Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Traction Counts at the Rose Parade (Just Ask Ada)

In 1932, movie star Mary Pickford rode in the parade.

It wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without Pasadena, California's Rose Parade, America’s most extravagant (and fragrant) parade. It’s mostly about flowers—every float in the parade is made out of flowers, but it's about horses, too. Hundreds of them!

Draft horses pull floats. Four matched chestnut Quarter horses pull a Wells Fargo stagecoach. Mounted posses. Painted Indian ponies. And, this year, even some of the US Equestrian Team riders hopped on borrowed horses and joined in the parade.

What do all those horses have in common? At sometime during the night last night, each and every horse was visited by a woman with a flashlight and a clipboard.

For the seventh year in a row, Pasadena resident (and farrier) Ada Gates Patton was up way before dawn and marched through a half-mile long string of vans and horse trailers and picked up the left front foot of each and every horse. (Ada is an icon of American farriery and was the first woman licensed to shoe horses on a racetrack in America.)

This morning, Ada was looking to see what was on the bottom of the horses’ feet. The parade route is five miles (not counting the staging area) and a horse slipping on the pavement or worse yet, falling, is not something that would enhance the image of the parade.

So, Ada checks that each horse is either a) barefoot or b) shod with either Borium or Drilltek hardfacing or c) nailed with Duratrack “hard head” nails. Plastic shoes are also an option. I asked her if hoof boots were allowed; she said they are not on her list.

Here’s Ada’s report:

1. No increase in barefoot horses this year. As usual, the minis, the Peruvian Pasos, and the Bashkir Curlies were barefoot.
2. The Marines used Borium on the shoes of the Palominos in their color guard that led the parade.
3. No Drilltek was seen by Ada who then quipped, “Well, it was pitch dark out there and it’s hard to tell in the dark if it’s Borium or Drilltek.”
4. Draft horses tended to wear rubber shoes, like you’d see on city carriage horses.

“The biggest increase is the move toward Duratrack nails,” Ada said. “I’ve been pushing them in that direction. I was surprised to see that some used as many as six Duratracks in one shoe. It's a no-brainer. The Duratracks (nail heads) are good for about five miles on pavement, which is the length of the parade.”

Ada said that no horses slipped and there were no mishaps, as far as she knew, and there haven't been any since she has been inspecting the horses for the Parade committee.

Ada said that she had full compliance today from the horsemen. No one needed to have their horses re-shod. She mentioned that one group of silver-saddled Palominos from Long Beach brings two farriers "just in case" but there was no official farrier on hand. There were, however, three veterinarians and a humane society horse ambulance standing by.

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