We have all seen her at the horse shows. Her ever-present form may seem to just be part of the scenery, but she acts as an essential cornerstone in the horse show infrastructure. She is a horse show mom.
She comes in every age and variation of individual appearance (and they are all beautiful), but she shares so many common traits with her sisters that they can almost be counted as their own demographic.
The horse show mom is instantly recognizable. She is wearing a hat to protect her from the sun or rain and her shoes are sturdy, comfortable, and broken in. Despite the sensibility of her outfit, she is always understatedly stylish and appears just as tidy at the end of the day as she did at 5 a.m. when the ponies were loaded in the trailer.
Her first notable accomplishment may go unnoticed in the early morning show preparations. Seemingly effortlessly, all horse show moms manage to stage themselves strategically ringside with a large cup of coffee in one hand and a Corgi puppy in the other, while also carrying a folding chair, a grooming box with all essentials (brushes, towel, hoof pick, hoof oil, fly spray, baby wipes, extra hairnets, extra crop, extra gloves, extra ear stuffs, extra spurs….), a cooler filled with drinks, fruit, and sandwiches, and pockets armed with pony treats, more baby wipes, and cell phones (both her own and her rider’s). She sets up her camp with exact calculations, knowing precisely how far she is from the porta potty, the show secretary’s office, and the concession stand, and if there is the benefit of shade available she will offer to pay (bribe) the show manager with a yearly subscription fee to be assured of maintaining her territory.
Her job for the day is offering unrelenting support. She will wipe boots and apply hoof oil countless times throughout the day. She will record every step her child takes in the ring. She offers treats to the pony (always happily accepted) and water or snacks to the child (sometimes welcome, sometimes not). She can fix a pony’s braids while walking backwards and is an expert at removing green stains from a white pony with nothing but her own spit and the tail of her polo shirt.
She can spot stray hair escaping from a hairnet at 200 yards and can discreetly pass a crop to her child in the schooling ring while the naughty pony canters by. She memorizes every course and can be seen sympathetically jumping each fence along with her child while watching from the ingate.
If she has more than one child showing, her feats of organization multiply exponentially. I have known of one legendary horse show mom who often had three different children showing in three different rings at a show simultaneously, and she still managed to be standing smiling at the appropriate gate as each one exited from their class. To be fair though, this particular horse show mom was assisted by the addition of not one, but two, Corgi puppies, as well as a golf cart.
The horse show mom is understandably competitive and wants her own child to win, but that doesn’t stop her from generously offering her services to other riders as needed if their own mother is regrettably absent due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts like childbirth or a soccer game with a non-horse-showing sibling. In these unfortunate circumstances, horse show mothers will rally around the show orphan like momma elephants and supply drinks, take pictures, and provide encouragement while keeping the missing mom up to date via social media.
Despite all of this attention to her children, the horse show mom is not known for excessive protectiveness. If her child gets dumped by the naughty pony, the experienced horse show mom worries more about dusting off the show jacket than checking for broken bones, assuming that the trainer will jog the child for soundness before putting her back in the saddle.
And while every horse show mom can perfectly recite the biographical details of their ponies, including lifetime USEF recording number, exact measurement (“14.1 and 7/8 with shoes and ¾ inch heel”), and breeding (“He is by that lovely Welsh stallion Rollinginthehay Party Time and out of the Hollingsworth’s former junior hunter mare Straight Arrow….so of course his show name is Conflicted but we call him Flicker in the barn, isn’t that adorable?”), they may be a bit vague about similar details concerning their human children.
If you ask a horse show mom the age or birthdate of her child, you are likely to be met with a slightly confused look and the answer “Collins shows in the 14-and-under equitation”. Since riders compete for the entire show season (December 1 – November 30) at whatever age they are on December 1st, truly savvy horse show moms know the advantages of having their child’s birthdate as close to the beginning of the year as possible and plan their pregnancies accordingly.
Such are the lengths that horse show moms will go to for their children.
All kidding aside, every rider I know has some story or two about their own irreplaceable horse show moms and the special joy experienced by sharing the tears and the triumphs over the years. THANKS MOM!!!