Horse procession was an annual event

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IT’S interesting how something can unwittingly and suddenly bring home to you how much things have changed.

Did you know that South Shields once had a Horse Procession Society?

Perhaps you did. I didn’t, but it powerfully conveys how profoundly different our streets must have looked in the era of horsepower.

I’m not sure how long the society was in existence – it was certainly going in the latter years of the 19th century.

It seems to have held an annual competition, on August Bank Holiday, when the actual ‘procession’ would take place.

This amounted to a competition in which there were myriad equestrian categories: cart horses, horses used by the Corporation, North Eastern Railway horses, milk cart ponies owned by farmers in the district, horses that pulled coal carts or were owned by hawkers.

And, of course, there were the pit ponies, which would be brought up from their dark abode for the day to represent their respective collieries.

Judging took place not just on how well the animals were turned out. but on the quality and presentation of harnesses, decoration etc.