…with bells on

Larry Reed’s giant Belgian Draft horses will once again be pulling the big and small Christmas trees down the parade route this year. (News Advocate file photo)

Reed’s majestic Belgian horses to once again deliver community Christmas tree

Nobody will work harder in this year’s Sleighbell Parade than Andy.

Well, Charlie will work just as hard. And so will Curt. And Nugget, too.

But nobody else will work harder than those four mammoth, magestic Belgian Draft horses once the parade begins.

For the 21st year in a row, Bear Lake resident Larry Reed will lead his team of prized horses to deliver Manistee’s official Christmas tree — a tree that is literally pulled through the downtown area while standing straight up on a heavy-duty sleigh.

“Most people probably think we just take off and the horses pull the tree, but it takes a tremendous amount of strength and work on their part,” Reed said of his horses. “They have to begin at the same time and pull at the same time. And, every now and then, we have to stop along the (parade) route to give them a breather. They have to rest, because they work so hard.”

Reed, 76, still uses his horses on his Manistee County farm to do day-to-day chores. And, for about a month or so prior to each Sleighbell Parade, he works with the horses to prepare them for the hefty work they’ll be doing.

“They really do have to work as a team,” Reed said. “If just one of them lets up, it effects the others — so I have to keep them all doing the same thing, at the same time.”

The horses weigh between 2,450 pounds and 2,650 pounds, each. One is seven years old, two are eight years old and Nugget is the oldest at nine years old. All are between 18 and 19 hands tall at the third vertebrae (one hand equals four inches).

Reed’s team of horses will even be fitted with special shoes to help them walk along the paved road better, without slipping.

“They are beautiful horses,” Reed said. “But they also do a lot of work, just as they’re intended to do. From start to finish, that’s about a mile through the (parade route). That’s an awfully long ways for them to pull such a heavy tree — a long ways.”

Travis Alden, director of Main Street/Downtown Development Authority, said Reed’s participation in the parade each year is important to the festival’s popularity and success.

“Everyone likes watching Mr. Reed and his horses pull the tree,” Alden said. “That’s become a very important part of the whole weekend. It’s neat.”

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