In the farther reaches of the Northern Virginia suburbs, where clergymen bless hunters and hounds, and the day of the horse never ended, many people can still be found for whom nothing seems more natural than conducting their Christmas caroling in the saddle.
One of them is Lynn Broadbent, who with about 40 other persons set out yesterday through the streets of Clifton with a heart full of seasonal cheer, a book full of songs to sing, and for transportation, a sturdy horse.
"We're the Clifton Horse Society," Broadbent said, explaining the involvement of the animals, "and we couldn't go anywhere without them."
"You see," said Carol Sennott, "horses become family members."
With decorative holiday bells dangling from their necks, and tinsel adorning their tails and manes, the mounts seemed perfectly attired for yesterday's activity. The degree of their enthusiasm, however, could not so easily be gauged.
At various times and places during their riders' performance, the horses emitted a variety of sounds that could have been snorts of disapproval or neighs of protest, but which might just have well have marked their innocent attempts to participate, according to their capabilities.
At least one of the riders appeared to harbor doubts about the horses' interest in the occasion. Shunning the equestrian's traditional breeches and bowler to costume herself as a Christmas angel, in a homemade gown of brilliant yellow, Suzanne Frank appeared herself to be the epitome of holiday spirit.
But, she said," I don't think the horses like anything about it, to tell you the truth."
Perhaps referring to her mount's response to the flapping of her gown against its flank, she said that the horses "get all nervous, all hyped up."
Whatever most Washington residents might think of the twin challenges of singing and riding, one of Clifton's caroling equestrians said her fellow citizens fail to perceive any difficulty in combining the two.
"It's sort of like walking and chewing gum," said Ann Santos, who led the posse through the narrow streets of the town where, on every side, green pastures stretched between white split-rail fences, and horse trailers seemed more common than pickups.