While the actual concept of celebratory parades involving horses and carried out to acknowledge battle victories is centuries old, the first purely ceremonial and regularly scheduled parade can be traced back to 1745 with the beginning of the British Monarchy’s Horse Guard Parade, performed daily by the Palace Guard. This well-known ceremony has prevailed and remains extremely popular to this day.
The modern show ring parade horse’s roots, however, take on a Western theme and can be traced back to the mid-1800s when wealthy landowners in the Southwest region of the United States— particularly near the Mexican border— spared no luxury with their saddle horse transportation. These proud ranch and hacienda owners saddled their superbly trained and stylish mounts with beautifully hand-crafted saddles and bridles trimmed in the finest silver, and traveled to town in high-stepping style. It is no surprise that horse show enthusiasts wanted to celebrate this colorful and rich history by developing a discipline dedicated to the unique heritage of these special horses.
The modern show ring parade horse can be of any breed, although the refined, animated carriage associated with American Saddlebreds, Morgans, and Hackneys make them favorite choices. A typical turn-out for a parade horse includes elaborate forms of Western tack including a bridle, breast-collar, and stock saddle adorned heavily with silver. The rider is most commonly attired in brightly-colored, elaborately decorated Western wear typical of the Old West which can be American, Mexican or Spanish in origin. A winning parade horse must have impeccable manners, and since beauty is important, blemishes are also considered. The parade mount is shown at two gaits: the animated walk and the “parade gait,” —a true, straight, square, high-prancing, balanced, and collected trot, the maximum speed of which should not exceed five miles-per-hour.