Devin Corbitt, of Belton, maneuvers "Penny" through various obstacles to de-sensitize the horse to the sights and sounds of city street during a parade. The Parade Prep Clinic was held at Belton Feed & Supply in Belton.

Josh Quinn

BELTON — Not too many people showed up Saturday morning at the preparation clinic for the Belton Fourth of July parade.

Five riders, a handful of onlookers and one police car was a disappointing turnout for clinic organizer Marcia Cross, of Belton.

An avid horsewoman and owner of Full Circle Obstacle Course, she led the riders in a short route that started and finished at Belton Feed and Supply, 410 E. Second Ave.

She thanked everyone who helped with the clinic, and said she hoped it would be bigger next year.

The real parade is from 10 a.m. to noon Friday in downtown Belton.

Cross and some of the other riders have been in the big parade before.

The idea of the clinic was to get new horses and riders accustomed to facing the parade’s various distractions.

“Expose them to as much as you can,” she said. “The cardinal thing is to do it slowly and gently, because the whole goal is to build trust.”

At last year’s parade, one of her horses, Pebbles, spooked when a band started playing.

The chestnut mare fell, and wound up under the trailer with her face cut.

The wound completely healed, but the incident got Cross thinking. She saw an article on parade-proofing in Horse & Rider magazine. The article said unfortunately riders can’t find a practice parade.

“Well, here we are,” she said. “We’re doing the first practice parade on the planet Earth.”

She and Carol Love, of Bruceville-Eddy, one of the riders in the clinic, listed some of the things that have distracted horses in parades: sirens, go-carts, motorcycles, baby strollers and balloons.

They also talked about what a rider can do if a horse gets scared. Cross said dismounting and leading the horse might be the best thing to do. And riders should not hesitate to ask other riders for help when they get in trouble.

Love said she’s been riding in the Belton Fourth of July parade and other parades all of her life.

“They’re lots of fun,” she said. “Being in a parade is so exciting. It’s hard to describe until you’re in it.”

She owns six horses and brought a spotted gray gelding named Phantom. She called the color a “flea-bitten gray.”

“This is his first time. He’s very nervous and scared of these objects,” she said of the obstacle course Cross and others set up. “Once he gets used to it, he’ll settle down.”

Jessica Dareing, of Belton, said her gelding Cisco was not familiar with parades, and she wanted to see how he did in the clinic. Neither she nor her husband, Ian, could get Cisco to follow in the mock parade. Finally, Ian led the horse, with her mounted, and that seemed to work.

Kara Escajeda, of Nolanville, said she has five horses, but has never ridden in a parade. She’s a major with the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Hood.

She and her horse, a bay mare named Lily, will be in Friday’s parade with the Fort Hood chapter of Team Red, White & Blue. She said the clinic should help familiarize the horse.

“You know, when you’re walking by windows and mirrors, some horses react a little bit to the reflection,” she said.

“When you add all the dynamics of all the people cheering, any time you can come out and practice, it’s definitely a positive.”

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