It felt especially important to make it to the annual Christmas Stroll this year in our little town on Cape Cod. It had been a tough year for a lot of small businesses like ours and we needed a bit of Christmas magic to lighten our hearts. I personally needed to see the horses at the stroll; all year long I’d been waiting to see the black Percheron horses who pull the Christmas wagon every year.
As a little girl, horses were an all-consuming passion. Even long after I’d realized there would be no horse of my own from my parents, each Christmas I still asked for horse books, horse statues, rocking horse toys and stuffed horses-anything to do with horses that would allow me to feel closer to them and a part of their world. Horses possess a special magic little girls know so well.
In recent years through my hat business, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, I’d found a way to blend my love for hats and horses by creating one-of-a-kind Derby auction hats to raise funds for retired racehorses around the country at farms like Old Friends.
It had all come about so naturally, and in creating these hats I felt such an amazing reconnection to horses as I fashioned a special hat to honor each one. Coming to the stroll this year seemed even more important than ever somehow. I needed to see that team of draft horses and allow myself to feel inspired by being in the presence of a real horse.
Once at the stroll I heard the horses even before I saw them as they came up the street pulling the wagon with the sound of the jingle bells on their harnesses and the clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop of their shoes. Suddenly there they were in front of me, Jake and Dan, two perfectly matched black Percherons, aglow under the street lights, their breath like steam engines against the cold night air, decked out in full harness. To this little girl, they were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. The driver beckoned my husband Tom and me to get on board for a ride; it was magical as we passed all the shops and saw the great lighted Christmas tree in the town square.
Once we got off the wagon, we stood watching the horses, with Jake and Dan snorting in the frosty air as the next passengers boarded. As they pulled away, we joined the Stroll, popping in and out of little shops, enjoying hot buttered popcorn and greeting friends and strangers with “Merry Christmas.”
One of our stops was a little antique/gift shop. The smell of candles, old wood and mulled cider greeted us as we stepped inside and looked around. Suddenly, there in a corner all by itself, we spied a golden horse with a dark chocolate saddle and bridle. It was one of those child’s toy rocking horses on springs, just like the ones I used to ask for every year but never found underneath the tree come Christmas morning.
“Would you like it?” Tom asked with a big grin. The little girl inside me screamed, “YES!” but the practical adult responded, “How much do you think it is?” We checked and it was a bargain. Looking into the horse’s big brown eyes I could see that he was a magical Christmas horse and needed to come home with us.
Tom went to pay for our treasure and I overheard him telling the clerk so proudly, “I bought my wife a HORSE for Christmas. She’s always wanted one of her own!” I just smiled, and remembered why I loved him. I now had a horse of my own, and he was coming home with me.
Our car was parked a few blocks from the shop and we must have been quite a sight as we carried the rocking horse along Main Street, one of us in front and one in back. As we walked I decided that we’d call him “Prancer,” after the golden-colored reindeer from the movie of the same name, in celebration of the little girl in the movie who believed it was one of Santa’s own.
And it was right at that moment that I realized a little something about my passion for horses. Maybe there isn’t just one way to “have” a horse, to play a part in their care and to let them into our lives. Those who are fortunate can indeed own a horse. But any of us can volunteer at a local rescue or buy one of their calendars to help them raise money. Or post and share the available auction horses from places like Camelot Horse Weekly on their Facebook page to help the horses find forever homes.
For me it is creating and donating Derby auction hats six months out of the year to support retired racehorses and, this year, letting someone buy me a magical rocking horse on springs for Christmas. It helped make a little girl’s dream for a horse come true.