On this 4th of July, Let’s discuss Parade Horses! Yippee!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 4, 2010.  Please send me pics of YOUR parade horse!

Do we take Parade Horses for granted?  How about all that jazz and finery they lug around… not to mention the silver laden rider?!

Silly me.  Growing up in California, I thought every horse was a parade horse… I’d see the Rose Bowl Parade every year and think that is just what horses did….  Ha!  I sure had NO IDEA how special of an individual a horse would have to be to deal with all the craziness of a Parade!!  OMG! 

When I think about putting any of my horses in a parade right now, I may as well be contemplating my own demise.  Forgeddaboudit!  One horn blast or spinny, shiny thing and I’d be on the ground so fast, I’d hardly have time to see his hiney galloping off through a department store window.

(Bowing to the Parade Horse God…)

I would so love to meet a true parade quality horse face to face.  I bet his fuzzy mug could tell me stories beyond my wildest nightmares.  And, I would love the privilege to ride him.  I think that ride would be the most solid and animated ride ever!  I’d wear a headdress.  A big ol’ Chief of all the Indians 5′ tall headdress to defy Ru Paul.  Yup, I’d be so darn thrilled to be on a true, bomb-proof horse that I’d go ALL OUT for the first and probably only time.  Because, we all know that no horse, not even a parade horse, is bomb-proof.  But, the fantasy is really fun!


Wow.  I don’t have enough to say to cover all the faboo photos I’ve garnered in the few hours I’ve been researching this topic!

But, you know what is sad?   There are no parade HORSES who are written about other than Trigger.  I really wanted to tell you about some specific, famous parade horse, but I found no stories.  I even emailed the person in charge of Parade Rules from USEF and asked about any specific Parade Horses that came to mind, but I didn’t hear back.  Boo Hoo!

So, I’ll just chatter about what I’m thinking on the subject of Parade Horses and hope that I can go on long enough to make room for all of the photos I wanted to post.


There are two groups of Parade Horses — Parade Horses that show in Parade Classes at horse shows and the Parade Horse who actually walks in parades.  This can be a big distinction.


So, there is a class in some breed shows called the Parade Class.  I have actually witnessed a Parade Class because I have Morgans and they do this — well, some of them do this.  Umm, well, actually, there were only 2 in the class.  But, those two individuals were MAGNIFICENT.  OMG.  I almost cried they were so paradey. They strutted their silvery stuff like nobody’s business!  It was if these horses knew that they were carrying around the national debt on their backs.  Oy!  I couldn’t imagine having to heft those saddles over a log let alone a 15’3 horse!  Holy Cannoli!  And the bridles… Wow.  All I can say is it would take a lot of patience, training and elbow grease to get these guys into the ring.  And, be sure to wear your sunglasses while watching or else the glints from the sun/lights could blind you!

I wanted to run up to those Morgan Parade Class horses and beg them to tell me how regal it felt in that moment.  I wanted to call Breyer and demand a new figure be created in this honor.  I was very, very dazzled by these parade horses.  Or maybe it was the finery, or maybe it was the at-ti-tude of the horse… whatever it was, the combination was electric.


These classes have rules just like any other class.  In fact, I’ll just print them here so you can see:

The Parade Horse must be a beautiful, stylish animal, displaying refinement and personality and present eye-appeal of horse and rider. The show parade horse may be of any color or combination of colors, of any breed or combination of breeds, stallions, mares or geldings. Good manners are essential, both in executing gaits and while lined up in the ring. Horses must be serviceably sound and in good condition. Since beauty is important, blemishes will be considered. Parade Horses must be shown with a full mane, braided if desired, and a tail that may be set prior to showing. An inconspicuously applied tail switch or top is permitted and a brace may be used. Entries must be over 14.2 hands. Ponies are not eligible for Parade Horse classes, however separate classes for ponies 14.2 hands and under may be offered for junior exhibitors and judged under the same rules.

The Parade Horse is shown at an animated walk and at a parade gait. The animated walk should be a graceful, four-beat, straight, brisk movement, but not a jog-trot. It should be slow enough to differentiate between the animated walk and the parade gait. The parade gait shall be a true, straight, high-prancing movement, square, collected and balanced with hocks well under. The maximum speed should be 5 MPH.
Parade Horses are shown under stock saddles with silver, Mexican or other appropriate equipment. The rider should wear attire that is both colorful and typical of the Old West, of American, Mexican, or Spanish origin, consisting of fancy cowboy suit, hat and boots. Spurs, guns, serapes, etc, are optional.
For specific information regarding Parade Horse or Pony classes, please visit the USEF Rule Book link above. Should you have any questions, please contact the USEF Breeds and Western Disciplines Department at (859) 258-2472.

Cool, eh?


I know that my trainer looked for years for a Parade Horse for one of his clients.  The horse had to be big enough to carry a heavy silver saddle and heavily bedazzled rider.  The horse had to be calm enough to remember his job in the ring and had to be talented and beautiful.  Tough job.

But, this horse also had to do the Rose Parade…

So, my trainer went to work training this massive, black gelding.  He would put the horse in the ring and try to think of every single disruptive event that could happen at a parade.  Then, he would go about desensitizing the horse to this stuff.  Rattles, buggies, baby carriages, umbrellas, flags, horns, popcorn machines, engines, calliopes, ticker tape, bags, balloons, noisy kids, jets engines (well, not really jet engines but the noise), garbage cans rolling, papers flying, kids running underneath… You name it, he did it.

My trainer was determined that NOTHING would go wrong.  I know, I used to watch in admiration.  He went to every parade he could find in Southern CA. And, very cleverly, he reenacted just about all the hazards available.  On top of that, the horse was trained inside the trailer.  He knew all the noises from inside his aluminum box stall.  Then there was the task of cleaning the tack.  Oy.  That took a week alone!

And, you know what?   That horse was prepared. That horse was incredible.  His owner was delighted.  And, much to my trainer’s chagrin, he was now going to have to do this every single year until death do us part…


I have learned that silver saddles and parade get-ups were started in the 30s and 40s.  But, it was the Hollywood Cowboy that brought this era to light during the 50s and 60s.  In fact, this genre spawned a new industry in silver saddles and fantastical Western wear.

There was an article I read about the saddle makers of that era.  Here are some of the names:   Edward Bohlin, Frank Coenan, Keyston Brothers, Ted Flowers, Bruce Lovins, L. V. Frazer

I looked some of them up and then found a saddle collector.  His website was very interesting and informative.  He has a museum… cool.

I also poked around Ebay and did see a few for sale.  Here is a link to a private Parade saddle for sale.

I also wondered about the clothes but then decided that was for another post…


I found a zillion photos.  I loved so many of them…  I found jousting parades and breed parades and military parades… Wow! I even found several home town parades… loved those.  So, here are several photos and I’ve left out even more.  I wish I could post them all.


UPDATE:  How could I have forgotten about:

Michele MacFarlane and the ScrippsMiramar Saddlebreds?!  They do an incredible show every single Rose Parade… Here are a few…  And, here is their FB page so you can see all the incredible pics!


This was several years ago… and they’ve ramped it up since!


Such a pretty picture!


Even in the rain…


Every horse, different…


Michele creates these elaborate parade themes every year!


1962. That little girl is Michele!


A reader sent in these photos of her Morgan mare, Mischievous Enchantment!

Mischievous Enchantment Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 8.44.06 AMHAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!!!!!!!!


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23 comments have been posted...

  1. Robynne Catheron

    I loved this post back in 2010 and I love it just as much today! I’m so glad you re-posted it.

    Riding in parades is probably the most fun I’ve ever had on horseback. My TWH trail horse (George) and I rode in many local parade up until just last year. Christmas parades covered in battery-powered lights with his legs wrapped like candy canes and bells around his pasterns; Halloween parades with both of us dressed in costume- he was even a ghost once, covered in white sheets. He’s a very special horse,, and (almost) always takes it in stride. Unfortunately, last year’s Christmas parade was a fail; he wouldn’t walk past the flashing lights of the theater marquee. So, no more parades for us, but at 63 I think I’m done anyway ??

    Thanks again for fun post!

  2. Miss Jan

    SO NICE to see some Saddlebred people posting comments here! To me the golden American Saddlebred is the penultimate parade horse. but – Wait! The Appy in full regalia. No – wait again! The drill teams with so much sparkle and glam and bling that if you aren’t wearing sunglasses yet when they go by you need to pop them on. And what about the SIDE SADDLE riders that you used to see in the 80’s when sidesaddle riding had its oh-so-brief revival, mostly on Arabs and Morgans. Wait again – what about the Morgan Gay Nineties entries in many of the Pacific NW parades – maybe other places too!

    I think in the midwest there are still some Golden American Saddlebred breeders who still show in parades and in parade classes at state fairs (Iowa and Nebraska and Illinois come to mind).

    Speaking of the Scripps Saddlebreds, one of Michele’s most gorgeous and truly inspired breathtakingly gorgeous turnouts was when she drove I believe a six- or eight-horse hitch in the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Japan. I can still get goosebumps even thinking about it!

  3. Stacey Adams

    What a super post – and bittersweet for me. My longtime and very dear friend and client John Polak, was a BIG parader – was for years in the Rose Bowl parade, etc.

    He had all the fancy silver festooned saddles, breastplates, etc. Just gorgeous. He died less than two months ago after a long-ish battle with cancer and his beloved mare Angel is missing out on the great summer parades – and we are missing him.

    But I LOVED this post. It brought him back to me immediately and wonderfully. Thanks gal! Think I’ll post a photo of him on my FB page :)

  4. Sandra Clevenger

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I had a postcard as a child with picture above of the man in green on the palomino. I grew up in the horse show world and always loved the parade horse classes. My dad’s friend owned and showed a big, black and white “spotted horse” as they were called then in parade classes. His name was Whiskers.

  5. Laurie

    Thank you again…..for the info on parade horses!
    I will always remember as a little girl going to my grandparents in Maryland to watch the parade!
    Oh …how I remember the excitement of it all!
    Once again you have made your blog PRICELESS.

  6. dawndi Post author

    Jannett: My first Pilot for our TV series, HORSE AND MAN featured Michele from Scripps Miramar and her Spotted Saddlebreds! We still use those clips in the trailers for
    all H&M shows. Yup, you are correct!

  7. Jannett

    I rode a 16 + hand gray mare in a pile of parades – -she loved every moment of it, we made flag horse for our 4h team. In my day, feeling old here (only 35) we had to open the rodeos, gallop frantically in pattern, ALL parade horses were required for this. Although it was all crazy fun, racing in a single file pattern to open a rodeo – –my very large mare took it one step further, outside of the ring after the parade and crazy race, she would rear up, she insisted on being the belle of the ball. I will never forget the little girls running up to me in parades (no I didn’t have candy) telling me they wanted to be just like me, less for me and more for the huge dancing gray mare.
    Parade horses make a show of it, more so then any plain show horse. A drop headed droopy ‘fat’ animal is not a parade horse. Define parade; its a celebration! NOT a nose to the ground, plunk along slowly, I don’t exist kind of deal.
    You being from So Cal, you have been exposed to the best that’s left for real parade horses: Scripps Miramar ranch Saddlebreds. Hate to break it to you but Michelle’s parade horses are the best in the word, Nagano Japan.
    Now to help in the parade horse endeavor – Tom Bass and High School horses.

  8. Kathie Dunn

    Further clarification – the first horse shown with the flag is an AMERICAN SADDLEBRED. His registered name is I’m W.O. Bentley. His barn name is “Nick” which stands for “In the Nick of Time” as we rescued him 3 days from being shipped to slaughter.

    His sire is Talent Town and his dam is Sultan’s Lou Lou. He was bred by Ruxer Farms of Indiana. He has presented the flag across the U.S. and has marched in parades under silver tack and side saddle up and down the West Coast. His current job is as our barn ambassador, carrying small children on their first rides. He is the epitome of everything wonderful about the American Saddlebred breed and more. Adore this horse!

  9. Robyn Lay

    We do all the local parades we can get in! I am working on an authentic Indain costume since we ride mostly Appaloosas. My favorite parade group is the Appaloosas and dress ridden (with costumes created by members) the Calzona Appaloosa horse club. Appaloosas are one of the most dependable breeds for activities that require calmness. No such thing as bomb proof but ours are close ;) Here is the facebook page for the Calzona group. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calizona-Appaloosa-Horse-Club/335701513560?fref=ts

  10. Coreen Hutchinson

    Been following you website ever since a friend of mine turned me on to it and enjoy your posts very much.
    Regarding parade horses. I ride 3 to 5 parades each year in Reno and Carson City, NV. The horse I ride is my endurance horse (Arab) and the group I ride with is mostly other endurance horses. The group is usually 10 – 16 horses and riders in Arabian Costumes.
    Although most horses walk quietly, some, mine included “dance” while in motion. But stand quietly when the parade is halted for any reason.
    The woman who takes care of the coordination and entry is DVM Susan McCartney. (Has done the Rose Parade three or more times).
    I have learned many little techniques to keep the horses composed from her since I started rideing with her parade group. Like patting the horses neck gently to the beat of a loud band playing VERY by while in stagging.
    My “little boy” did his first parade at 5 yrs old, after completeing a 25 mile endurace ride the prior day. He was a little shook up with the Military Fly over and at the first announcers stand I think he thought the announcer was yelling at him, personally. By the second annoucers stand he had figured out that the crowd was clapping and cheering for HIM and stepped even higher.
    I’d be happy to send you a picture of some of the horses in costume in costume if you’d like.
    He and I love playing “dress up” and dancing down the street!

  11. stephanie

    I have ridden in a local parades before for back country horsemen yup every thing was spotless I was dressed in my best western show clothes, the horses main was braided up. It was fun I would love to do it again but with a fancier saddle/costume. I have a horse that has the temperament for doing one now. Most horses do just fine with all the people and craziness. The only things that can make a horse jump real bad are bag pipes (warming up)and muskets(being fired with confetti billowing out the muzzle).

  12. Kathie

    Comment didn’t submit last time.

    The first horse pictured in your blog post is mine! I rescued him three days away from going to slaughter – so we think he’s pretty special. He has been written up in magazines (including Horse Illustrated), and has presented the flag in parade tack across the U.S., so that makes him pretty special as well.

    At 20, we just did our last flag presentation. He will continue to do street parades, sometimes in silver, and sometimes sidesaddle.

  13. angie

    my trainer, holly armstrong in howell michigan shows several parade horse saddlebreds, in michigan and ohio. her website is http://www.mrfsaddlebreds.com she is also located on facebook with her personal name. the classes are making a coming back to the saddlebred breed shows!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. christine peniaranda

    very neat post! thank you . when i was just 16, eons ago, me and my red mustang/quarterhorse~Ronny were invited to go in the national guard parade. i turned it down! i thought he would act up and embarrass me! KIDS! i wish i’da done it!

  15. Arliss

    Wow, great post! You do such a terrific job researching and digging up interesting stuff, then writing about it entertainingly. (My favorite line: “I almost cried they were so paradey.

    Hooray for parade horses! Happy Fourth of July!

  16. Chris

    I enjoyed reading your blog on parade horses. Our club, Red Hats and Purple Chaps, does parades with our horses. We do small town parades all the way to big cities like Pegasus parade in Louisville, which is part of the Kentucky Derby Festival and the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day parade in Chicago. We host our own despook and formation riding clinics to get our horses ready for parades. Thanks for writing about parade horses.

  17. Carol Abbot

    just wanted to add that it’s a good idea to make sure you or/and the sponsor of the parade have liability insurance. Don’t assume the city does. There was a law suit against the team of horses that went crazy in Iowa and injured several people. The suit claims the horse owner was negligent in operating and handling the horses, failing to properly train them, using unsafe horses for the parade, using improper tack and failing to maintain control of the horse drawn carriage. The suit also claims the City was negligent for failing to maintain a safe parade route, failing to protect pedestrians, failing to maintain control of the carriage and failing to have an emergency plan.

  18. Carol Abbot

    Loved your article about parade horses. It takes the right kind of temperament to make a good parade horse. I use my mini horses in parades and they are very laid back. But even the best horses can get frightened by kids, dogs, fire engines, etc. So I have to stay focused on them at all times. Never know when one will freak out even if he’s never done it before. I even had a kid some up and hit my horse with a fan some one ahead of me was giving out as an election souvenier. And kids retrieving thrown candy is a real hazzard. The kids run into the middle of the street and make the horses nervous. Keep a tight rein and always be aware of what’s going on around you!!!!!

  19. Kris Paron

    Read your stuff about parade horses. I have recently started a 4 yr old Cremello Tennessee Walker gelding. Have ridden him in 2 local parades in my vintage black diamond tack. My grandkids ride him bareback double in my pasture. He is doing really well as a trail horse in the Sierras.

  20. Amanda

    A little off subject, but since you had a pic of them in here, did you know that the Marine’s matched palomino parade horses are all BLM Mustangs? In my opinion, that makes them twice as special! They were once wild horses on the range!

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