another rider to hold the Texas state flag. The troupe grew more to include six riders, who flew the colors of the six nations that ruled over Texas throughout history: Spain, Mexico, France, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

Starting in 2017, HSU announced that the Six White Horses would no longer carry the Confederate flag. Today, you'll see these riders carrying the Texas and U.S. flags at engagements.

Who rides the Six White Horses?

All eight members of the Six White Horses team are HSU students who are enrolled in 12 hours of classwork per semester. Both new and returning riders attend yearly tryouts, where they're rated and ranked on their horsemanship skills, attitude, and neatness of appearance.

Riders' uniforms consist of Western-style snap shirts, jeans, boots, spurs, and felt cowboy hats in honor of HSU's Western heritage.

Where can you see the Six White Horses?

HSU's Six White horses are known for their public appearances as ambassadors for HSU and the Western lifestyle at a variety of events, including parades, rodeos, and Abilene area school visits.

At equine events like rodeos, the Six White Horses perform as a "drill team", or a group of riders maneuvering their horses in choreographed patterns to music. The video below of the Six White Horses at the Chisholm Trail Arena in Nocona, Texas, shows the level of dedication and horsemanship needed to ride with the Six White Horses.

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