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November 13, 2010

Time For Mom To Follow The Horse Show Rules

From May through October, I kept a kid and horse entirely presentable and A-rated horse show ready. I dry cleaned show coats, I hand-washed Essex Collection shirts, I removed stains from Tailored Sportsman breeches. I found a hand-me-down pair of ancient tall boots and taught my kid how to polish and nurse them through the season.

The girl learned from her trainer me and never to go into the show ring without an immaculate horse wearing clean tack. The show day was only over when your horse, tack and stall were clean. Wherever we were, Massachusetts, Vermont or New York, the girl was packed and prepared. And so was I. She made it through an entire horse show season without forgetting or losing much of anything. I considered these skills—what she was learning outside of the ring—to be as essential as what she was learning in the ring.

Last week, I learned that while my kid may have picked up some valuable skills this past summer, I apparently, had not.

I was preparing to attend the Association of Bridal Consultants annual conference in Phoenix. I was exhibiting in the trade show as part of my Emily Post job, introducing our wedding invitation partner M. Middleton, and our new line of wedding invitations (Emily Post Wedding) to the bridal consultants. This is an annual conference I’ve attended four or five times in the past, so I knew what to expect and left the preparation to the last minute (mistake No. 1).

Interestingly, I haven’t gone on a business trip since May, an unusually long stretch for me. Which means, no business travel since before horse show season. I packed Friday night for an early Saturday morning departure.

As I looked through my closet, I realized I was missing a few essential items. We’re business casual at Emily Post, and this trip was definitely professional attire. My office attire wardrobe was, um, lacking. And I’d let this situation get away from me. (Could it be that the budget allocation had been going entirely to HORSE SHOWS for the last six months?)

Then I looked in the mirror. Someone needed a haircut. Badly. And some style would help too. Maybe some color—there are quite a few grey hairs peeking out, well, really, I think that patch there qualifies as a grey stripe.

I wrangled together a few semi-presentable outfits from the closet, calling out for a few borrowed items. It wouldn’t be great, but I’d make it work.

When I arrived in Phoenix and unpacked, I realized I’d forgotten make-up and business cards. Yikes! There wasn’t really time for an off campus outing to replenish the make-up so that situation was just ugly. And I don’t even want to talk about the business cards.

Fortunately our booth looked beautiful, and the wedding invitation albums (two collections, named Grace and Style) are truly stunning! It was a whirlwind two days of showing the new offering to hundreds of bridal consultants and stationery store owners. No one mentioned my lack of make-up or the grey stripes in my hair. My colleague from our partner company, Marianne, is the mother of four teenagers, and we enjoyed our long days together.

As I flew home, I reminded myself of a few basic rules that I think all good horsewomen and horse show moms violate from time to time in our quest to provide the best care to our beloved charges:

  1. If you don’t take care of yourself you’re no good to your horse or your kid.
  2. Sometimes to keep up with your career, (and your ability to support those kids and horses) you’ve got to spend money on yourself. That may mean a new suit, updates to your wardrobe, or getting your hair done. For trainers or other equestrian professionals, that may mean special or expensive equipment or clothing.
  3.  Education is an excellent investment in your career. Whether it’s a book, course, conference, clinic or just a trip that gives you a different perspective—even little connections and conversations can end up having a big impact on your career.
  4.  Take as much care in preparing and packing for yourself as you would for your horse or your kid. Arriving at a horse show or business trip without make-up or business cards stinks. Trust me.

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends. Her website is www.sheridesIpay.com.