SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- During the summer, there's always a community festival going on somewhere in Siouxland. Many of them come with parades, which usually go off without a hitch. But lately, a couple of Iowa celebrations have turned deadly.
Two women recently died from injuries suffered at Fourth of July parades. Eighty-two-year-old Betty Sprague of Bedford, died Wednesday, after she was thrown from a wagon that broke loose from four ponies over the holiday. Two other passengers were treated at the scene.
And in Bellevue, Janet Steines was riding in a buggy when the horses bolted. She was thrown out, and run over by the buggy, and died. The horses broke free, and trampled 24 people. Most of them are out of the hospital.
Those behind the reins spend a lot of time making sure horses are ready to be around thousands of excited people. But as NewsChannel 4's Zach Tecklenburg found out, sometimes it's important for parade-goers to also play it safe.
The Abu Bekr Shrine White Horse Mounted Patrol has been a part of Siouxland parades for 90 years now. While a lot has changed in those decades, the behavior of folks lining parade routes have not.
"We've had kids just come tearing across the street," says secretary Wayne Peterson.
It's easy to understand childrens' excitement, but Peterson says, it puts parade-goers in danger.
"It's an animal. What's the first thing they want to do? They won't run up to a little car and rub it, but they will a horse."
That's why the Mounted Patrol trains its horses to handle people and other distractions, like balloons, flags and music.
Peterson says, "They will learn when they see it, they should trust the rider, not their own instincts."
Peterson says older horses are ideal for a parade. They're less excitable, and are desensitized with what's going on around them. Horses are herd animals, so when a younger one gets worked up in a parade, Peterson says, it'll calm down, and mimic the others' behaviors.
"As they become older, they begin to trust you and know that you're not going to put them in danger," he said.
No matter how seasoned the animal, there's one thing parents need to make sure of at a parade.
"Please keep the children on the sidelines."
Because, as Peterson says, the safety of many is more important than a piece of candy. The Abu Bekr Shrine likes to be near the beginning of the parade, before a lot of candy is on the street, minimizing the risk of injuries.