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Young and Old Alike Drawn to Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard

Members of the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard walk their horse down 7th street in the Victorville Christmas parade Dec. 1, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/ LCpl. Norman Eckles)
Members of the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard walk their horse down 7th street in the Victorville Christmas parade Dec. 1, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/ LCpl. Norman Eckles)

The last remaining Marine Corps mounted color guard in the nation was busy making the rounds Wednesday in Redding.

In town for the Redding Rodeo and the Redding Rodeo Parade, the four-person, four-horse team, made special appearances at the Redding Rodeo grounds and the Veterans Home of California-Redding.

At the rodeo grounds, the beautiful horses were fawned over by youngsters, while they got the same treatment from oldsters at the Veterans Home.

But the color guard's palomino mustangs, which come from the Bureau of Land Management's "adopt a horse" program, took it all in stride, enjoying petting from youngsters and senior citizens alike.

"I love horses," 81-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran Eleanor Mailo said as she admired and stroked one of the horses following a short -- but impressive -- ceremony at the Veterans Home.

The mounted color guard has visited Redding three times before -- the last appearance being in 2014 -- and it is always much in demand.

The team participates in parades and other events from coast-to-coast including the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The team will be in Washington, D.C., later this month for the national Memorial Day Parade.

Sgt. Miguel Felix, who was raised in the Los Angeles area and attended elementary and middle school in Compton, said he had never been on a horse before being assigned to the color guard unit about a year ago.

In fact, he said, neither had any of his three other team members.

"I never thought I would be doing this," the 23-year-old said, adding that he quickly learned the basics of riding a horse.

The number one lesson?

"Stay on," he said.

Founded in 1967, the Barstow-based color guard is known to present a sharp contrast in color.

The U.S. flag is carried in the middle, while the right and left flanks are guarded by impeccably dressed Marines in the Corps' traditional dress blue uniform.

All of them -- humans and horses -- cut a striking appearance.

Like Felix, Sgt. Moses Machuca, who hails from South Texas, said he had never spent any time around horses before becoming a member of the color guard.

"None whatsoever," he said.

And, he said, he was surprised by all the hard work -- as well as by all the loads of patience and commitment -- it takes to train, handle, bond and take care of a horse.

But it was clear his work was worth all the effort as he smiled broadly while showing off his favorite horse, Norman.

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