ABOUT THE "WHITE HORSE TROUPE" SHOWS
Awhile back a good friend (Helene, AKA Cookie) brought an old, tattered photo book to CrittersLodge and said it was pictures from
when she ran away at 18 and joined the circus. She said she rode white jumping horse bareback with a group of other girls. OK -
she did tell her parents and they agreed to check out the group to see if they approved, which they did (she did say she would most
likely have joined the group even if the answer was no!). Her father took the old movie clip at the beginning of the WHT show when
she tried out for the group. She is the blonde with a ponytail.
Helene asked if I could help her produced a DVD show about the two years she was with the group. At this time (2008) it had been
47 years since the group had been back together and it was felt this would be a great time to see how many of the old group could
be found. Helene and her good friend Della, who was also with the group, started planning for a reunion - thus the desire for the DVD
Many of the photos were faded, bent, tattered, etc. but we did our best to restore them. Equally challenging was picking just the
right music for the show. The show has been a big hit, not only for the member of the group, but also their families. Not all the
members could attend the reunion but the DVD did allow those that didn't to also relive the past.
Below is a short description of the WHT by Della:
Fifty years ago, Jim and Jan Warvell's White Horse Troupe consisted of eight costumed women riding bareback on white horses,
doing drills, jumping, and roman riding. We worked circuses, fairs, and rodeos from Toronto to Houston and from Connecticut to
Utah. We lived in a converted horse van: tack and costumes in the section over the fifth wheel, seven bunks in the middle section,
and living quarters for Jim and Jan in the back section. The "rolling bunk house" was crowded and messy, and we loved it.
Several of the girls joined the act after replying to an ad that Jan had placed in Western Horseman magazine. One of them, upon her
arrival by bus, told Jim that she had run away from home. He was horrified and made her call her mother right away. Her mom drove
out from New York (we were in Indiana at the time), met Jim and Jan, and gave her approval for the girl to stay.
While most of the girls were teenagers, a few were in their 20s. We came from California, Wisconsin, Florida, New York, and points
in between. We all knew how to ride, and Jim and Jan taught us the drills and the showmanship. Some of the girls weren't good
enough riders or just weren't suited for life on the road, and were sent home. For the rest of us, it was the adventure of a lifetime.
The act broke up in 1961, we all went on to widely differing lives, and we mostly lost touch. Then in 2008, some of us located each
other relying on old memories and the Internet, and we've had several get-togethers since then. It's been a wonderful experience.
UPDATE - December 2009 - Jim and Jane Warvell, together with daughters Toni and Sonna, are being inducted into the
Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in January 2010. This is the first time a family has been inducted as a unit.
The Warvell Family - based in Weatherford, Texas has performed in almost every major American city, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico,
Japan, Brazil, England, Singapore and even Kuwait. Their spectacular acts have been the highlight of PRCA Rodeos, Fairs and Wild
West Shows. Jim and Jan Warvell along with daughters Toni and Sonna, kept audiences thrilled with acts featuring Roman Riding, Trick
Riding, Trick Roping, Comedy Routines and Dancing Horses. One of the most spectacular acts featured Jan riding a beautiful white
horse at liberty without a bridle or saddle. Trained by Jim Warvell, 'White Feather' and Jan would jump a white Convertible car in the
arena in front of a spellbound audience. Today, 2009, finds the Warvells still active in the horse business. Jim and Jan are owners and
trainers of race horses, Toni is active in cutting, training and judging Equine events and since the 1992 Euro Disney opening, Sonna has
had the starring role as 'Annie Oakley' in 'Le Legende de Buffalo Bill', Disney's largest dinner show located in Paris, France.