LAWRENCE OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS PARADE
2015 was a memorable year in many ways. The 23rd Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade was blessed with perhaps the best weather ever, cool enough to keep the equines comfortable while they worked but warm and sunny enough that drivers, riders and spectators came in record numbers to watch or participate. It was a truly awesome year with several new “firsts” to remember.
In their first parade appearance, Lawrence Adams from Warrensburg, MO, joined by Kyleigh Kauffman, Roger Yancey and Sam Lee brought their team of 6 Belgian Draft Horses pulling a newly built blue high-wheeled hitch wagon for an awesome display of horsemanship. Holding the lines on 6 large horses for the 2 hour journey from the fairgrounds through downtown and back is a huge challenge for anyone’s hands, as Lawrence Adams will attest.
From Windsor, MO, the Drenon Ranch brought it’s authentic concord stagecoach, pulled by 6 Morgan/Percheron cross horses and made 2015 the first year this parade had TWO 6-horse hitches to “wow” the crowd.
Reindeers got the day off as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, along with their elves, chose to visit Lawrence on horseback. For the first time ever, Jolly St. Nick and his lovely wife rode their trusty mounts through downtown Lawrence to the delight of all the children.
Who knew Santa was an accomplished horseman as well as an expert driver of reindeer?
Gus, our infamous “talking” mule owned by Bob and Joyce Saueressig, had a record number of other mules joining him in 2015. Over a dozen new mules made the trip down Massachusetts St., both in harness and under saddle, to demonstrate the variety and versatility of this breed. Perhaps Gus felt a little less self-conscious about his large ears with more company of his own kind as he was not as noisy in his stall on Friday night!
A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Because horses and donkeys are different species with a different number of chromosomes, a mule is a hybrid and very rarely able to reproduce. Mules can be either male or female and size generally is determined by the genes of the mare. A male donkey is referred to as a “jack” and a female donkey is a “jenny.“ On the rare occasion that a male horse and female donkey reproduce, the offspring is called a “hinny”. Typically, mules are stronger than a like-size horse with more endurance and requiring less food for survival and work. We’ve all heard, and perhaps been referred to as “stubborn as a mule.” This label is the result of a mule’s sense of independence, common sense and drive for self-preservation. Mules rarely rely on a herd or leader for direction and a sense of safety in their lives but are known to be very dedicated to their owner.
A jack can be black, brown, sorrel, dappled or spotted and can be bred to a mare of any breed and color. The size of the resulting offspring will be mostly dictated by the mare but color of any variety can be achieved based on the gene pool of both parents. That one distinctive feature, those large and sometimes floppy ears, are what set them apart from other equines and is a huge part of their charm!
The proliferation of mules in the United States can be traced back to George Washington, who saw the true value of mules for agriculture in America. Thanks to a gift of a “jack” from the King of Spain in 1785, an American dynasty was born. Additional purchases of jacks and jennies of the finest European breeds in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s allowed the development of strong work mules which were in great demand as settlers moved west to homestead. By the early 1900’s, the mule population in America was estimated at 6 million.
Like the large draft horse breeds, the number of mules and demand for them diminished with the invention of the combustion engine and ultimate shift to machine powered equipment for agriculture. However, a resurgence in demand has occurred over the last few decades as more and more people are re-discovering their value for riding, equine sports and driving. And their quirky personalities are charming their way into many hearts! Just ask anyone who owns a mule.