Monday, July 06, 2015

Show Mom or Mom Showing?

The Pros and Cons of Showing Horses as a Grown Up

This is a great little article on the subject of adults returning to the show ring.  I smiled through the whole thing even while I was sadly reliving my heyday in my head.  Inside.  That's where it belongs.

I'm definitely an adult.  I showed as a teen, though I didn't own a horse.  Few of us did back then in the early '60's.  We showed at open shows using school horses, which was fine because our competition was doing the same.  Even when I rode against a collegiate team, they were all on school horses they'd trailered in for the event.  We were all equal.

Then I went away to college, and the horse thing fell by the wayside with only one exception.  The "townie" kids I tutored pooled their resources and bought me a trail ride at a local hack stable.  It was bad.  Not as bad as the Guinea pig they'd bought me the year before, but bad.  The horse was fine.  It was a long ride cross-country, which was fine.  The stop at lunch at a lake somewhere would have been fine had my horse not stepped on barbed wire and flipped over, sending me to the ER with a fractured elbow and grass embedded in my gums.
Knowing the value of relearning from the best comes with age.

Time passed.

A lot of time passed.

I was in my early 20's the next time I rented a horse for a day.  That was a little better than the college episode, but only because I wasn't the one on the runaway horse with my newbie arms flailing and my sunglasses caught on a tree branch.

More time passed and I answered an ad in the paper for someone to exercise a horse that was going to a big show and whose teen-aged riders weren't highly motivated to ride the creature.  That adorable, flighty Arab left me sitting in the dirt more than in the saddle, but I had the bug and I'd passed it on to my then-three-year-old daughter who was forced to sit by the rail and watch the depressing spectacle of Mommy being deposited in the mud over and over again.  I'm sure she didn't so much fall in love with the sport as recognize that even she could have done better.

So it came about that I got a horsey daughter and the urge to show again.  Showing against kids should have been a piece of cake.  I was wiser [*cough*], more experienced, and with considerable flash and panache at my disposal.  Which was why I brought home a whole lot of eighth place ribbons.  If there's anything positive to be said for the current fad of giving out as many ribbons as there are competitors so no one feels left out, it's that I didn't feel left out.  I was resoundingly worse than the tiny children on the big-butted ponies riding in my "open" classes.
Red ribbon! 

My daughter beating me, however....that was bad.  I needed to step up, so lessons followed.  And more horses.  I'd bought one to share, then added one so we didn't have to fight over whose turn it was to ride.  Then I traded for better horses, and we were on the road to being a Show Family.  If I'd had money, I'd have been dangerous.  My daughter lusted after the moms who quit their jobs and bought  trailers with living quarters and took their daughters (almost exclusively...only one boy in the group) "on the circuit".  Fortunately for both of us, she was stuck with a mom who was serving peanut butter on celery for dinner to have enough cash left to pay the board.

But as time went by, I--we--got better and better.  I took lessons from better instructors than I'd ever had in my life.  I rode with a real competitive spirit.  And once or twice, I beat my daughter.  In the end I wound up with 64 ribbons.   I know there were that many because last year I gathered them up and put them into display cases instead of allowing them to continue to fester hanging from strings tacked up on the family room walls.  I dusted off the trophies and plaques.  And I thought about how showing as an adult was incredibly different from showing as a kid.

The number one difference, of course, was that not only did I not have a Show Mom to dust off my boots between classes and run and get me water or a hot dog or whatever my whim imposed.  I was Show Mom to both of us.  It was exhausting fitting up, trailering, and showing for two.  But I did it.  No, we didn't get to the Olympics.  But there's not a ribbon in my cases that doesn't have a memory attached.  And the fun we had together, my daughter and our horses and I, was priceless.
It's fitting that my first
blue ribbon crowns the
pile of rosettes in this case.

Because I was an adult, she was surrounded by other adult riders. She grew self-confidence like my pastures grow buttercups.  And I was proud for both of us.  And because we moved from barn to barn as money got tight, we did it all.  We did English flat classes, classes over rails and fences, dressage, barrel racing, hunter paces, and trails.  I would never have done all of that if I hadn't been a horsey parent trying to teach a horsey kid the ropes.

So if the spirit moves you to drag your aging behind into the show pen again, don't let warnings and fears of looking silly stop you.  You might find, as I did a few years back, that the effort isn't worth the 89-cent ribbon, and you'll quit again.  But don't let pride get in the way of having a Moment.  As we age, those are few and hard to come by.  Grab them on the fly or you'll wish forever that you had.

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