It’s been 4 years since I rode Clifford in the Drummond Island parade, but he never forgets. I trailered him down to a spot close to the starting point, where the floats and crowds were gathering along the roadside. There were plenty of horse-eating monsters there, including lots of balloons and banners and streamers galore. We expected to meet our cousins, Tess and Allen and the usual group of equines.
When I arrived at the spot, I realized I had grabbed Trudy’s bridle by mistake. There is no way that will fit Clifford, at least not without a lot of oil to get the buckle unhooked and readjusted. I had my English saddle, a nice Ortho-flex that has a blue pad. But I had no bridle, so had to ride him with just his purple halter and a too-short lead rope. I decided to skip the saddle too.
I climbed on bareback and we were off. Clifford happily trotted down the road between all the horse-eating floats, eagerly looking forward to our rendezvous with horsey friends that he hasn’t seen in years.
But we got to the grassy spot along the water’s edge where the equine parade members usually gather, and nobody was there. “Looks like it’s you and me this year, buddy,” I said. I gave him a pat on the neck.
Traditionally, horses go along in front of the ambulance, and I tried to put Clifford there. But he immediately fell in behind a Charlie Brown float that was playing the “Linus and Lucy” theme song. I wondered if he remembered this tune. It was our theme song during a couple of his performances at the Novi Expo, years ago.
There were some little kids in line behind us that were carrying a sign and some balloons. When the parade started, they decided to run and shout, dashing up right near Clifford’s tail. This proved too much for him and he startled. They didn’t seem to notice and just kept coming! Finally I called back to them, “Hey you guys, you’re scaring my horse!”
They slowed down to a walk then, but still wanted to be right on top of us. I said, “Can you stay back a little? This parade just moves really slowly.”
They did fall back then and gave us plenty of room. I just didn’t want anyone to get under his feet by accident, or even get whacked by his tail.
He seemed very happy to just walk along behind that float in time to the piano music. He was doing so well that I reached down to attempt to untie the lead rope from his halter. Every time I reached for it he would playfully turn his head and lip at my fingers.
Finally I ended up just dropping the lead rope and scratching his withers as we walked along. A couple of girls cried out to me, “Wow! Is he bullet proof, or what?”
“I guess as much as any horse can be bullet proof,” I replied.
When we got to the end, I turned to the kids behind me and said, “Thanks, guys. You did a great job.”
They smiled proudly.
I remembered my first year in the parade, some fifteen years ago, when Clifford was still a youngster. Allen Hoey was riding Barney, his grey Arabian, bareback. I thought I would never see the day when I’d be riding any horse in a parade with no saddle. It just goes to show that you can achieve the unexpected. If you persevere, one day you may surprise yourself.