Have you wanted to take your horses in a parade, but you aren’t sure if they are ready? Will your reliable trail horse freak out by the commotion of a parade?
How does a horse prepare for being ridden in a parade? How do you train a parade horse?
Start by letting your horses watch a parade. Let them watch safely on the sidelines, just like humans get to do. Pick a small town parade before you go to a major parade. Choose one that has an easy way to duck out, if your horse becomes overwhelmed. Try to find a parade that is horse friendly. There are parades that cater to horses, which are excellent as a first parade to lead or ride in.
The wait for the start of the parade in the staging area can be tiring and chaotic. Take your horse to participate in a staging area, even if not actually being in the parade.
Even in a small parade you may experience loud sirens, blaring lights, balloons, whistles, bicycles, strollers, electric wheelchairs, motorcycles, streamers, barking dogs, other horses or mini-donkeys, ATVs, clowns, kids running around, marching bands, truck air brakes, blowing objects of all sorts, frisbee thrown overhead, balls, loud speaker feedback, revving engines, horns, flags, waving, firecrackers, yelling, squeaks, car back firing, and candy tossed from passing floats. If you can think of something crazy happening, then you might see it at a large parade. Be prepared to walk on asphalt with potholes, crunching candy wrappers under foot and items blowing across the road. Check out the route before taking your horse.
Can your horse walk slowly and stand quietly amidst noise and excitement? The pace of a parade may be uneven with lots of time standing waiting, then just as suddenly needing to speed up. Practice at home with your horse with various spooky objects. Let them know that they can stand quietly and watch and listen to craziness.
Even if you plan to just lead your horse, make sure you have good control of your horse on the ground. If they are ready, then after letting them watch a passing parade try walking them in a parade as a groundwork training exercise. It’s fun to walk in a parade too, so if you aren’t sure if you want to ride then you can lead instead. Later you can try riding in a parade, then maybe an even bigger parade another time.
We use clicker training with de-spooking. This works well for us and our horses.
A parade can make great de-spooking practice, but you can start small and build up to riding in the Rose Bowl.
Be safe and wear your helmet!