Riding club readies for parade

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; The devoted equestrians in the Too Hot to Trot riding club will don their matching outfits and suit up their horses once again for the annual Natchez Christmas parade.

The parade will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday in downtown Natchez, where floats, musicians and horsemen will help to spread the joy of the season, said Tammi Gardner, executive director of the Downtown Development Association, the parade sponsor.

Horses are a tradition in the parade, but, unlike in parades many years ago, today there are rules and regulations horsemen must follow.

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That is to protect the people in the parade and watching the parade and to protect the horses, as well, said Jessie Turner, a member of the Too Hot to Trot club.

His club members organized in 1997 and looked at the rules.

Parades are only a small part of what club members do together, Turner, a United Mississippi Bank employee, said.

&8220;We enjoy trail riding,&8221; he said. &8220;We have several locations and several varieties of rides. We can stay in the woods, take an off-road venture or take several off-road ventures with long-road activities.&8221;

The riders include people of all ages, and the purpose always is the same.

&8220;It is challenging, and it&8217;s away from the normal, hectic lifestyle we all live,&8221; Turner said.

Ricky Evans, a Natchez Public Works employee, said club members enjoy working with children and teaching them about horsemanship.

&8220;We like to teach kids who don&8217;t know anything about horses. We believe that if you get into horses, you don&8217;t get into trouble.&8221;

Turner agreed. &8220;Horses, as well as other livestock, require a lot of work,&8221; he said. &8220;If kids grow up taking care of horses, they are not as likely to get into trouble. Even their weekends include caring for the animals.&8221;

Club members have fostered the love of horses in some young people who have gone on to make names for themselves in rodeo circuits, Turner said.

As for the parades in which the club members participate, one of the big responsibilities is to be sure the horses are prepared, Turner said.

&8220;You should have ridden your horses through crowds, around cars and noise ahead of time,&8221; he said. &8220;You don&8217;t want a high-spirited horse in a parade. We&8217;re real strong in supporting what the chief (of police) says about horses in parades.&8221;

Horses require work, but they return the favor in companionship, Turner said. &8220;The horse is totally dependent on the owner, especially the stalled horse. But the reverse is that you get so much more from the horse if you care for it freely. Then a horse truly is a godsend.&8221;

The Too Hot to Trot Club distributes food to needy families and nursing homes at Christmastime. When post-Katrina Red Cross shelters were open, the riders took horses for children at the shelters to ride and grills to prepare hamburgers for them as a diversion.

&8220;That was a big success,&8221; Turner said. &8220;Not just the children, but the adults loved it, too.&8221;

Members of a smaller club, Hawk&8217;s Riding Club, recently asked to merge with the Too Hot to Trot. &8220;That was a good thing for us,&8221; Turner said. &8220;There is strength in numbers and in experience.&8221;