FEBRUARY 5 UPDATE: — According to a local news outlet, an additional three horses were pulled from Mobile’s February 1 Polka Dots parade, having been deemed medically unfit to proceed. This comes in the wake of the earlier incident described in this article, which prompted the city of Mobile to declare its intention to place at least one animal control officer at each of its remaining Carnival season parades.
In addition, two local veterinarians wrote to the Mobile mayor and city council, citing possible poor body condition and over-sedation of contracted parade horses and offering to provide health checks and handler advice at future parades. Their letter can be read here.
It’s Carnival season in Mobile, Alabama, and just like during New Orleans’ famed Mardi Gras celebration, horses are a traditional part of the festive parades for which the season is known.
But when the Condé Cavaliers “let the good times roll” Jan. 26 during Mobile’s first parade of the season, the event ended in controversy. A horse in the parade went down for reasons unknown and was reportedly kicked and slapped by a handler or trainer before getting back up. The incident was captured on video by several onlookers and made the rounds on social media, triggering concern for the animal and questions, too, about the overall weight of its rider (a parade Marshal wearing the customary oversized disguise/costume).
In a statement released January 28 (see below) the Condé Cavaliers contended that the horse in question was healthy but decided to lie down, effectively halting parade progress, when overwhelmed by the crowd noise.
Parade society statement
A large social organization in Mobile’s “mystic society” tradition (the equivalent of a New Orleans “krewe”), the Condé Cavaliers issued the following statement in response to this incident:
We appreciate your patience while we continue to investigate the events involving one of our Marshals and his assigned horse during Friday night’s parade. Our goal is to host a run, safe and memorable event for our community and everyone involved. We share your concerns for the well-being of the horses used in parades, and we will work with the Mobile Police Department to improve the process in the future.
We would like to share the following details to clear up some of the misinformation that is circulating. The Condé Cavaliers, as well as most parading societies, lease all the horses used for parading from a contracted stable. The stable establishes the guidelines for riders, assigns the horses and prepares the animals for the ride. Our contract also includes trainers for the horses and all decisions regarding the animals during the parade are made by those trainers. Though his costume made him appear large, the Marshal involved in the incident was below the size limits established by the stable. Measurements for all Marshals were submitted prior to the parade and horses were assigned by their staff.
As explained by the trainer, the horse is healthy but became anxious due to the crowd noise and it laid down. While doing so, the Marshal’s foot became tangled in the stirrup, requiring him to exit the saddle. After assessing the horse, the Marshal was directed by the trainer to remount it so the parade could continue. The trainers are included in the parade for unexpected situations such as this, and our Marshals have been instructed to follow their direction. The Condés are unaware of any health-related issues or medical treatment for any of the leased animals.
We will continue to work with the MPD to determine the best option for mounted rides moving forward.
According to local news reports, the city’s Animal Services department has coordinated with the Mobile Police Department to investigate the incident and determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
In addition, the MPD is reportedly offering discounted training clinics for parade Marshals and their horses to help ensure the humane treatment and adequate preparation of future parade mounts.