Mounted horse patrols will be on hand at the Balloon Fiesta

Posted at: 09/09/2013 9:26 PM
Updated at: 09/10/2013 8:24 AM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4

ALBUQUERQUE -- The colors, sounds and huge crowds are just a few of the things that standout about the Balloon Fiesta.

Not many stand above or stick out more than the mounted horse patrols you see every year on the balloon grounds. And that's the goal, to be seen. 

With so many balloons in the sky, it's almost impossible to keep your eyes anywhere but up. But that's when it usually happens, according to Bain Cochran with the New Mexico Mounted Patrol Search and Rescue.

"Everybody is walking around, looking up at the balloons, and all of a sudden, Grandpa or Grandma is missing or little Johnny has wandered off looking at something," Cochran said.

No one can be blamed for wanting to stare at all those balloons. But it only takes a second to lose those who are most important to us. With hundreds of balloons and about 100,000 people on the field, it happens more than you can imagine.

Dick Rice has been to nearly 25 as a balloonist and a spectator. He has seen it plenty of times.  

"Kids have a tendency to wander off because of all the thrills and excitement. Especially if they see a favorite balloon just inflating over there, they'll run over to see it," Rice said.

New Mexico Mounted Patrol Search and Rescue help track those kids down. But before the fiesta, the horses have to learn to be around all those balloons. That's what they're doing at this mini-fiesta. A couple of dozen balloons help prepare the horses.

Cochran said this is the best way to prepare.

"Every year we get invited to their little rallies and get our horses acclimated to the different tones of the burners and the big balloon envelopes going up, because they are pretty colorful," he said.

The Rices have three generations of family that have been a part of Balloon Fiesta. They've been coming since 1978.

"So far we have had a great success record. To the best of my knowledge and belief, we've never lost a kid out here yet," Rice said.

The New Mexico Mounted Patrol say it's fine to pet the horses. They ask that you approach the horses slowly and from the front as not to spook the horses.