Monday, January 28, 2013

The Mom Supremacy

"I just knew he'd love riding!"

This month's new issues of my horse mags arrived yesterday, and in one of them was a contributed essay from a reader.  The subject:  Targeted Advertising

More to the point, the reader suggested that it suits no purpose to continually target would-be horse kids in articles, clubs, promotions and the like, because they don't have the wherewithal on their own to move forward into this income drain that is the Horse Biz.  She suggested, quite accurately, that it would make more sense to get former horsewomen-turned-moms to target their own kids.  In other words, there would be more little horse peeps if the horsey parent would step up her game.

As I read, my mind drifted back to my daughter's early exposure to horses.  "Exposure" is pretty accurate.  I was a horse kid in my teens and had to give up the sport for the most part after high school graduation when there were no handy parental units willing to foot the bill.  In fact, they specified that there would be no horsing around in my immediate future, so I'd best get on track and crack the books.  The best way to reenter the horse world would be behind my own bootstraps.  

So for several years I was in a riding drought.  I broke said drought by taking an unpaid position "tuning up" some guy's flighty Arab which was in line to go to the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show.  Mostly I got tuned, in the best Mafia interpretation of that term.  Battered and bruised, I begged Dad for the pony he'd never given me, and at 36 I was horsed once more.  

Along the line, I gave birth to a girl child.  I highly recommend that all horse women try to have daughters.  Sons may or may not find horsing meaningful, but it's a rare girly who doesn't.  Just sayin'.  If we have the power to reject rape babies, then we must have the ability to ensure future horse girls, right?  

But, I digress.

When I was back in the saddle during the Arab Fling episode, she was forced (she was three, hence still forcible) to sit by the side of the riding ring while I got tossed around, and she apparently got a kick out of watching her mother cry because riding became number one on her bucket list.

When Dad ponied up the $850 for my first horse, it didn't take long for the mare of questionable conformation and attitude to become a shared object of my daughter's and my affection (and terror...don't forget the terror part), and a horse kid was born.  Naturally that seed horse grew several additional hay burners along the way until we had six boarded out and my school was sending my paychecks straight to the boarding farm.  And so Gallant Hope Farm was also born.

In other words, Jess (whose firstborn is the budding cowboy in the photo above) had no choice.  For most of the time, I was a single mom and she was a convenient add-on at whatever barn was housing our critters.  She was very athletic, so she did a fine rendition of Sacrificial Daughter when new horses came in and someone had to try them  out.  Ten-year-olds bounce.  Over-30's, not so much.  In turn, I found myself back in the show ring because it was only fair that I put myself out there when she decided to go all competitive on me.  On my own, I wouldn't have ever gone there again.
Repeat after me:  "I cannot afford this level of cuteness!"
DUKE:  "Mom!  Look what followed me home!  Can I keep it?"

So all-in-all, the reader who sent in the essay was on the right track.  But she left out an important point.  Not only is it more effective to ask former horsemen to mentor their own children into the sport, but it's also more polite to triangulate in the folks with the checkbooks.  After all, whining and crying and threatening are fine, but they don't pay the bills.  They also don't drive the car or truck, give up their weekends for all of eternity, or deal with issues that only horse fetishes can create.

Now, not to be a buzz-kill, but there's also the abuse and neglect aspect, and I don't mean how badly horse kids abuse and neglect their beleaguered parents.  A non-horse adult taking on a child's horse life without some serious training and guidance along the way is to be pitied.  The outcome is rarely good, and it frequently involves horses that are abandoned, neglected, or simply not really managed well, not through evil intent, but through ignorance.

So yeah, let's hope adults who were horse kids themselves might consider revisiting the fun of riding for their own sakes, and that they'll let their children witness the experience.  If a little mentoring happens, then that's just great.  Let's not assume that it was fun for all of them, that they have any desire to revisit the sport, or that they can afford to do so.  And let's not make them feel bad if they don't.  They've got enough guilt what with all the holding-my-breath-till-I-turn-blue and whatnot.  We needn't add more public embarrassment and ridicule than their own kids will inflict without our help.

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