The former Burbank resident was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for trick and Roman riding, jumping and jockeying. But the Rose Parade is “the frosting on the cake.”
Sometimes life is just better on horseback.
That could be a motto for Pat North Ommert who, at 90, has probably spent just as much time in the saddle as she has on foot and who will make two very special appearances during this year’s Rose Parade festivities.
The former Burbank resident, who now resides in Temecula, was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2016 for a life spent trick riding, Roman riding, jumping and jockeying.
A stunt double in the 1954 film “A Star is Born,” Ommert thrilled members five years later during the Flintridge Riding Club’s Amateur Horse Show in La Cañada, when she jumped fences while standing astride two horses running in tandem.
“I just loved Roman riding — it’s training and practice, practice,” she said in a recent interview, recalling how Flintridge Riding Club Coach Jimmy Williams helped with a Roman team in which she once jumped while astride three horses.
But for all her accomplishments, and her appearances over the years at Madison Square Gardens and at rodeos from coast to coast, she’s never been involved in the equestrian festivities of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Assn.'s Rose Parade.
“I’ve been in lots of parades, in New York and Boston and Huntington Beach, but this is the frosting on the cake,” Ommert said.
The nonagenarian will appear on horseback Dec. 29 at EquestFest, an annual event held at the Equidome in Burbank’s Los Angeles Equestrian Center that lets visitors get up close and personal with the hundreds of riders and horses participating in the Rose Parade.
And on New Year’s Day, Ommert will make the 5.5-mile journey down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard in the Tournament’s 131st Rose Parade, where she will ride a horse-drawn wagon as part of the Horsewomen of Temecula.
“I figure it’s my 90th year, how many more times will I get to do something like this?” she said.
At a recent riding session at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center — where Ommert used to board a horse with Renee Baker Performance Horses while living in Burbank — Baker helped outfit the equestrian in her finest rodeo attire in preparation for the big events.
Baker has also loaned a quarter horse, Huntin’ a Hottie, for Ommert to ride during EquestFest. Her first attempt to pair the older rider with a slow and steady steed was foiled when the senior asked for something faster.
“When you watch her, she has no fear when she gets on that horse. She just goes,” Baker said of Ommert’s fluid, easy riding style. “I love Pat — I want to be her when I grow up.”
An enviable equestrian’s grace is a skill that’s been honed since Ommert first rode a horse at age 3 while holding onto the back of big sister Laura.
By age 5, she was riding solo on family horse Rex under the watchful eye of mother Vera North, a free-spirited and respected equestrienne who trained trick and dance horses for Wild West shows in the 1930s and ‘40s.
She caught on quickly, performing as a teenager in an all-girl rodeo from Downey for hospitalized World War II soldiers under the bill “Patsy North and her Trick Horse Rex.” A self-professed ham, she fell in love with show business and never looked back.
To this day Ommert makes time for regular horseback riding, leaving her senior apartment in Temecula for a nearby stable to ride her buckskin horse, Tag. She doesn’t know how many more riding years she has ahead of her but hopes to always be around horses.
“Horses are livestock, but they can become your best friends,” she said.