The learning curve is steep.
Really steep. Mom always said, “The more you know, the more you don’t know.” And her go-to line, “Everything I know about horses I learned from Makenzi.” I started riding when I was 3, and went to my first horse show with my very own horse when I was 10. It was an adventure. I didn’t know what lead we were on without looking, I wore my mom’s old motorcycle chaps, I had sparkly, button-up Murdoch’s shirts, sparkly belts, and pink boots. I was hooked! Each show we went to, my parents started learning what to bring, how I should look, and the in-and-outs of horse showing by strictly observing. I didn’t start out with a trainer…just Mom, Dad, and me. Talk about dedication.
Mom’s the checkbook. Dad’s the driver.
Not really, though. Mom still jokes about this, but they are so much more than that. After years of sitting through lessons, literally hundreds of hours, they know what to look for and can usually place a class pretty accurately despite being non-horsey. “I have no idea how you would do this, but I think his head looks a little too high. Can you fix that?” “POSTURE ALERT.” “Smile.” (I hated that one.) Although it snuck up on them, they know so much more about horses and showing than they thought possible…the hours added up.
Food, clothes, and hair.
My mom is the queen. Always needing a job, but never quite knowing how to help, we agreed very early on that she would be in charge of food, clothes, and hair. She, of course, took these jobs extremely seriously. Bless her heart, she would bring me homemade turkey sandwiches between classes, have all my show clothes dry cleaned and organized, and she would spend all day checking my hair and handing me hairspray because GOD FORBID one hair be out of place. Pinning my western hat on was a job she adopted, because one time, at one show, my hat came off and tumbled through the arena. Again, a job she took seriously, she would wedge bobby pins between my skull and my hat, making my head bleed on more than one occasion (she’ll deny this). My mom was the best at all of these things, and I’ve met a lot of horse show moms.
“Lookin’ good, Dood. Need anything?”
Dad. With a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito in his hand he found at some long-lost, locally set-up concession stand. As an early riser, he would be up not long after me, wondering around the show grounds, making friends with the other “show dads,” and finding questionable food and coffee. He’d memorize the menu and rattle it off periodically throughout the day…just in case anyone was getting hungry. His signature move was finding me, usually while putting in a tail or blacking hooves, and say, “Lookin’ good, Dood. Need anything?” I’d usually say no, but sometimes I’d ask him to go grab something from the trailer and he’d leisurely oblige, happy to help…after all, he might find another hidden concession stand or someone he hadn’t met yet.
Diva behavior is not tolerated.
“Change your attitude before I rip you off of that horse!” –my mom. Horse showing has a way of bringing out the best…and worst in people. Although I knew my sweet, little mother couldn’t reach me, let alone “rip me off” my horse, it wasn’t an idle threat. Yelling, getting mad at my horse, being snotty or demanding were all actions punishable by leaving the horse show. From observation, horsey parents had more patience for their child’s meltdowns and tantrums (usually.)
I’m so proud of you.
Win or lose, my parents made sure I knew this. Because they never pushed me to ride and show horses, I never felt unneeded pressure to do well (I was hard enough on myself.) Some exhibitors with horsey parents would come out of the ring after a bad ride or a bad pattern and their mom (or dad) would just tear into them. Tears would fly and yelling could be heard throughout the stall barn. If I had a bad ride, my parents would meet me outside the gate, understand my frustration, and try to reassure me it didn’t look all that bad…even when it did.
The decision to show horses was mine and mine alone. My parents never thought twice about supporting this crazy sport. From buying trucks and trailers and horses to sitting in an arena for 10 hours at a show, I cannot repay them. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and never ever look back.