Making Christmas Memories

2019 has been a blur. Our recent escapades with our wild-caught mustangs in training have us approaching December 31st at the speed of light, but I have a toddler which necessitates attempting to put on the brakes. These are the years I’m sure I’ll treasure above all else, and I’m making a conscious effort to take it all in. Offspring is growing up way too fast as it is, and I do not want to look back with regret that I did not cherish every single second. My deepest desire is that Offspring will enjoy equine activities as much as his parents, and every once in a while there is a glimmer of hope that we are actually succeeding in instilling a passion for horses.

Some of my very best childhood Christmas memories involve participating in a rural small town Christmas parade. One of my father’s good friends had a team of Belgian drafts. I love, love, love draft horses! Nothing gives me chills like the sound and vibration of draft teams clopping in unison on pavement with heavy harness clinking. For a few years, my father’s friend would invite me to ride in his wagon with his daughter during the Christmas parade while his Belgian team pulled Santa through the parade. I got to ride with them in a few other parades as well, but there was just something about the Christmas parade that was extra special.

Fast forward thirty some years, I don’t currently own any drafts. My brief ownership experience with a single Percheron mare taught me that I would need to win the lottery in order to responsibly feed and outfit a draft team if I wanted any money left over to feed myself. I have however, started training and driving miniature horses/ponies. For the record, they are absolute devils when compared to their larger equine cousins despite what pony people will tell you, but lovable little devils that I find oddly addicting. With egos the size of China, ponies are natural exhibitionists, and seem to have a natural confidence some larger horses lack which makes them a good option for parades.

While Offspring has not shown much interest in riding astride, he does seem to enjoy cart rides. He also likes to be the center of attention. As an only child he pretty much expects it. So Christmas cart rides and parades are memories that I can give him that hopefully add some magic to his holidays. I feel like we set the bar pretty high when we participated in the BLORA Nature in Lights trail ride in November. It was a nighttime five mile trek through hundreds of Christmas Light displays being pulled with a perky little pony decked out in heavy brass antique sleigh bells. We sadly forgot to get pictures during the ride, because we were a little worried about freak outs from both my pony and horse that Darling Husband was riding. That ride did not include spectators however. If I’m going to deck out a miniature version of Darling Husband in cowboy wear, and a miniature horse in Christmas decorations, I kind of crave the validation of people screaming “OMG it’s a pony!” I unabashedly admit.

So, when one of my friends that frequents the Central Texas parade circuit said she had signed her organization the Horse OwnerS Society (HOSS) up for two parades in near by towns, I jumped on the chance to join her. BLORA was a nice practice run for my green pony, and now it was time to step up our game. The first parade was the kick off to the Salado stroll. While I knew the Salado stroll was a big deal on the weekends, I didn’t expect much out of their parade because it was scheduled on a Thursday night, and Salado is a really small town. We were entry forty four in the parade line-up and I saw road markings for parade entries up to seventy eight. There may have been more than that. The parade route was a full mile, which is pretty long as far as small Texas town parades go, but nothing prepared me for the spectator turnout.

There were people lined up five to ten deep on the side of the road. When we made the turn onto the main parade street, we were greeted with a sea of people and a wave of sound that hit us. People were screaming “Merry Christmas!” and yes, they screamed “Look at the Pony!” before erupting into applause. That’s a lot going on for a green pony and a little boy. It turned out to be too much for one of the horses in our group who sadly couldn’t handle the commotion, and had to drop out of the line-up. Jasper was thrilled though, waving and yelling “Merry Christmas” back at everyone.

We had one “Oh $hit” moment during the parade. Someone had dropped a lighted Christmas bulb necklace on the road, and by the time I noticed it, we were on an unavoidable collision course. My solid rubber cart tires dead centered one of the bulbs which sounded like a gun shot when it burst under the wheel. Moonshine jumped. I thought the full size horse beside us might just end up riding in our lap, but miraculously everyone held it together. I don’t think the crowd even noticed. Salado was a smashing success, and even though Moonshine had started out a little tense, by the end she was relaxed.

Two days later we loaded up Moonshine, cart, Offspring and headed to the Chisholm Trail parade in Belton. This parade is much shorter, at only a third of a mile, but Belton is a bigger town with a lot going on. Also, getting back to the trailer post parade presented some unique challenges. Chisholm Trail parade had the group sandwiched between some guy revving the motor on his sports car every ten seconds and the fire truck transporting Santa as the last parade entry. What Chisholm Trail lacked in distance, it made up for in spectators. Apparently the other parade entries were pretty snazzy too. Darling Husband managed to snap some shots of the cooler ones while waiting for us to come down the street. Offspring enjoyed himself even through he was engaged in a “threenager” moment and refusing to wave.

At the end of Chisholm trail parade, Moonshine got some additional “life experience.” The fastest route back to our trailer ended being the frontage road along the interstate. So not only were we traveling down a higher speed road, cars and trucks were also roaring past us on the interstate going about seventy five miles an hour. Moonshine was awesome, and a member of the group even commented on how confident my little pony was.

When asked if he liked riding in the cart, and if he had fun at the end of both parades, the answer was a resounding “Yes!” as Offspring bounced around. He demanded to help me unhitch, informing me it was “Jasper’s turn” as I unbuckled straps. Offspring also stuffed my already overweight pony with a ton of treats while we loaded equipment. I figured its the holidays and both of them earned it. This is a family experience I hope to continue for many years. Maybe one day Offspring will look back on the parades with the same fondness I do for the ones in my childhood.

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