I have to tell you how I got involved in this adventure, and how I prepared for it. When Nan, a dear friend of mine first called me to ask if I wanted to ride in a parade with her, I nearly fell from my chair in laughter. Then I realized that she was serious! You would have to know my dear Trienke to fully appreciate the ridiculousness of this request. Hmmmm how do I describe Trienke besides her being near and dear to my heart? She is big, beautiful and is the "Grand Dam" of Misty Meadows and she knows it! She is a joy to ride but I never ever can let my guard down with her. She can be a firecracker ready to go off if she decides she really would prefer to be doing something else. :-) She tries very hard to please me, but only if it fits into her schedule. Having said that, she constantly surprises me with her bravery in times when I question her ability to accomplish something new. The first time I asked her to go into chest deep water, no problem, the first time we went down a very steep and frightening hill, no problem. Going back up, we took it at a run and almost needed a push from behind, but she did it no questions asked. The lake? No problem, stomped and splashed and had a great time! But a parade? So after I stopped laughing and heard Nan explain that it was to be an all horse parade I started to think that maybe we could pull this off. I started planning a costume for myself and Trienke and Nan and I talked about how to get a horse "parade safe"
Nan told me that she and her Gypsy Vanner Latcho, would be wearing many jingle bells. So that was the first thing that we started working on. I had a couple sets of sleigh bells and started just walking around the barn jingling them. I cleared the barn of horses the first time I rang them. LOL I also went outside in the paddock where it was less threatening, and just walked among the horses ringing the bells. The young horses came up pretty quick to check them out, unfortunately Trienke was quickly gone and staring at me from the other end of the paddock. Next I haltered her and we just walked around in the arena, a lead rope length away and I gently shook them until she quit pulling. I let her sniff them, then we walked some more, sniff, walk. etc. Eventually I started to touch her with them, moving them around her body. When she showed no further signs of fear of them, I was able to put them over her head and we walked around with them on her. I continued to ring the bells in the barn at every feeding just to reinforce that she was still comfortable with them. I also took the same steps with a flag/banner to simulate things that might be waving in the wind. I made sure to get her comfortable with it waving over her head as well.
Nan and I decided that we should do a dress rehearsal with the costumes and we gathered some friends and my hubby to be a crowd. We wanted to try to recreate as best we could the parade route and things that might be there to spook them. We parked the trailer in the arena and got them ready with them tied to it just as we would do in the parade. We dressed them and ourselves in costumes and started out by lunging. We both had things on our horses that would flop and move and this was a really important step for us. Trienke did not at first like the garland flopping on her croup and did panic while on the lunge line. We were able to work her for a while and got her to a place where she was no longer concerned. Next we mounted them and took them out side. We had our "crowd" stand along the drive and make noise and clap. Then we had our helpers pull a carriage in front and behind us as we knew there would be carriages in the parade. Each thing was a concern at first, but quickly with repetition became a non issue.
I would highly recommend a dress rehearsal for anyone wanting to try a parade for the first time. Also if at all possible, doing an all horse parade for your first one is a great option and was such a great opportunity for us. There are many things we did not have to deal with that would have been in a full parade. Nan and I hope to eventually do a full parade with floats, bikes, sirens and the works. We had a wonderful time, we stayed safe, and we are very proud of Trienke and Latcho as they were great and actually seemed to enjoy it themselves. And best of all, we were able to help raise some money for the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition's hay bank.
They provide horse owners facing financial hardship, with temporary hay and feed assistance. Nan and I stayed after and had children and adults take pictures with Trienke and Latcho for a small donation to the Hay Bank. What a great day! Oh, and to top it off, Trienke and I won 1st place for best decorated horse and Nan and I won 1st place for best decorated group!
Below is a website called Equitrekking. They wrote a really nice article about the Lexington Old Fashioned Horse Parade 2012.