Love for horses shines at parade time
Connie and John Boetel of rural Lake Park love horses. They own seven and love to parade some of them ... literally.
"We love to take them to parades," Connie said. "I am proud of them and I trust them. I don't trust a small child running out into the street to retrieve some candy, but I trust my horses."
The Boetels bought their two draft horses already trained for parades.
"We bought the dapple in Waverly and the black horse in Brainard, Minnesota," she said.
The dapple came in second at the New York State Fair before taking up residence on the Boetel farm. Now the draft duo looks like a black horse with a white horse.
"Dapples are born almost black, a really dark grey," Connie said. "The older they get, the lighter the grey becomes and then finally they turn almost white."
The five remaining members of the Boetel equine family are quarter horses, used for trail rides. The couple belongs to the Dickinson County Saddle Club where John serves on the board and their daughter, Lezlie Pohlman, is president.
"Trail rides are fun and a good way to relax," Connie said.
Getting two horses and a wagon or buggy ready for a parade is not for late sleepers.
Each horse is given a bath with shampoo and conditioner, gets a nose shave, ears clipped and mane trimmed before each parade. The time of the morning when that occurs depends on the distance the couple must drive to get in the parade lineup. Two pickups pulling two trailers get the couple, two horses and the wagonette to the parade site.
They do this often each summer.
"Our first parade is usually the St. Patrick's in Emmetsburg in March," Connie chuckled. "Sometimes that one can be really cold."
They also ride in Flagfest at Spencer, Pioneer Days in Milford, Armstrong, Rushmore (Minnesota) and others as well as their hometown parade.
"We got some loud cheers in Arnolds Park a couple of weeks ago," she said. "People who lived in the draft era give us the biggest smiles and we get to hear great stories from them when they come up to talk to us."
Some parade appearance requests come from a considerable distance from their farm. In those cases, travel is made possible through sponsorships. One year, the Boetels had a parade every weekend all summer long. On a couple of occasions, they have appeared in a parade in the morning and another one the same evening.
"We don't do such a busy schedule any more," Connie added. They appeared in the Pioneer Days parade in Milford on Saturday, a warm up to their annual appearance on Saturday, Aug. 1 in Lake Park.
Parades are not the only appearances made by the Boetel equines.
"We do weddings -- even did one on Christmas Day once," Connie said. "We have done several winter weddings, we've done proms. We had one guy have us take him and his girlfriend for a carriage ride so he could propose to her. One of our grooms was from India!"
The romance of horse-drawn carriages may harken back to old fairy tales, but the practice is obviously alive and well today.
As the Boetels parade their draft horses down the street at Lake Park Farmer Appreciation Days, we pause to think about all the time and preparation of the horses that goes into that event. The Boetels hope everyone enjoys the trust and love they feel for their animals and said they want to thank everyone for the cheers, waves and big smiles!