For almost all equestrian brides there is the magic dream that you can have your own horse at your wedding. It is possible but a lot of consideration should go into whether or not it will be practical and very importantly safe, for you, your horse and your guests.
I was lucky and was able to have my horse at my wedding but the environment was quite controlled and it still didn’t quite work as intended. I’ve also had some equine guests at weddings I have attended as both a guest and photographer, so that coupled with my 30+ years of equine knowledge I feel at least partially qualified to offer some educated advice regarding having your horse at your wedding.
Firstly is your horse well behaved in general? Is it the type not to get spooked, het up or similar in a strange busy environment? If your answer is no or even not really, stop right now and consider alternatives if at all possible. Nervy, spooky horses should not be bought to a wedding, it will not go well and it is not fair on the horse. This doesn’t mean though that they can’t be involved with your day, just that it is perhaps most wise to not expose them to your venue and guests.
So what other options are there? Well there are two main options. The first is that you take a stop in the day some time after your ceremony, and go to your yard or another location for your couple photos and include your horse(s) then. Secondly you have a photo shoot on another day with your horse, when you won’t be limited by time, and you hopefully won’t be as worried about your dress getting dirty! As lets be honest it will be dirty from the wedding day itself, a dirty dress is the sign of a great wedding! A third option is that you include a horse that specialises in such situations, for example a horse and carriage. It’s not your own horse but it’s still including horses in your day. There are also other ways to include your horses, be that from table names, to shoes used in table centres or favours.
If you answered yes to the first question, as to whether your horse is sensible, you will therefore be considering having your horse at your day. To make it work and be the least stressful experience possible for you and your horse there are a few things you should do in advance.
1. Consider where they will come to. Will the church/ceremony venue or the reception venue if different be more suitable? Is there a safe quiet area they can be loaded/unloaded? Can both your horse and guests (especially the non horsey variety) be kept separate and safe? Does the venue allow horses?
2. What part of the day? Will they transport you to the ceremony? This is actually probably the quietest part of the day to include them but won’t include your future husband in any photos. If planning on riding there, then there are multiple safety considerations (see further below). If after the ceremony will you have time set aside for them? How will they be kept separate from non horsey guests to keep everyone safe?
3. Who will handle them? You need someone who is not a guest (at least not at that point in the day), and who is competent and knows your horse, to be in charge of them and organise them before and after their appearance. You won’t have time to be plaiting manes and loading etc. so you really need someone you trust, and who is a calming influence on your horse to be involved. They should also come armed with a poopascoop! The venue may appreciate any offerings (which are basically almost guaranteed) for their flowers, but may not have the tools to hand to move it, and your dress and horse poop really don’t mix!
4. What is most important for you of your horse being there? Literally the horse being there, or photos of you and them? If it’s photos you will need to consider whether potential locations are suitable AND importantly your photographer. If your photographer does not know or understand horses they may not choose the most flattering angles for your horse. This is where my day fell down. I had a non horsey photographer who didn’t even understand about the need for ears being pricked, or more importantly how to get them pricked, never mind good angles, and the location (chosen by the photographer) was awful for photos never mind horsey ones. The photos are a nice memory but they will never be displayed on my wall.
5. Prior preparation. If you are intending to ride your horse at any point (on day or at on a photo shoot afterwards), or really if intending to hold them then you will need to do some notable prior preparation to reduce the likelihood of your horse becoming stressed. If possible have a trial run at the venue without guests not long before the day. This will make sure the environment is known to the horse and you can handle them in the environment. Consider it like an arena walk at a big championship type show. Other preparation will include wearing a big dress (or mock dress!) round your horse. Floaty fabrics can be as scary as a loose plastic bag (we know they are horse killers!), so desensitise your horse. You will look and smell different on the day so give them the best chance of not being scared of you. If you are going to ride then prepare by riding with a sheet tied loosely round your waist and draped over their hind quarters. Although you may think it’s similar to them wearing a rug the movement sensation will be quite different. It is worth getting a second hand dress with a similar cut from a charity shop or similar (you can easily get one for £100 at very most!) to ride your horse in a few times before the day. Not only for the horses’s benefit but your own. Mounting in a wedding dress is not easy!
6. If you want to ride in your dress firstly consider either a pair of 3/4 leggings under your dress or long control underwear, it will reduce chaffing! Also consider footwear, maybe ditch the heels for the riding part and replace with a pair of boots, no one will notice. If a photoshoot after the day seriously consider breeches and long boots depending on the style of your dress as they will offer you increased safety whilst also preventing rubbing.
7. Most importantly and I have touched on this already consider your dress. A dress that hugs at your hips will be almost impossible to ride. To get on you will need to pull it up over your hips which will bunch (and will not be possible potentially if boned or slim below your hips). A wide skirt is a must and preferably coming out at the waist. Underskirts should be ok but hoops won’t be!
8. Which ever option you choose to include your horse be aware dresses, shoes or similar may get dirty or damaged in the process. It’s easy enough for a horse to stand on your feet in equine dress. Just imagine the possibilities when you’re wearing a big flouncy dress! Sandals are best avoided as well in case a horse does land on your toes.
Have you got any further hints and tips for including your horse at your wedding? I would love to hear them and share them with my readers.