Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

I Love a Parade!

My hubby loved going in parades. He loves every part of them. Dolling up the horse and tack (My job). Wearing the cowboy hat and rest of the duds, and he loved to have Higgins well-outfitted besides. I remember one parade in Winnipeg, where we had two close calls. The first was when I was untying good old, dependable Higgins. I’m unsure of how my finger became trapped between the loops of the quick release knot, but it did, and all because a marching band had the supreme wisdom of striking up, just as they walked from behind our horse trailer. Surprised and startled, Higgins leaned back against the tie that still held him, squeezing my poor finger quite painfully. I had visions of my finger coming right off. There was certainly the potential of it happening, the rope was that tight. The loop around it, perfectly placed.
If I had screamed from the pain, or reacted in any way other than what I did, Higgins very well would’ve really pulled back as frightened horses are prone to do. After all, each and every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. That was something I didn’t want. Instead, I kept my presence of mind and talked quietly, soothingly.
“It’s okay boy,” I kept my voice lulling, calm, quiet though the band was still marching by ever so loudly, “there’s a good boy. Step up, Higgins. That’s a good boy,” I crooned as I urged him to take that step forward. To give to the pressure, instead of pulling back even harder. And he did! I could tell he was listening to me, much as he did when I was spookproofing him with anything and everything I could think of. All those hours spent getting him used to those many things in our world, the things that bring out the flight response in a horse, paid off tenfold that day. He trusted me enough to listen, to be calmed, and to take that crucial step forward. The action released my finger, and I was free.
The whole time all of this was going on, that darn band kept right on marching by, not six feet from where Higgins was tied to the trailer. As relieved as I was, this wasn’t the time for self-pity. There was a horse that needed reassurance, so I stood there beside him, stroking the warm neck, tight with concern. Murmuring sweet nothings, while he watched the goings on, and remained obedient. The measure of the horse, and how well he’d retained his lessons were clearly evident in his response that day.
The second thing that happened was with hubby and the brilliantly naughty Smokey. Smokey had come to me with all sorts of issues and quirks. Some I could fix, some I couldn’t, and some I learned to work with. One of the quirks I had learned to live with and work around was that if she got it into her head to leave, to go a direction other than the one you wanted, she simply put her head down and to her chest, and went. Unless she has a bridle on or chain over her nose, you couldn’t stop the strength of that pretty, little bulldozer. She possessed far too much leverage and strength.
It’s about here that I have to make it perfectly clear that the chain was for emergency braking only. She was never tied with it, never shanked down, and it was always carefully positioned so that it would come loose, the second she stepped forward into the slightest pressure. To give to pressure, is the foundation of any training on any horse, and she knew it well. My hubby was well aware of this quirk of Smokey’s, yet for some reason, chose to untie her from the trailer and try to bridle without taking precautions. I looked up, to see them flying across the mall parking lot, Smokey with her chin to her chest, hubby with ever so ridiculously long strides right beside her. I don’t know how he did it. How he managed to get a hand over her nose, but he somehow did, and the headlong rush ended some hundred feet from where it started.
Fast forward to the present. The girlchild’s friend who keeps her solid Paint gelding Pete with us, asks the girlchild if she wants to ride in the local parade with her.
“Sure,” the girlchild agrees.
“Do you have a horse to ride in parade, one that’ll be okay?”
“No, but yes,” the girlchild responds, already deciding on which she could use, “I’ll ride Mack.”
Just like that, my sweetpea had decided to ride a horse that had never done any such thing, would be her mount in the parade the following weekend.
Life is busy, often too busy. Plans are made, the best of intentions laid out for the days leading up to the big event, yet even the best of intentions and plans must be open to revision. Between weather and obligations, Mack didn’t get worked as he probably should have. He had his pedicure, the antique saddle was brought out and fitted to him. The antique bridle was tried on him, and fit. The tack was conditioned and ready to go, but the horse didn’t get as much work, as a gentleman spending far too much time lounging about the pasture, should have.
Parade morning dawned bright and early. Well, overcast but still early. It was seven and not a drop of the forecast rain had fallen. Huh, well that’s a good thing, nice. Ten minutes later, I look out the window only to see it’s raining cats and dogs, with the occasional duck thrown in for good measure. Hmm, not good, not good at all. A few texts back and forth with girlchild’s friend Ashlynn made it clear that she still wanted to go. She was optimistically sure the rain would stop in time.
The first break I had, I hurried out to pull Mack Charger from the pasture. This isn’t ever a problem, as they all come running when called. I put him into the round pen for safekeeping, then hurried back to the house. It was raining again.
By eight thirty, the rain had stopped, Ashlynn was over and it was time to get horses ready. The parade started at ten thirty, they needed to be headed to town by nine.
Mack required a good dusting off. Of course he’d rolled. Thank goodness for sand, as he’d done a proper job of it. He had sand from the tips of his ears, to the end of his gorgeous, thick tail. Then he was saddled and needed a bit of a workout, as he was feeling incredibly fresh.
It was now nine thirty-five. They had to go!
We gave them a good headstart, then jumped in the truck to see how far they were. They had a good four miles to travel, a good portion on muddy roads, and we weren’t sure if they would get to the parade muster point in time. We finally spotted them, just before they disappeared into the back of the town. There was nothing we could do to expedite their arrival, so we went to wait at the muster point. There I found Ashlynn’s friend Melanie, patiently waiting sitting way up on her high horse. This isn’t even a joke, she was quite literally on a very tall, quite lovely, four year old Clydesdale mare! Another newbie to the world of parade participation, Mia was taking the hullabaloo in stride. I told her where we’d seen the girls, and that we assumed they would cut across to join her along the route.
As it turned out, that’s exactly what they did, and joined Melanie and the giant Mia very close to the beginning of the parade. Sweetpea later told me that they had to weave through throngs of people young and old, and there had been a few hairy moments. She had actually been concerned for a little while, but that soon faded away, as the horses settled down and took everything in stride. All the spookproofing, all the work put into making the unfamiliar acceptable was showing itself. The noise, the screaming, laughing children, bicycles, balloons and all the rest turned out to be no big deal at all.
We finally were able to work ourselves to an area where we could watch the parade, and see the girls and their splendid horses. Of course I couldn’t simply wait. I had to walk along the sidewalk to see more of them. Standing there between the families and random people, I took photo after photo, video upon video. To my great surprise and amusement, Mack somehow knew I was there. He looked right at me then as they moved by, kept looking back at me! I followed along, taking pictures and video, and he kept right on glancing back at me. It was the weirdest, coolest thing ever. I was super proud of those horses, I was proud of Mack. Taking the time to spookproof, is truly a worthwhile endeavour.

  1. Loved how the girls didn’t let anything stop them from the parade,and how getting spooktraning helps.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB