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Marjorie Puckett and Marico will ride in Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade Jan. 1

From top, Marjorie Puckett and her Haflinger horse Marico will ride in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., New Year
From top, Marjorie Puckett and her Haflinger horse Marico will ride in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., New Year's Day. Puckett and Marico will wear authentic Tyrolean tack and costumes, adorned with fresh roses. Puckett's black dress jacket with velvet trim was purchased from Austria for this occasion.
— image credit: Contributed photos

San Juan Island resident Marjorie Puckett and her Haflinger horse Marico will ride in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., New Year's Day.

They departed from San Juan Island earlier this month to join seven other Haflinger horses and their owners in California.

“I hope Marico isn’t too nervous moving between the towering bleachers packed with a live audience of more than one million,” Puckett said. “We were asked to participate last March, after Marico earned two National Haflinger Awards, but there is no real preparation for something like this.”

The 121st Rose Parade takes place on Friday at 8 a.m. and features spirited marching bands from throughout the nation, majestic floral floats and 22 selected equestrian units. The parade is broadcast on ABC, NBC, the Hallmark Channel, HGTV, the Travel Channel and Univision. More than 200 international territories and countries also view it.

This year’s theme, "A Cut Above the Rest," will pay tribute to everyday heroes by honoring Capt. Chesley Sullenberger as grand marshal. Sullenberger's grace under pressure as pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 — which he was forced to land in the Hudson River after it struck birds — is credited with saving the lives of 155 people.

“The Haflingers group will be positioned in the middle of the three-hour parade and includes a stallion, mares and geldings pulling five styles of carriages," Puckett said. "I was assigned to ride front row, center. As entry No. 51, we will be followed by the longest float in the parade's history. Sponsored by Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, the lengthy float has an alpine theme of bulldogs sledding down an extended slope combining our two entries into a memorable scene."

There is nothing easy about being in the parade. All 300 equine participants must be assembled at the staging area, consisting of a closed-off section of freeway, by midnight. Around 4 a.m., others move the vehicles and trailers to the parade finishing area where everyone eventually meets. In the meantime, riders saddle their horses at 5 a.m. and walk several miles before being filtered between the floats. No more Sani-cans after that.

The Haflingers and their owners will wear authentic Tyrolean tack and costumes, adorned with fresh roses. Puckett's black dress jacket with velvet trim was purchased from Austria for this occasion.

"I added small antique Victorian buttons and a sterling silver broach with wild rabbit tusks to the lapel," she said. "Fresh roses and edelweiss flowers will be in my hatband along with pheasant and game bird feathers. A deer-footed hunting knife will be attached to my riding boot and vintage petticoats will cover my breeches. An edelweiss chari vari with silver coins will be fastened on the jacket's velvet-trimmed back."

Marico will also be embellished in Tyrolean style to emphasize his long flaxen mane and tail. His bridle is hand-crafted of Italian leather with traditional hand embroidery over the nose and brow band, ordered from a small village in the Alps. A mountain goat hide makes a pad under and over the black leather saddle. He will wear a silver hand-engraved bit, fresh roses and silver ribbons in his mane.

All equestrian parade entries are also required to participate in the Equestfest Celebration three days prior to the parade, at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center Equidome in Burbank. The covered performance area for the horses is larger than a football field and seats more than 3,000 persons. Each equine group is required to present a five-minute riding demonstration as part of a three-hour equine show, open to the public. RFD-TV will cover the event and air the show in mid-February.  

The Haflinger five-minute narrative for Equestfest was developed and written by Ernest Pugh of San Juan Island and recorded by Gerald Woldtvedt of Elan Video in Friday Harbor. Woldtvedt also blended the early 18th-century Austrian military music arrangements.

"Other islanders who assisted me in this undertaking were Andy’s Horseshoeing, who prepared the special horseshoes required when riding the parade route; Dale Downs, who helped pack my vehicle and horse trailer, keeping it well-balanced for the long road trip," Puckett said.

"Thank you also, Pamela Williams and Julie Vischer, for photos taken to accompany the parade entry form and Rose Parade souvenir program; Molly O’Neil of the Computer Teacher for her computer assistance; Nate of Nate’s Automotive, who equipped my Honda Pilot with special air lifts; and Rachael and Brian, who are looking after my home while I’m away. It took many friends and islanders to help pull this together."

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