Thinking about adding horses to your wedding?
Including a horse in your ceremony can be a terrific idea. However, we suggest some advance planning and the following guidelines to ensure the health and well being of your horse(s) and the safety of your guests.
Choose calm and seasoned mounts:
Horses evolved as prey animals, meaning they flee first and ask questions later. While this behavior helps them survive in the wild, it will wreak havoc on a wedding. Scour your area for bombproof horses, such as those used in horse shows, parades, drill teams and exhibitions. These animals are least likely to react to all the activity at a wedding. Aged geldings (15 years old and up) usually make the calmest mount. Avoid stallions whose dominant behavior and unpredictability make them risky. Be sure to ask guests to avoid standing within 7 to 10 feet of the horses’ hindquarters to avoid an accidental kick. Remind parents of young children to watch them closely, for children are curious and are likely to wander towards the horse(s) and don't necessarily know how to act around horses.
Make sure the horses get along:
Horses can have a strong first impression of other horses, both positive and negative. So, introduce the horses well before your wedding. Watch for any behavior that might indicate bad chemistry, such as pinned ears, swishing tails and attempts to nip or kick. If the selected horses won't stand together patiently, replace one or all of them until you have horses that will.
Hire an experienced horse handler:
Hire at least one experienced horse person as your handler. He or she can prepare the horses beforehand, and control them during the ceremony and lastly get them to their trailer quickly after the ceremony has been completed.
Have a dress rehearsal with the horses:
Well before your wedding day, have a dry run with the horses. Use any horse adornments you plan to use such as mane or tail flowers. Wear something resembling the drape of your wedding clothes. If you have any stimuli that may be foreign to the horses expose them to it during this rehearsal.
Keep the ceremony short:
Horses are short on patience for standing still. Try to keep the ceremony to less than 15 minutes. Also keep items that may spook a horse to a minimum. For example, balloons, throwing rice, loud music, and billowy tents are a few to be avoided.
Check your tack:
Replace any worn, weakened or split leather. If you buy tack, make sure it fits. Also try out any new saddle pads for fit, comfort, and look.
Consider a horse drawn carriage
If you're not sure whether your horse handling ability will get you down the aisle, a horse drawn carriage may be a better alternative. Find a company that specializes in renting horse carriages and supplies a professional horseperson to drive and handle the horse(s).
Keep the horses happy:
The day of the ceremony, make sure the handler exercises, feeds and waters the horses to help keep them happy, healthy and calm. Have a generous supply of fly repellent and have it applied just before the ceremony to keep the horse’s tails and feet still. After the ceremony it's best to have the horses returned home immediately.
Don't offer "pony rides" to kids:
If someone gets hurt it will disrupt your joyous day and you may be liable for their medical treatment.
Avoid a grassy site:
It may be romantic, but the grass looks like lunch to the horse. Choose a wedding site with soft dirt or close cut grass footing, and keep your wedding flowers out of the horses way as well!