By MIKE MYERS
The Belton Journal
The Horse Owners Society (HOSS) had a joyful time with their horses at Liberty Park in Belton on Saturday.
About eight horses and riders gathered for the NeewollaH HalloweeN Parade to prepare their horses for this year’s Christmas Parade.
Marcia Cross has been the organizer of HOSS for more than 10 years. Cross organizes events to help riders desensitize their horses in preparation for parades or large crowds of people. Horses are a prey animal and a herd animal. Riders slow down interactions with their horse by developing a method through which they can communicate. Silly and unusual things are asked of horses.
“Today is the perfect day for desensitizing the horses. The wind is strong. We set up balloons and tied things in the trees. When we ride from here into downtown, we will see what frightens our horses,” Cross said.
Saturday was a day for fun and developing relationships with other riders and horses.
It’s the rider’s responsibility to understand a horse’s body language, and to reduce the horses anxiety in stressful situations. Horses can sense a riders’ confidence, competence, posture and even their breathing pattern.
If a horse senses a calm rider, they understand that the rider isn’t asking them to do something dangerous.
Being a prey animal, horses are always in a state of high alertness. It has been said that horses are afraid of anything that moves, and things that don’t move.
Cross says that instead of removing a horse from a perceived threat, they are worked through the threat until the fear is gone.
Ronald Fisher trailered his registered quarter horse from Killeen.
“We don’t want to have horses that get spooked in the Christmas parade. It’s our responsibility to have control of the horse so people don’t get hurt,” Fisher said.
Monica Gardner will be entering her Pony of the Americas breed. The pony breed is a medium-size pony that resembles a mini Appaloosa Horse. Her horse, Dixieland Delight, will be pulling Gardner seated in a buggy behind the horse. When a horse is pulling you in a buggy, you can only use your voice and your hands to control the horse. If something goes wrong, you’re attached to the pony and you have to stay with them.
“If they spook, it’s not just the horse that’s moving. They’re dragging a solid, out-of-control object behind them. You have less maneuverability,” Gardner said.
Gary Davis participated in the event with his Palomino quarter horse.
“You have to think about what might happen in a parade. The more we build confidence, and communication with our horse, the more he will trust us if he gets spooked,” Davis said.
Cullen Autry was the youngest rider in the group. Autry is 24 years old and has been riding for eight years. Riding a Bay Quarter Horse, Autry uses his horse mostly as a cattle horse on a ranch. Autry was going through a rough time in his early years.
“Horses pretty much saved me,” Autry said.
As part of the class, riders rode their horses in the water of Nolan Creek. After riding in the creek, they rode from Liberty Park to downtown Belton, and around the Bell County Historic Courthouse in downtown Belton.