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From Buggy to Limousine, My Life as a Horse in Delaware

 From Buggy to Limousine, My Life as a Horse in Delaware

I began life on an Amish farm in Kent County, Delaware. When I was mature enough, I was trained by a gentle man to pull his family’s buggy along back roads there. We’d sometimes go to the farmer’s market in Dover, to church meetings twice a month, which were held at other neighbor’s farms, and to visit family members who lived nearby. I also got to take the children to the one-room schoolhouse when the weather was bad and they didn’t wish to walk. With six little school-girls in the family, that often happened in the winter. When a new housing development was built in the area, though, the roads became busier with truck and car traffic, and sometimes the trips were dangerous for my slow-moving pace. There was an accident one day while I was pulling the buggy with several family members inside. They were going to visit an ailing grandparent. We were hit from behind by a car that was being driven recklessly. The buggy was overturned. My family got out with just a few cuts and bruises. I wasn’t so lucky. A broken buggy shaft punctured me in the side. Trembling from the shock, I was unhooked, and led to the side of the road, with a loving hand holding my harness. From there, I was walked slowly home, cringing from the pain in my side. There would be no more buggy pulling jobs for me. I had been too frightened by the experience to ever want another harness on me. My owner decided that it would be best for me to go to another home. His children had taught me to accept riders on my back and accept a bit. So, after my stint as a buggy horse, I was destined to become a riding horse. An enthusiastic young couple bought me and I went to a new home about seven miles away, to Marydel, Delaware. There, I had sole occupancy of six fenced-in acres planted in grass, with an old barn for shelter. The proud new owner’s husband bought me a good western-style saddle, a handsome bridle and gentle bit, and the little wife began to take me out for long rides on dirt roads in the area. She wasn’t a good rider but she wanted to learn, so she went for instruction from a professional riding teacher. Soon, wishing to ride in other areas, she was indulged by her husband with the purchase of a two-horse trailer. That, coupled with a lovely horse blanket, gave us the freedom to explore riding trails more distant from home. I didn’t mind loading into or backing out of the trailer, and I didn’t mind too much having a saddle put on my back or having the girth straps tightened. I did still mind having traffic too close by, though, so we most often spent our time on back roads and dirt lanes. I gradually became accustomed to the quiet pace of life on that little “farm.” Then, one day, there came another change in my life. The big man who loved “my” lady, also wished to ride. He was part of a small group of State Policemen who desired to form an equine honor guard to represent the department. With their eyes on the upcoming Returns Day Parade to be held in Georgetown, Delaware. five of the men got together to train. So, off I went in my new trailer, with a new military-style saddle, another new blanket, and a new rider. We all met at a state park in the southern part of the state for our first time of working together. My owner was proud of me because I was the only horse which didn’t flinch, buck, and kick up a fuss about the close company and regulatory drills. No, indeed, no rolling eyes, no head tosses and no hijinks from me. I did as all good mares do, and minded my rider well. When we got home, I was given a small extra measure of sweet feed as a gift for being so well mannered. Maybe this new routine wasn’t going to be so bad, even if it meant carrying a bigger rider than before. “My” man, newly enthusisastic about riding, came out to the barn every day with a grooming brush and curry comb. I was washed and brushed and combed until my sorrel coat shone like the morning sun. We went out at least once a week with the other four horses and their riders and learned to work together in parade formation, with one horse at point, and the other four working as if at the corners of a large car. That, you see, was the whole idea. We were going to provide escort for the newly elected Governor of the State of Delaware in that Returns Day Parade. He and his wife would ride in an open limousine, and we would proudly walk alongside. Anyway, that was the plan. The day for the parade finally came. We were all prepared. I was loaded into my trailer. My owner, wearing a very spiffy, well-tailored police uniform, complete with spit-shined riding boots, drove us downstate to Georgetown. The day was sunny, but a bit of wind was beginning to kick up. By the time we got to Georgetown, I was feeling pleasantly excited. Our honorary group assembled in a grassy field at the edge of town and made our prancing way to the parade route. Several of the other horses were a bit fractious, not sure what to make of the crowds of people lining the street. I, I’m happy to say, did my owner proud. I calmly worked just as he asked of me. Finally we got all lined up and the parade was about to begin. Then, the wind came up more, and crepe streamers began ripping off floats and flying around. There was a fire truck just in front of our group, we were deployed in formation in front of and around the Governor’s limousine, and a big brass band was just behind us. Okay, so here we go, I thought, remaining calm, I can do this. Then, just when I was all full of confidence and enjoying the process, the fire truck began moving, with the bell clanging. At the same time, the band behind me struck up a loud, rousing march, with drums thumping and horns blaring. Then, a man in a clown suit came up right alongside me, and he began loudly beating on a big bass drum strapped onto his front. It was just too much! I was at the back corner of the limousine, right where the Governor’s wife was sitting in the open car. Frightened half out of my wits by all the commotion going on ahead of and behind me I began jinking all around. My rider, trying to keep the stirrup from scratching the car, was leaning half out of the saddle. Finally I scooched around, bumped my hind end on the car and sat down on the side of the car. The Governor’s wife looked up in horror as my tail flicked her hair and my rump almost landed in her face. Then, I tried to bolt, just wanting to get away from the crowd and the noise. Holding on for dear life, my rider managed to maneuver me safely through the crowd and out of the area, and we headed back along the street toward where the trailer had been left. My fear, however, wouldn’t subside. Still near the crowd, I finally managed to unseat my rider, and he landed with the reins still in his grip. We began making our way across to a grassy field along a street parallel to the parade route. Little did my big man know that the fire house was on that street. It was nearing the noon hour, and that meant it was almost time for the weekly test of the town’s fire siren. Meanwhile, the wind had come up dramatically. The grass began heaving and thrashing about in the heavy windy gusts. My terror, which had begun to subside, was newly aroused. Then, the fire siren went off, and so did I, dragging that big man who had been so happy at the start of the day. We literally flew back to the trailer. One totally frightened horse, and one totally embarassed rider. Not only had I given the Governor’s wife a new perspective on equine anatomy, but I had caused my rider to tear out the entire seat of his riding breeches in my frantic quest to evade the noisy pomp and circumstance of that parade. My red-faced rider had had to make his way back to the trailer, in plain sight of the parade-watching crowd, in a state of unintentional undress. He was not a happy camper! We made our way back home after I was loaded, and he swore he’d never ride another horse again as long as he lived! My new parade saddle was sold, and I never again felt that man on my back. A couple of years later, when a new baby came into the family, I, too, was sold. This time, I went to the farm of an uncle of the family, and lived out the rest of my life there, in southern New Jersey, near Woodstown. I carried the scar from the buggy shaft to the end of my days, and never forgot my one big parade.

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