COTH Horse Show Dad: My Soul For An Equitation Horse?

Sep 17, 2015 - 4:11 AM

Introducing the latest addition to the Chronicle’s blogger line-up, the COTH Horse Dad. He’s the non-horsey father of two junior hunter/jumper/equitation riders and he’s going to take readers along on his horse show-parenting journey!

Legend has it that blues musician Robert Johnson couldn’t play all that well. At least not until just before midnight one evening when he got himself to a crossroads outside Clarksdale, Mississippi. There he met the devil, and in exchange for Johnson’s soul the devil gave him the ability to play guitar like no one had played before.

Lately I’ve been thinking about heading down to Clarksdale to see what the going rate might be for a couple of nice equitation horses.

You wanna know what’s giving me the most pause? I’m a little bit afraid my soul might not be worth that much.

You see, I’ve got two daughters who are serious riders. (And a third who rides a little but figure skates more.) Both seem to have some talent, and both definitely have big dreams. The ASPCA Maclay Finals has been a goal for a couple of years now. But that’s really just the headliner. You name a high-profile hunter/jumper event that gets discussed in The Chronicle of the Horse, and it’s somewhere on their list.

Here’s the cast of characters. My oldest daughter, Ada, who is 14, has been riding for nine years now. Her sister Audrey, who is 12, has been at it for seven years. Over that time we’ve moved from the annual schooling show at the barn where they started, to a mix of schooling and 4-H shows, to the B circuit to, just this year, the A circuit.

Ada is focused primarily on equitation, and the highlights of her summer included wins in a couple of medal classes and a week in the Emerging Athletes Program. Audrey is fresh off an appearance in the medium greens at Pony Finals, and is about to make the move to the jumper ring.

My wife and I are doing what we can to make it work. I could certainly rattle off the typical list of horse parent laments for you. I’m not going to have that cabin in the north woods anytime soon. Our cars are not exactly up to date. My clothes are nowhere near the cutting edge of fashion. (Good thing I’m an academic.) The point is, all of this requires us to stretch ourselves.

There’s the financial part, which is no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the equestrian world. But there’s also the time commitment. For the past year we’ve been commuting to two barns, each nearly an hour from our house. (Ada’s been training with Serah Vogus of Millcreek Farm in Antioch, Ill., and Audrey’s pony adventures have taken place under the guidance of Emily Elek-Burtard of Stonewall Farm in Ixonia, Wisc.)

Fortunately I can take a lot of my work with me, and as long as I’ve got a place to sit I’m usually good to go. My Facebook feed features a series of photos of me working while barn cats, dogs, and even a miniature horse try to get a bit of my attention.

I’d like to think I’ve got some other interesting perspectives as well. I’m a horse dad, which is an unusual enough thing. And I’m one who is not himself a horseman, though I’m enough of a farm kid that being around large animals is nothing new and even holds a certain appeal.

By day I’m a law professor who studies judges and the various ways in which the legal system attempts to channel their behavior. Turns out there are lots of puzzles when it comes to judges in law. And so perhaps you can see another reason why I might find horse shows a little bit interesting.

Where will this all lead? We’ll have to find out. Parenthood has led me to a lot of unanticipated places. I’m hoping to avoid that trip to Clarksdale, but if I go I promise to tell you all about it.


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