How do you know if your horse is ready for a parade?!
I was asked to take my horse in the local July 4th parade next year. My horse would be pulling an antique 4 person buggy from the 1700s that belongs to the town. It seems like it's in excellent condition and is beautiful.
My question is, how do I know that my horse is really to drive through a parade? He's a great horse and has only spooked twice since I've owned him (2 years) and both times were under saddle and were silly things. He's been exposed to lots of different things too (like construction equipment, tractors, guns, cattle, dogs, fair rides ect.) He doesn't bolt or anything..just shimmies sideways a few steps and calms down quickly. He's also fairly new to driving. I've taken him out with the cart under 20 times but he's been excellent every time. I've driven him on paved roads and in fields and so far he's never done anything wrong. Will he be ready to do a parade by July?
I'm also wondering if my light harness will be ok to pull a 4 person cart on paved, flat roads or do I need a new harness? Is the 4 person cart going to be too heavy for him? I'm currently driving him with a light training cart. He'll do up and down hills with 2 people on grass and dirt and holds us back no problem.
Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!
I did one parade with our surrey and draft horse...NEVER AGAIN! If your intent on doing a parade with a carriage and horse, I honesty and strongly urge you to have good insurance, two out walkers, and a shot of whiskey before going.
You will or can be expected to hear or see screaming kids, screaming adults, things being thrown such as candy or such, barking dogs, streamers, banners, waving hats, strange noises, sirens if you have any of those, marching bands, start and stop along the route, people walking in front of you, around you, kids running up to you afterwords, etc....that is just what I can think of now.
Reminds me of the well known local draft horse trainer who was taking his 6 back to the rig after a parade. A car load of kids pulled up alongside him and threw firecrackers under the horses. If anyone else had been driving, it probably would of ended ugly.
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When anyone can come up and touch your horse on the flanks when in harness with blinders,
When no car backfiring fazes your horse under harness,
When your horse no longer reacts to fireworks under harness,
When your horse doesn't react to anything (like candy) being thrown at his feet under harness,
When your horse doesn't react to instruments played in close proximity under harness,
When you horse isn't fazed by crowds and their noises under harness,
THEN you can consider doing parades under harness, WITH A TWO PERSON CART, which is within your horse's experiences.
We did lots of parades with our CW mounts and they had already learned to handle crowds, guns, stuff thrown at them, and musicians playing right next to them. We even did two years straight of the McDonald's Thanksgiving Day parade down Michigan Ave., Chicago with no problems.
IMHO it is MUCH more dangerous with a cart horse panicking than a saddle horse bc your saddle horse can be instantly comforted by your physical presence. Think about this and get your horse miles and desensitization UNDER HARNESS before considering putting your horse and you and the spectators in harm's way.
If you have to ask if he is ready, my response would be no. For all of the comments made by the 3 previous posters.
Thank you so much for the VERY honest responses!
As of right now, I'm thinking that I'll put in some more hours with him in harness and then maybe take him in a parade under saddle this spring and see how he is (I expect him to be a rock) and then take him out with the 4 person cart several times before I even think about driving him in the parade.
I have absolutely NO reservations about riding him in a parade but as it has been stated I do worry that maybe he doesn't ever spook because I'm such a calm rider and can give him that physical reassurance so it would be completely different when he's in harness and I'm so far behind him.
So far, he's never offered to spook while I've been driving him and I hope that continues. The other day we drove by a lawn that had a sprinkler system and it turned on just as we went by. It made a hissing noise and sprayed his side as we passed it and he hardly flinched. I was proud of him because he had blinders on and couldn't see what was coming at him and he still didn't react. He's never minded loud noises and he has a good really good "whoa" on him. He's very used to kids climbing all over him and would adore the attention. He's loves being in the spotlight. I guess the biggest thing I worry about is kids running under his feet and getting hurt..not that he would spook, just that a kid could get hurt.
Those of you who drive horses in parades, what is your horse like? What made you decide to do it? What did you do to prepare for it?
Thanks again for all of the responses... I just want to make an educated decision on whether or not to do it.
I have been driving my current horse consistently for 3 years and show also. I would not drive her in a parade. I would also never use a vehicle I wasn't familiar with as they make different noises than your cart and that can set them off. I am with the thinking if you have to ask your not ready.
Find the SMALLEST town possble, and do a daytime parade. We did a daytime Christmas parade (town population:77!) with my 3 yo hitched to our sleigh on wheels, and it was no problem. I think we did it 2 yrs with her. Last year, we tried what we thought would be a small parade, and it turned out to be bigger.....DH wound up walking beside her, because she did NOT want to walk!! I still don't know if she was in heat, or what the problem was....
Smoke was fine in the parade, if not a bit hyper. We were surrounded while in line with a F350 dually pulling a long flat bed trailer with screaming kids on there, behind me was an ambulance and in front of me was another truck and kids. The parade was stop and go stop and go, something my draft horse does not care for, when we go we go, she loves to work and to move. The only time she really got antsy was when we stopped on a hill, I was on the brake, people were yelling and screaming, waving...she was tired of this. After dropping off Santa and Mrs. Claus we went to move, people were walking in front of me, I had to suddenly stop Smoke, kids were running all around us, on our way back to the trailer I had cars racing by me on the road back to pass me, and no cars wanted to stop when I or my husband or my friend who was also an out walker would wave or shout STOP did not want to or would.
Yes, this is in a nutshell. As for attitude Smoke was fine, same with listening and doing what I ask, she did so without question. I have shown this mare and she is perfect, we can wow a crowd if I get her up in the bit, no hesitation. I think we both had had enough of the silliness of those around us.
Going back to the trailer we finally found a path between two horse trailers, the people who had their horses tied untied them and cleared a path for me to trot up, the hill was grass, it was wet and once I got going I was not going to stop, as I was not having my horse slip or slide and jack knife the carriage. As I am going up at a fast trot, a lady comes out from behind the trailer into my path I yell and thank goodness my husband grabbed her and jerked her backwards. She claims she didn't see or hear me....truth be told, I would of run her over.
So, instead of doing parades, I am more than content to do wagon rides in a more controlled environment. when we do this we DO have anyone who rides sign a waver to protect us and them. Don't sign, don't ride...
Yikes! I'm not making any concrete plans for the parade... I am planning on finding some smaller events to drive in. My church is having a fall festival soon and maybe I'll bring him to that. Definitely a more controlled environment and would be a good starting point.
Thank you all for the advice and for sharing your experiences. It's certainly given me some things to think about.
I'll let you know if I end up doing the parade in July. I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell! Thanks again!
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