Parade Protocol Recommendations for Horses

Parade Protocol Recommendations for Horses

Parades can be very confusing to horses. Take time well in advance to desensitize your horse to traffic, clapping, noises, changes in footing, and other sights and sounds associated with parades.

Photo: iStock

Parades are exciting. Children are delighted at all the sights, sounds, and the opportunity to do something different. Parents are lulled into peaceful reverie by the distraction the winding procession creates for their offspring. Organizers are frazzled by last-minute changes, conflicts, and inevitable problems. Participants, both human and animal, are energized and sometimes agitated by the crowd, noises, and unexpected events.

The Horse Factor

It is important to realize that parades can be very confusing for horses. The sights, sounds, and obstacles on a parade route are often unfamiliar to our equines and, to further complicate matters, we have to navigate directly in the public eye, usually on pavement, in a narrow area. Take time well in advance of participating in a parade to desensitize your horse to traffic, clapping, noises, changes in footing, balloons, flags, horns honking, loud music, and other sights and sounds associated with parades.

One of the biggest challenges for horses at some parades has been crosswalks made of bricks embedded in the pavement. People recognize that the height of the road remains unchanged even though the appearance is quite altered. Our four-footed friends, however, cannot reason in the same manner. Thus, the brick walk could appear to be a gaping crevasse into which they might fall or it could seem to rise above the normal surface of the road, both of which can be scary for a horse.

Also, remember if you are driving your horse in a parade that crossing cobblestones, bricks, gravel, and railroad tracks isn't just about getting your horse to the other side; your vehicle has to also cross the obstacle. The resulting noise or strange vibrations of the carriage going over rough ground might cause your horse concern.

For the sake of safety, all equine parade entries should be accompanied by side walkers with at least one per every four horses and one for every carriage or hitch. The side walkers are placed between the horses and the spectators so they can intercede if a horse acts up. Side walkers should be supplied by the equine participants, not the parade management. The side walker should be a qualified horse handler, assigned to specific horses, and responsible for monitoring safety. Special attention should be given to safe tack and handling equipment.

Parade Organizers

It is vitally important that coordinators have an understanding of basic horse behavior and techniques to minimize the stress on equine participants. Event organizers should be mindful to design parade routes and organize participants so that the animals in the parade are as far as possible from the bands, fire trucks, and other noisy and quickly moving parade entrants.

The Kentucky Horse Council (KHC) guidelines for parade organizers and equine parade entries can be a starting point for successful integration of horses, riders, and drivers into parades, but are not a substitute for the exercise of reasonable care.

KHC Parade Protocol Recommendations for Horses

The following KHC guidelines are recommendations only and may not be appropriate for all events. Parade hosts must comply with all applicable government regulations, should always purchase event liability insurance, and should follow all event protocols required by their insurance carriers. We also recommend that horseback riders who participate in parades have their own personal liability insurance. The Kentucky Horse Council assumes no responsibility for injuries to horses and their handlers or injuries to spectators.

Parade Management

  • Organize the parade participants so that the horses and other live animals are as far as possible from marching bands, fire trucks, and other motorized, noisy, and quickly moving parade participants;
  • Require parade participants to sign a liability release waiver;
  • Block off curbs to keep viewers from sitting on the curb;
  • Provide crowd control to help keep viewers a good distance from parade participants;
  • Avoid noisy, wavy, and quickly moving items or activities near the parade route;
  • Do not allow candy throwing; instead, walkers can hand out candy; and
  • Provide parade participants with a map of the parade route that includes special note of any bridges, railroad crossings, changes in footing, or other potential hazards.

Equine Management

  • Require all equines to be presented in advance of the parade with proof of current negative Coggins test in accordance with state laws;
  • Require all participants to sign a liability waiver;
  • Provide equine participants with a map of the parade route and notify them of any activities or items that may be alarming to horses;
  • Request that only well-seasoned horses who have been desensitized to crowds, flags, traffic, whistles, and other parade noises and sights participate;
  • Notify equine participants of any donkeys, bovines, or other species of animals that will be near them in the parade lineup;
  • Recommend participants have personal liability policies that cover their participation in parades;
  • Only allow one rider per horse;
  • Require equine participants to provide muck collectors and to pick up their own manure; and
  • Require equine participants to provide side walkers. These should not be the same people as banner carriers and muck collectors. Recommended number of side walkers: One per every four mounted or led horses, one per every carriage or cart, and one per every two horses in a multi-horse hitch.

Article reprinted with permission from the Kentucky Horse Council.

About the Author

Kentucky Horse Council

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More