You’ve likely heard of the Red Hat Society, an international social group known for giving women a playful ‘recess’ from the humdrum of everyday life. Ever since it took flight in 1998, the society has been growing strong and now proudly boasts over 20,000 members. At events, you will see ladies in their 50s and beyond donning red hats, while their younger counterparts rock pink ones.

Coming all the way from Indiana is a special chapter of the Red Hat Society—the Red Hats and Purple Chaps—the first equestrian chapter in the Society’s history. These cowgirls debuted at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade in 2012 and have since been turning heads. Their website keeps it delightfully straightforward; “We camp, trail ride, parade the small towns, and parade the really, really big ones.“

These wonderful ladies rally together to tackle women’s and equine issues head-on, spur each other on in horsemanship, share laughs, and above all, strive to foster an active, healthy lifestyle. They’re committed to making a positive impact in their communities, one gallop at a time.

They’re seasoned riders in the parade circuit, having participated in the Kentucky Derby Pegasus Parade, Georgetown Festival of the Horse, and the Mexican Independence Day Parade in Chicago—to name a few.

“I have never had another parade move my spirit as much as Chicago does!” stated Rita Hilt, spokesperson for the Ret Hats and Purple Chaps. “Getting to see the city from horseback, looking up between the high-rise buildings, waving to the folks in the upper rooms with views of the street, just is amazing.”

The group goes through a lot of pre-parade preparation for events like the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, including having clinics for the ladies and their horses to get used to typical things that they could encounter. Loud noises, balloons, street lines, and sirens aren’t typical in the life of an equine, and their training helps to ensure their horses are exposed to as many different scenarios as possible. The clinics not only are for the horse, but for the riders as well. The ladies become prepared to handle any situation that could arise.

The Red Hats and Purple Chaps all try to carpool to the parade route, with some of the riders driving from Southern Indiana. They have the system down to an art, arriving at 6am, unloading the trailers, prep, decorate, get mounted up and be ready all in the span of about an hour. Then the trailers head to the end of the route to await the team upon the conclusion of the ride.

Hilt continues, “I know our group is very thankful to be able to ride this parade in Chicago. While several of us aren’t spending the morning with our own families, we are sharing the love for our horses and getting to show folks that even the “elders” of the equine community are still able to get out there and enjoy things! There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the spectator’s eyes light up when they spot us and our glittered hooves come walking past! We are looking forward to November!”

Trot over to their website at and discover more about the Red Hats and Purple Chaps! Believe us when we say, you’re in for a ride!

Is your performance group looking to showcase itself in front of millions? Click here to find out more about applying to perform in the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The deadline for marching bands and equestrian units has been extended for 2023, and applications are now open for all groups in 2024.