EN Today: Mothers Are The Heart of Eventing

Grab the nearest box of tissues and lace up your boots for a stroll down memory lane–it’s time for EN’s annual Ode to Eventing Moms.

From John: Mothers, with their sacrifice and love through the thick and thin, are truly the heart of eventing.  We have a lot of of fun traditions at EN, but this post every Mother’s Day is without a doubt my favorite.  Each year we ask different members of the eventing community to write about what their mother meant to their development as an eventer.  For me, every Mother’s Day is a reminder of the many sacrifices my mother made to give me the best possible opportunity in life.  Thanks Mom, I love you!  This year I am very grateful that we have the biggest group of participants yet, including a few members of the EN Team.  Happy Mother’s Day EN!  Take it away guys…

Sharon White:  I owe everything I am to my Mom (well, and Dad, but it’s Mother’s Day, not Father’s day, and my Mom would say she’s responsible for Dad, so technically it’s all because of her.  And if you’ve ever met my mom, you know I speak the truth).  She taught me to follow my dreams, and be a good person along the way, or another wooden spoon would get broken on my behind.  She taught me that if you were going to do something, you might as well do it to the best of your ability (what else was the point of doing it?).  She taught me that hard work would get you where you wanted to go.  One of the biggest lessons she has taught me is to never, ever give up.  My Mom is wheelchair bound, an eleven year survivor of brain cancer, and most recently uterine cancer.  Every day is hard.  And she has never, ever given up.  Each day she gives me the gift of being here, and I could never thank her enough for that.  I could never thank her enough for putting horses in my life (she always wanted one growing up, and never had one), and for giving me the courage to never give up when the going gets hard.  It’s all your fault Mom, and I love you for it!

Sinead Halpin: I remember the switch to eventing… It was swift, definite and I was not the leader but the follower.  My mom as usual was the leader.  My mom might be one of the most attractive and likable women you ever meet. She might look like glass but she is tough as nails.  She has been an inspiration to me before I was even aware that she was the wind at my back.  Getting a black jumping saddle in a strictly brown jumping saddle hunter barn was the final straw for Bernadette.  I remember my hunter trainer yelling at my mom about her purchase and saying if we wanted to do dressage or go eventing that a black saddle was acceptable but in the show ring it was simply out of the question. Instead of conforming Bernadette simply said “well then we will go eventing, this is ridiculous.”  I often joke with my mom that she never gives me any sympathy. She is a solution woman. The more time you spend making someone feel better the less time you are spending making them better and finding a solution. Timing and balance is everything and as soon as I get too hard on myself my tough loving mom is the first to surprise me with the kindest and most honest words.  I trust and believe my mom more than anyone in the world. She some how knows when to give me a kick in the butt and when to give me a hand to lift me up. I strive to have the balance, grace and strength my mother embraces so naturally. I know what keeps me going in tough times and good times is my amazing support group, and my mom is the glue that keeps it all together. Happy moms day to all you eventing moms.  I think a support group is necessary!

Visionaire:  I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support from my mom.  From the early days in Pony Club, to our first trips hauling to events, she has always been there with me.  From Novice through my first Advanced, from Queeny Park in Missouri to my first two-star at Radnor, my mom was there.  I know it took a lot of sacrifice and hard work for her to be there, but it was something we always enjoyed together.  Now that I’m a “grown up” she doesn’t get to see me as often, but I know she still wants to and makes it to as many events as she can.  Mom has always been there for me no matter what I needed, whether it was rescuing me from the side of the road or just a phone call to say “I love you.”   I can never say thanks enough!  Happy Mother’s Day, and I love you Mom!

Photo: The Wylie triple-threat, circa 1994

Leslie Wylie: My mom had the misfortune of raising three eventing-crazed daughters, none of whom were particularly gifted at the sport. At any given event, chances were good that at least one of us would fall off. VHS tapes document the all-too-frequent spectacle of my mom dropping the camera and curse-sprinting across the course to scrape us off the ground and give us a leg back up. But she never ceased encouraging us to pursue our passion, even if it meant working overtime and trading in beach vacations for camping trips at the Kentucky Horse Park. All with a smile on her face, because our happiness was her happiness, and she knew that horses made us happy. To our mom, and eventing moms around the world, Happy Mothers Day.

Hannah SUE Burnett:  My mother, better known to a lot of you as “Smallzie,” is the catalyst to my eventing career and more importantly, my love of horses. She has supported me through thick and thin, as long as I can remember. My favorite quality about my mom is her determination and strong will. Smallzie would’ve made one heck of an upper level event rider if she had the opportunities that she made sure I had all through my upbringing and still today. Even though I might not have known it in the past, she has always known when to push me and when to pick me up. I always enter events in my full name, because without Sue, there wouldn’t be an eventer named Hannah Burnett. I have and will always admire her horsemanship. She never takes the easy way out and has so much knowledge. Her opinion matters more to me than anyone else’s. The best thing about my mom is her faith. She never doubts God’s plan and I’m so blessed to have her and my dad instill their love for Christ in me. They showed me through their unconditional love how God loves us. I hope someday to be like my mom, she’s the greatest woman I’ll ever know.

Photo via Samantha L Clark

Emily Beshear: My mom has been my biggest supporter throughout my eventing career (although she may have slipped to a close second since Jeff entered the picture but it is mother’s day…). To that effect she has always paid very close attention to the details of my riding and, since she has seen me ride forever, is the best person for me to talk through any doubts or troubles I may have. She is also very sensitive to the nature in which luck plays into our sport. When I was 14 years old my mare, Matchmaker, had an uncharacteristic stop at a water jump that my mom was watching. She decided that it was bad luck for her to watch me at that water and has not done so again, not even at novice.  I don’t know too many other moms that are that thoughtful : ).   Happy Mother’s Day!

Jeff Beshear, eventer, eventing father, eventing husband, and vet:  It was my mom who first introduced me to horses.  I never competed much–just foxhunting, which involved a lot of arm flapping and missed distances.  Actually, I guess not much has changed there.  Anyway, my mom always insisted I participate in all aspects of horse care including cleaning stalls.  Once again, not much has changed there.  That early appreciation for the basics of horse care has taken me far.  It helped me choose my career. It helped me attract my wife.  It’s even given me a model for raising my son.  So I guess I really do owe everything to my mom.  Just don’t tell her!  Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms out there.

Abby Gibbon: My mom found the only lesson barn in Maryland heavily insured enough to teach lessons to six year olds, and since then has found herself in various roles as chief hoof picker, stock tie ironer, videographer, hoof polisher, directions printer, marathon driver, co-course walker, cheerleader, therapist, etc, etc. She buys me boot polish for my birthday, and makes my dreams come true. I couldn’t do it without you, Mom, and wouldn’t want to.

Photo via Samantha

Stephanie Rhodes Bosch: So the Saturday afternoon of the Mother’s Day weekend is generally a time that procrastinators are most panicked. It’s when the flower shops can’t possibly accommodate a last minute order, it’s when all the good cards have already been purchased by those annoyingly punctual people who surely ordered their flowers and cupcakes weeks before, and it’s when EN’s very own John sends texts to his friends asking for contributions to the Mother’s Day post. Now, I count myself as a huge procrastinator, so this is all a good bit of self deprecating fun. But it makes me wonder how the #%^+ I ever got anything done. How I ended up entered to horse shows, got homework projects done, showed up at birthday parties with presents. One word… MOM. I don’t know about you, but my mom was always the one who helped keep things running according to plan. Made things happen. And once it was all started, she was always the one to hold things together for me. The groom, the financier, the driver, the cook, the confidant, the support that I needed both in and out of my eventing life. I am going to call my mom today and tell her thank you for being there through the ups and the downs, and promise that next year I will get to the store early enough for one of the good cards. And she’ll pretend to believe me. Love you mom!

Samantha L Clark: Bless EN John, and I write this with a glass of wine in my hand, and my tongue firmly in my cheek; only he could send out a text asking for a “quick paragraph about what your mother meant to your development with horses and as a person. Just something fun and light, and we need it by tonight!”  I can’t decide if it’s fortuitous or not that I landed at Heathrow this morning and happen to be ensconced once again in the family bosom.  We counted this afternoon–between myself, my sister who has two kids, my mother and my grandmother–we are four mothers and four generations assembled.  Duly warned, with emotions running high, wine flowing like, well, wine, and jet lag looming, somewhat against my better judgement I have agreed to give it my best shot.  By the way, the weather over here is absolutely gorgeous, I don’t know what all the fuss has been about!  William Fox-Pitt recently told the Financial Times that his mother was his greatest mentor, and I have to confess that in my Pony Club days I often yearned for a calm, competent, tweedy, professional mum who could reverse a trailer, plait a pony, read a rule book, whip up a four-course gourmet picnic out of nowhere, diagnose lamenesses and so on and so on and so on. Instead, on the rare times my mother came to competitions, I do remember her walking the cross country, “Oh My God, will he be able to jump that? Let’s just go home now, darling, you don’t have to do it. No-one needs to know, we’ll just slip away now and have a nice weekend at home!”, or at the Irish Bank, “What if he just gallops straight into it?” Once you become a mother, inevitably your entire perspective shifts.  Of course I never reached even the outer limits of the stratosphere that William did, but I couldn’t be more grateful that I have learnt how to plait my own pony, I am the proud holder of an HGV license, I can rustle up a picnic, and perhaps even more importantly absolutely nothing embarrasses me! Much to Lily and Harry’s chagrin I am indeed my mother’s daughter. I giggle, yawn and text through their horse shows and soccer games, (whilst surreptitiously being horrendously proud!) and I wholeheartedly believe that they should be as self-sufficient as possible.  I couldn’t be more thankful for my mother, her supreme strength in such a tiny package, her blind stubborness that we all share, her insane ability to always see the positive in everything, (Yes, she did tell me she thought I could turn a certain gay man straight when I confessed to a crush!), her wonderful, absolutely unflagging fight for us, my brother, sister and I. Similarly there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children, no matter what. From my mother I have learnt to hold my head up, walk tall, blag it if necessary, very, very rarely admit I’m wrong, and defend myself or my family tooth and nail.  As a team we are invincible, as grandmothers, mothers and daughters we are pieces in the continuum, and now as we get older and share more, my mother and I are friends too. I did get a hand picked bunch of flowers from Lily and Harry this afternoon so I’m good for another year –  Happy Mother’s Day to you all, I share your joy, your pain, and every single emotion in between!

Boyd Martin: I remember as a young wild boy misbehaving, my mother saying ‘Boydie, I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!’. Seriously, I am very fortunate to have a wonderful mum, whom has encouraged and backed me in my pursuit of my equestrian dream!!

Rebecca Howard: Momma Mary was my first coach and is so supportive of this somewhat crazy life; she is a horse woman with great instincts who gave me such a lucky start to a life with horses.  Mom is my biggest supporter yet she is always the reality check and the one that keeps things real and in perspective. She is continually learning and improving herself in any endeavor so I continue to admire and learn from her. I live on the opposite sides of the continent as my parents, but my mother remains close – and when she visits, I can still appreciate her “eyes on the ground”… and jump crew abilities!  Mom: Love ya

Joanie Morris: My mom, Beth, rode a little as a kid but we didn’t grow up horsey. My obsession with taking riding lessons was supported by Mom who would come watch me trot around on Fred or Ladybug at the local riding school.  I never was that good. I think my arms are too short. But I loved it and I worked hard. And in eventing that is half the battle. We never owned a horse, we did a lot of leasing and borrowing. I learnt a lot though all of those experiences, but mostly how to make the best of what you had… Even if what I had was ‘Bandit’ the borrowed horse at a C3 Pony Club rating who galloped around during the lunging portion like a scalded cat as the examiner said “I don’t think he’s going to stop.” Or “Cliffie’ who left his front end. A lot. Even in the show jumping. From ages 5 to 17 – it was beg. borrow. ride. Buy was never an option. Finally after a lot of determination on my part and a fantastic leased grey horse with whom I went from Novice to Prelim on in a year (if you’re paying attention, your math is correct I did actually go beginner novice  for 12 years).  I went to the CCI* at Young Riders and during that week – my yankee mom convinced Marion Briggs (now Cooper – wife of Tremiane) to sell us the infamous  Brian Boru at age 16 for a nominal price.  I then moved to Pennsylvania to focus on my ‘future’ at True Prospect Farm. That horse got me one step away from Radnor CCI2* on the following year before his pony legs finally gave up the Monday of.

My mom’s hippie soul doesn’t have much of a competitive streak in it (as long as I was having fun!) – so I went to the Phillip Dutton school of winning to actually capitalize on the skills that I had learned over all those years. But Mom taught me that if you are a good to a horse it will repay you and the ones that we travelled to events with together (especially Brian Boru) always looked after us both. She was great at wielding a sponge, feeding on her way to work, or mucking out a stall and put up with a teenage child chasing her dream on the back of horse like no other. (Did I mention we drove to from Massachusetts to Colorado for NAYRC so that I could make sure Brian drank and ate? For 36 hours. Straight. Behind a Brookledge van.)

At the end of it all I ending up seeing all of the places I dreamed of competing at on foot. First as a groom for some of the nicest horses in the world at Rolex, Badminton, Burghley, Pan Ams and that trip to Athens where we never quite made it to the venue. And then as a USEF staffer at another Olympics, two Pan Ams and a World Championships… and Mom came to some of those too – just as supportive and delighted to be part of it. I remember a birthday she spent at one of those freezing cold Rolexs when it never stopped raining and she spent the whole day in the finish area sponging and scraping. The horrible child I was – I forgot it was her birthday  – and as she helped cool out Hannigan (the last of about 11 horses she tended to that day) she got an entire bucket of ice water chucked over her. That night tucked into the camper, I  remembered that she had chosen to spend her birthday with me in the mud. I apologized.
She laughed and told me not to worry, then she said what she always says, “Not many people get to do what they love.”
Mom is always right.
Go moms!

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