Around this time of year, when there is not a pandemic, local groups perform Mummer’s plays. One of the most amusing that I have found, in many different guises (mostly performed in middle England), is the Poor Old Horse tradition. One person ‘rides’ a stick with a painted horse’s head on top. In one case I read it was a real horse’s skull. The person is covered with a dark cloth to complete the costume. It is very important that the jaw of the horse can open and close as it is part of the ritual. In one case the ‘horse’ had to drink a pint of beer!
The horse performs in plays, takes part in parades or visits pubs. In Nottinghamshire the horse sings; “This is my poor old horse, that has carried me many a mile, over hedges, over ditches, over high-barred gate and stile; but now he has grown old, and his nature does decay, he’s forced to snap at the shortest grass that grows along the way;”
At the end of each verse the crowd would cry: “Poor old horse! Poor old horse!”. At the end a charitable collection is made.
For more information click here for the Our Nottinghamshire website.