Melinda A. Snyder is a drug-development consultant for biotech companies with a focus in oncology and, more recently, COVID-19 and a single mom from Norwell, Massachusetts.
Two years ago, she became an official “pony mom” at the 2019 USEF Pony Finals when she arrived at the Kentucky Horse Park with her son Eamon. After an extra-long wait because of last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19, Eamon, 12, who trains with Alison Babcock in Tiverton, Rhode Island, got to return to Pony Finals this season, riding Vanessa Mazzoli’s small pony Partly Cloudy, medium pony Frontier Midnight Legacy and medium green pony Lil’ Wayne. Lil’ Wayne finished 12th overall in his division.
Follow along as Melinda takes us through a day in her life during Pony Finals.
The iPhone alarm goes off, and I can’t remember what part of what I was dreaming actually occurred earlier this week. The days are starting to blur after being in Kentucky for almost two weeks.
I scan Facebook and see all of the posts from other families, trainers and riders. Lots of smiles and ribbons posted late in the evening. Eamon and Partly Cloudy were the perfect match as expected. Today we are continuing with his medium pony division.
I receive a Venmo request for braids and shoeing for the under saddle from the day before for his medium pony, Lil’ Wayne. I am not sure when people sleep this week, if at all.
Pull out the laptop to respond to emails. This also is the prime time to start laundry. It can be easier to obtain a dinner table on New Year’s Eve than to find an open laundry machine at a hotel during Pony Finals week.
We don’t have the luxury of packing a suitcase full of boys clothes. Junior boys and men’s equestrian clothing can be difficult to come by. At home, instead of a dresser drawer filled with pink bows and belts, I have a closet of hanging ties and the various sizes of men’s show clothes waiting for the opportunity to be worn when the size is just right.
I wake up Eamon, and he moves around slower than a sloth. I begin pacing, then repeat the words, “HURRY UP!” No matter how many times I push him to get moving, he heads to the car before me. I am triple-checking bags and grabbing that one more thing we “may” need. I am following him like a pack mule: His bag now has been stuffed with three belts, four ties, and three pairs of socks of various threads, just in case they fly off his body, perhaps?
We arrive to the stalls, and I drop the bags on the ground. As I start to go through them, I stand back and realize the explosion I made. I am thankful we have a trailer to ship his uniform back home.
The calm before the storm…
It is show time for the model.
Pools of baby powder with hoof imprints line the pavement. This reminds me of attending a wedding, but at the Pony Finals model, every pony is the bride. As a mom, I wasn’t at the barn at 3 a.m. starting baths, but I can only imagine the buzz of activity that every pony had around them, from braiders to grooms to trainers to the occasional dog passing by.
Eamon enters the ring, and I walk off to get coffee with him in my periphery. This is the time for me to stand back.
Eamon and I visit the Welsh tent and the Virginia Pony Breeders Association tent. One of Eamon’s ponies is a VPBA member, which comes with a gift for all riders showing at Pony Finals. After a brief chat with VPBA President Lisa Kline, we head off to the barn.
Time for over fences. It is a one-shot deal, and anything can happen. I remind myself to keep it light and, more importantly, to keep quiet. I give Eamon’s boots one last-minute buffing, remind him to tuck in his tie and wipe the dirt off his face. The pacing starts again as it did at 6 a.m. in the hotel.
It is time to enter the ring. I tell myself as my heart pounds, this one trip doesn’t define the rider. It is just one trip. Anything can happen, who cares if it isn’t perfect…? Relax, mom.
I reflect at the hotel restaurant. It is just one trip, and yes, one trip doesn’t define a rider. However, the reason these kids are all here, the reason each pony and child are in the spotlight for 90 seconds, the reason this is the biggest pony event of the year, is to celebrate each individual’s accomplishments made during one of the most devasting years we will experience in our lifetime with the pandemic.
I am proud to be a pony mom. Congrats to all of the Pony Finals riders, thank you to the trainers and staff, and to the parents. Pony Finals 2021 is a wrap; we did it!