I have to brag a little about our horses. Last night I rode Candy and Diana led Fidla in our neighborhood Christmas parade. It was the first time we’d done this. Come to think of it, it’s the first time we had done anything of substance with our horses at night. And what a night it was. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our neighborhood is a hodge podge of old and new homes, most on an acre or more of land, and, until a couple years ago, there were no activities that brought us all together. The Christmas parade changed that and now it's followed by a potluck dinner and live music. We love it! The parade gets more colorful each year. The route is about two miles. There are cars, trucks, boats, flatbed trailers, golf carts, kids on bicycles, and lots of people walking. Every vehicle and many of the walkers are covered in lights and decorations. Christmas carols blare, horns honk, bells jingle, people sing, and giant blowup characters sway back and forth. Get the picture?

So into the midst of all this, we take our horses. Everyone was happy to see them. They are popular fixtures in the neighborhood. Diana did great with Fidla, who was calm and unconcerned. Apparently it was just another night on the fjord for her. Not so much for Candy. She was fine at first but the half-hour delay in getting going – apparently a fuse problem – took its toll and she got fidgety. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, mind you, but I did need to manage the situation. It turned into a great opportunity to practice what I preach: Control the horse’s feet and you control her mind. There was an additional challenge in that this was all happening in a tight space with lots of distractions and lots of kids running around.

First, I consciously relaxed my entire body so I wasn’t fueling Candy's fidgeting with my own energy. That helped but she still wanted to move, so we moved. Forward a step, backward a step, sidepass left, sidepass right, flex laterally, flex vertically. I talked to her in a calm voice, sang a little, stroked her at every opportunity and repeatedly gave her a chance to stand quietly if she wanted to. Asking her to listen to me and think about her feet was just what she needed. The parade finally started moving and we fell in behind a tall cargo van full of kids. Candy had a real spring in her step, which was fantastic! Gradually her energy level dropped and by the end of this two-hour sensory feast, Candy was as unimpressed by the sights and sounds as Fidla was. I was very proud of both of them.

One little tip if you join a neighborhood Christmas parade: Don’t line up behind the diesel truck …