I grew up in Cheshire, and when i was very little i remember a village fete with knights and jousting horses. I can't be sure but i think that is how horses got into my blood. I can remember being completely awestruck (and possibly even speechless) at the sight of the brave knights and beautiful horses. That day has stayed with me all these years, and never since that day have i seen horses at a carnival - until last week!
We had the honour of being invited by the Mayor and Mayoress of Northampton to lead the carnival procession through the town on Saturday June 9th 2018. Of course without even thinking about it I said yes, and didn't find it particularly difficult to persuade the rest of the quadrille team to join me
So it was agreed that we would go in our Ride of the Valkyries costumes, followed by Maloney pulling his decorated wagonette containing the Mayor and Mayoress
As we got closer to the day we all started to wonder whether this had been a sensible choice. With the loss of community spirit in general though we though the procession would be fairly small and quiet. We also put certain safety measure in place to be sure all horses would be happy and humans safe. So we drove the route before hand noting escape areas, should any of the horses become distresses. We agreed with the parade safety manager (an ex mounted policeman) that we would hack back to base off route if need be. We arranged parking for the horses close to the parade start and out of the way of the funfair (there's a funfair!!). The Mayoral limousine was set to follow at a safe distance behind Maloney's carriage to a-be a buffer between us and the floats, and b- alternative transport for the Mayor and Mayoress in case we had to bail out of the parade. Finally it was arranged that Simon and his brother Matt would dress up in keeping with our costumes and walk alongside - just in case. They had lead reins wrapped round their waists at the ready. Their job was to ensure nobody came too close to the horses, and to lead in hand if anybody was worried
The week of the parade we had some very sad and shocking news, so one of our number was unable to join. They were very sadly missed - we all shed a tear for them. This left 3 Valkyries and a special space where they should have been. We did it for you x
The day dawned...
We bathed the horses and got all of our makeup and costumes on at home so that when we got there all we had to do was dress the horses. We found the lorry entrance to the Racecourse Park, and drove through the (huge) crowds to our parking area. I cried a little bit when i saw the carnival in full swing - it was so beautiful. I could not have been more wrong about community spirit! It was incredible to see all of those happy shiny people together enjoying a glorious summer day. Amazing
When we drove into our parking space we saw Karen, Grant and Jenna with Maloney and Seamus and the carriage already in place. They seemed to be relaxed and not at all phased by the loud drum and bass music blaring from different floats nearby. Sardra was equally unperturbed, but Beau was finding it all a little too much. He did not want to come down the ramp off the lorry, and when he did he proceeded to half rear again and again. He was in a proper tizzy. Luckily Tory had had the foresight to acquire some noise cancelling ear bonnets - and once Beau's was installed he put his front feet on the floor and started to calm down. Also luckily our friends Karen, Pat and Nicola had turned up to help. It took 3 of us to get Beau's bridle on him! I was seriously considering bailing at this point for Beau's benefit but decided to count on the other 3 relaxed ponies to be a calming influence - we would only be walking and we had all our safety and horse welfare measures in place
Once the ponies were tacked up and munching hay Tory and I set off to find the start and make contact with the officials. Then it was time to mount up and join the parade!
I think people were a little bemused by our costumes - the theme of the parade was Peace and Love! So we became a peace keeping force for good ;) Apparently some Northampton schools were studying Vikings because most of the younger children knew exactly what we had all come as!
So we joined the front of the procession, and on the way past them many of the floats kindly turned down their music - and some of the incredibly dressed dancers stood still so their costumes wouldn't scare the horses
Beau couldn't quite bring himself to stand still for long, so Simon attached the leadrope - just in case, and we walked circles. I am so so very proud of Beau actually - considering he was nervous he still behaved like an angel - he never got out of a steady walk and was responsive the whole time. We didn't need the leadrope - but safety comes first at all times
Once the Mayor and Mayoress were installed in the wagonette we set off! It was magical seeing the faces of the kids in the crown as we walked past - some with pure disbelief and joy. The amazing lady who organised the carnival walked with us most of the route and she had to act as a go between answering questions about the horses at every stop point! Her energy is endless and the job she did to put that together was outstanding
After about 5 minutes Beau was back to his normal self and didn't even react when a balloon popped right next to him. What a star
The full parade went entirely without a hitch, and at the end when we got back to the lorry the ponies had their own fanclub waiting for photos - which they enjoyed as much as the people with the cameras
Thank you to Karen and Nicola for your help (sorry I used up all your Rescue Remedy Nicola!) and i want to say how immensely proud I am of the ponies and the team, and how thankful I am to The Mayor and Mayoress that we got to do this. It was a day that will go down in my personal history, and a small tear of joy has collected right now writing about it!