There is something that really gets under my skin, and that is when I hear horse show parents spewing poor sportsmanship. Some do it ringside, but I’ve even read parental rants the day after the show on Facebook. That should give them the time to cool off, but rather it fuels their fury over supposed poor judging, ponies getting cut off, and riders showing in classes for which they’re overqualified. How do we expect the kids to be any better when the adults—their role models—can’t control themselves? It reminds me of advice from my mom: “Focus on yourself.”
I’ve affectionately called my mother “the ultimate horse show mom.” Over the years she went with me to more shows than I could count. My mom only rode a little bit as an adult, but she loves horses and is quite handy around them. She’s also a fast learner and very energetic, so she quickly became my right-hand (wo)man at shows.
My mom can polish boots and hooves, bathe and brush horses, longe horses, load and unload them and so much more. She knows you don’t put ShowSheen on the saddle area, and you don’t feed carrots right before bridling. Not only can she fetch spurs, a crop or a different bit, she usually knows I need them before I even have to ask.
But what makes her the ultimate horse show mom is that she is the pillar of good sportsmanship and has never tolerated anything less than that from me.
I’m not saying I was perfect—far from it. I had my share of horse show temper tantrums in my youth and days that I was feeling sorry for myself and convinced that the world was against me. However when my mom told me to shape up or ship out, I knew she meant it. My mom never wanted that blue ribbon more than I did. Of course she enjoyed seeing her daughter succeed. She knew I worked hard at home for my chance to shine in the show ring, and I’m sure every time I entered that ring she hoped I’d have a flawless trip. She also knew that it was an important lesson for me when I didn’t have a perfect round and that she would only be setting me up for disappointments later in life if she made excuses or played into my blame game.
Everyone gets robbed of a ribbon at some point, but my mom would never indulge my complaining, even if it was a little bit justified. Instead she would remind me of that time I had a bobble; the judge missed it, and I got a gift in the form of a ribbon. It all evens out, she said.
Now that I’m a bit older and hopefully wiser, I have other commitments in life that keep me from showing as often as I once did. Sometimes I get down about it, because I keep my horse in a show barn, and obviously working for the Chronicle I am surrounded by horse show news and atmosphere. I wish I had the time and resources to compete more often, but again, my mom reminds me that focusing on my own goals can be just as rewarding. Ribbons aren’t the only way to measure improvement. It grounds me when she makes the occasional trip out to watch me ride and congratulates me on the progress I’ve made with my horse. She can tell how hard I’ve been working. It means almost as much as if George Morris himself had said it. And my mother knows that’s a compliment.
Lauren Foley is the editorial production manager for the Chronicle. She began riding in kindergarten and competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association while earning her bachelor’s degree in rhetoric & communications at Mount St. Mary’s University (Maryland). She then went to graduate school at Drexel University (Pennsylvania) where she studied publication management. After marriage and two kids (Payton, 3.5, and Johnny, 1.5) she doesn’t horse show as much as she used to, but she has aspirations of one day riding her Hanoverian mare With Bells On in the adult hunters. For now she mostly settles on living vicariously through everyone she reads about in the Chronicle and hopes at least one of her children will catch the horse bug.