The Dangers of Parade Horses [Video]
 By Winniefield Park   •   25th Aug 2015   •   1,739 views   •   1 comments

Horses in parades have been a fixture probably since parades began. But parades can be very stressful for horses. Recently, a tragic accident happened in my area. A twelve year old girl was killed when her horse spooked, reared and fell on top of her. She was airlifted to hospital, but her injuries were fatal. The parade, known as the highlight of the event it was celebrating, was cancelled. None of the news stories mentioned whether she was wearing a helmet, or any other safety equipment. As weíve seen time and again, in a really bad fall, those things might not matter anyway.

When I was in my early teens I had a Morgan-Welsh cross that I drove in a high wheeled cart. He was a very sensible large pony, and I rode him everywhere, including distance rides and horses shows. I decided to drive him in a local Christmas parade. I rode the pony there, a distance of about six miles, and then harnessed him up to the waiting cart. But, despite having just traveled ten miles and having been exposed to the noise and confusion of horse shows and fall fairs, the pony lost his marbles. I donít remember exactly how the whole thing played out, but I do know I unharnessed before the parade began and rode back home.

Another time my husband and I decided to lead our kids on their ponies in a Christmas parade. The one pony we didnít know well, as we had him only a short time. The other had been ridden everywhere - gymkhanas, fall fairs, along roadways. So, I gave my husband the Ďquietí pony to lead with my daughter riding, while I took my son on the pony we didnít know well. All went well until the parade organizers put us behind someone wearing a Cool-aid mascot costume. The seasoned pony took one look at the fuzzy purple Cool-aid pitcher walking in front of him and had a melt down. It took all of my husbandís strength, and some handling by my daughter on board to keep the pony under control. Things got really hairy when we rode through the downtown where most of the spectators were gathered into a big crowd that spilled onto the street all wearing bright red reindeer antlers. I swear the one ponyís eyes were bulging out of its head, while the other pony was completely nonplussed about the whole affair.

Marching bands, fire engine sirens, people in costumes, waving spectators and other strange sights and sounds can make the most reliable horse come unglued. Even the frequent stops and starts as the parade proceeds can make a horse fractious. If youíre going to take a horse in a parade it must be bombproof. Parades are not the place to start desensitizing a green horse. A horse has to have absolute trust in its rider, and be well schooled to obey the riderís aids, no matter what.

If youíre wearing a costume, donít forgo the safety equipment. Be sure costumes are safe, and not a tangling hazard. A helmet and safety stirrups are a must and a torso protector is a good idea too. Itís also helpful to have someone walking alongside. Spectators have been injured by loose horses that have unseated their riders, or bolted when hitched to a vehicle. And, if things seem to be getting out of hand, get off and make a quick exit. Often, a horse will be already showing signs of stress before they react dangerously by rearing or bolting.

Iíd never say donít ride a horse in a parade. Itís a lot of fun and spectators love to see horses. But, be very sure your horse is parade-proof, and you ride or drive sensibly, with an eye to safety for all.
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