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American Saddlebreds to Light Up Kannapolis Parade of Lights This Weekend

The Carolinas American Saddlebred parade unit will be leading this year’s Kannapolis Parade of Lights Grand Marshal, Mrs. Martha Earnhardt during the event on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 6 PM at the intersection of Main St. and Dale Earnhardt Blvd in Kannapolis, NC.

The Kannapolis Parade of Lights is one of over a dozen parades that the Carolinas parade contingent has been involved in during recent years. In Kannapolis, the unit will be made up of seven American Saddlebreds and their riders, with each parade saddle and bridle lit up with holiday lights. This parade will be televised, featured in the newspaper, and other media outlets, offering a fantastic promotional opportunity for the American Saddlebred breed.

In Saturday’s Parade, the Carolinas unit will be aboard CHSunlight And Shadows (Sunny), CF Chief’s Put Out The Fire (Chief), Ozark’s Porcelana (Sprinkles), Roseridge’s Worthy Tradition (Reggie), Vinnie Vallani (Vinny), Chechex (Misty), Daisy, and Scout.  Sunny, Chief, Sprinkles, Reggie, Vinny, and Misty are all current show and/or academy horses that can be regularly seen in the ring throughout the show season, while Daisy is a trail horse, and Scout is a rescue horse.

“We use Saddlebreds not only for their beauty, but also for their intelligence and fearless attitude. In many parades we encounter unpredictable experiences that the average horse would turn and run from. American Saddlebreds are bold and beautiful and handle everything with ease,” said Janelle Damato, co-founder of the Carolinas Parade unit.

Just a few of the “unpredictable experiences” the Carolinas parade unit has encountered, include life-sized walking dinosaurs directly in front of the horses, 25’ flames coming out of hot air balloons, glitter cannons, fake snow machines, trains directly overhead, and light sabers.

While the parade unit riders have deep trust in their horses, they do take extra precautions to ensure safety for both the horses and the riders.

“Earlier this week, we started hanging Christmas lights around the horses’ stalls to start preparing and desensitizing them to the lighted saddles. Thursday morning and afternoon, we will begin to apply the lights to the saddles and get the inverters and batteries hooked up. It takes 1-2 hours per set to carefully apply the lights (we use cool burning LED lights so the silver does not heat up), and about 30 minutes to rig it on to each horse. Five horses will be fully lit for this parade, the front three and the outside flanking horses of the second row. Once everything is rigged Thursday night, it’s ‘lights out’ in the barns, and the sets are illuminated. We make sure to bring out every horse that’s in the parade to view the illuminated tack to better acclimate them to the lights. The horses generally handle everything well, as we try to desensitize them to as many situations as possible. Most are already broke to carry flags, are familiar with various costumes, and have paraded enough to understand the routine,” said Damato.

Sarah Bennett can often be seen riding (or taking photos) with the Carolinas Parade Unit.

“I’ve been parading with the Carolinas Parade Unit for several seasons now and have had some of the most wonderful experiences sharing the American Saddlebred with the public. It’s so incredible seeing children’s eyes light up when they see us coming, and the joy on their faces when they get to pet a Saddlebred. Our wonderful horses are so kind and patient, and it’s clear they love the attention of their fans. I’m also very thankful for the friendships I’ve made working alongside many fantastic horsemen and horsewomen. I’m looking forward to my third year riding in the Kannapolis Christmas parade with my new partner Reggie. He’s a wonderful ambassador for Saddlebreds, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to introduce him to thousands of new fans this weekend!” said Bennett.
Betsy Boone, a co-founder of the Carolinas American Saddlebred Parade Unit shares Bennett’s sentiments as it pertains to the promotional aspect of parading, as well as the opportunity for more people to become involved across the country.

 “Our goal is to get more people involved with each parade, so they may go to their communities and do the same thing. We have had great luck passing out Saddlebred promotional materials and lesson coupons for our local barns to the parade attendees. It is an easy and effective way to get Saddlebreds noticed, and we have fun doing it!” said Boone.

The Carolinas Parade Unit is grateful to the generosity of Susan and Doug Norton for sharing many of their beautiful parade sets for the unit’s use.

The American Saddlebred Association of the Carolinas won the 2016 ASHA Breed Ambassador Award World Champion title for all they have done to promote the American Saddlebred breed, including their very popular parade unit.

For more information about the ASHA Breed Ambassador program, and to become involved, please visit the ASHA website. For more information on how to become involved in parades in your area and to receive ASHA promotional materials for distribution, please contact Michelle Krentz.

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