Clinton's annual parade offers glimpse into past

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Anna Marie Lux
Thursday, August 14, 2014

CLINTON—When you see Roger and Sara Skogen in this year's annual Prairie Days Parade, keep this in mind: Their horses didn't wake up looking all bright and clean.

The Skogens will be busy Saturday bathing their team and polishing the harness. On Sunday morning, they will get the wagon cleaned and polished.

For the audience, the parade of antique wagons and buggies pulled by horses, mules and ponies gives people a glimpse into the past.

For those in the parade, it is a labor of love.

“It is fun, but it takes quite a bit of time to get ready,” Roger said. “The fun time for us is the parade because the work is pretty much done.”

The Skogens own and operate R & S Rolling Ranch east of Beloit, where they have 20 horses in their training stable.

The team in Sunday's parade will be a pair of gelding Haflingers. Roger and his father owned one of the pioneering herds of the Austrian breed in the state.

“We ride and drive them,” Roger said. “We use them for everything. We like them because they are so docile and a quiet all-around horse.”

Roger has been training horses full time for 15 years. He begins with the ground work.

“I don't ask the horses to do anything in the harness or in the saddle that I can't ask them to do on the ground,” he said. “I teach them how to go forward and yield on the ground so when we do it in the saddle it is not much of a change.”

He has been in parades since he was a boy. Roger's father used to be known for a 20-pony hitch, which he took to parades in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Roger rode a horse in front of the ponies.

In the past, Prairie Days has featured more than 40 entries, including Percherons hitched to a spindle-back surrey, miniature horses lugging a small covered wagon and even a team of burros pulling a stagecoach.

“It's really something unique,” Roger said. “I hope people tell the parade organizers how much they appreciate it.”

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