Rocky was the riderless horse at the end of the 4th of July parade in our small north Texas town. Every year, the volunteer fire department hosts the parade and other Independence Day celebrations. These volunteers also host a lighted Christmas Parade at night followed by singing carols and lighting the Christmas tree in the town square. Our adventure at the lighted Christmas parade in early December was described in my blog titled Rocky’s High Spirited Christmas. Rocky was in such high spirits that I was extremely glad that we walked in the night Christmas parade instead of attempting to ride.
Rocky lives in a quiet, isolated pasture without any exposure to the typical environment of a city street and certainly not the extreme activity of a parade. I decided to walk Rocky in the 4th of July parade to get him familiar with the sights and sounds of a day time parade. This activity should build my confidence as well as desensitize Rocky to the noises, vehicles, and people along the parade route. Someday, it might be nice to be one of the mounted riders.
I groomed and brushed Rocky at home before loading him into the trailer for the ride to the parade muster area at the local school. Once there, he backed out of the trailer like a bored horse who would rather be back in the shade at home. North Texas has been having temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. At these temperatures, every creature just wants to rest in the shade. Rocky calmly nibbled on the grass around the school yard while my daughter put ribbons in his mane and tail.
Rocky was totally calm and uninterested while I visited with the horseback riders during the wait for the parade to start. He was too busy munching on grass to pay much attention to the noisy vehicles and parade participants as they lined up and moved past us to the starting point of the parade. Rural Texas has volunteer fire departments that support one another in their fund raising activities and events. They even schedule the parades so that the other fire departments can participate. The local parades always have a lot of noisy fire trucks with their sirens on from several local towns and rural fire districts.
The noisy fire trucks and police cars led the parade, the floats and motorized vehicles were in the middle, and the horses were the tail of the parade. Rocky was only mildly excited when the noisy clanging chuckwagon from the local Cowboy Church rolled into position in front of us. I let him walk a couple of circles and he returned to munching on the school yard grass. It was no big deal. He was bored and wanted to eat if he couldn’t rest in the shade.
All of the other horses either had riders or were pulling wagons. Rocky and I were the end of the parade because we were walking. I carried my carrot stick with the attached savvy string and had Rocky in the rope halter with the 22 foot lead rope. He was light and easy to handle the entire length of the parade. During the parade, he stood quietly while we waited for everyone else in front of us to move. If he needed to move his feet, I simply yielded his hindquarters and sent him around to walk on my other side as we continued down the street.
Walking at street level enabled me to interact with the crowd. I heard a lot of comments from the crowd as I waved and wished everyone a “Happy 4th of July”. Here in Texas, there aren’t many Tennessee Walking Horses so there were remarks about Rocky’s breed. There were the usual comments that I expected. “That horse is still being trained.” or “Oh look, that horse isn’t broke yet.” “I bet she would rather ride than walk in this heat.” “Look at the pretty black horse.” “Why isn’t she riding?” or “Why aren’t you riding?” Friends who were also at the Christmas Parade made comments about how calm Rocky seemed today compared to the night parade last December.
There were some comments that I did not expect. I had been so focused on how Rocky would handle the parade and if I was up to the challenge that I had forgotten the reason for the parade. “Look, there is the riderless horse at the end of the parade.” Several people asked if this was a tribute for a specific person or all fallen heroes. I wasn’t prepared for these questions because it never occurred to me that anyone would see Rocky as the riderless horse until I heard the first comment about it.
These questions brought tears to my eyes. I am so thankful that Rocky could serve as a tribute to all of those fallen heroes that sacrificed so much for our freedom. Next year, instead of being embarrassed about my riding confidence on a noisy street, I will proudly walk beside the riderless horse in the 4th of July parade.