Confessions of a Show Mom: It’s all about preparation

It’s still Mother’s Day week, right? We’re going to keep the maternal ball rolling with this piece submitted by horse show mom extraordinaire Barbara Hamilton.

For new-to-this-crazy-sport show moms, those first few competitions can be stressful. Barbara outlines a few pregame strategies for a smooth showing experience.

From Barbara:

Shows can be a great experience for the family, one that will create memories you’ll have forever—all it takes is a little time for planning.

Show clothes (and how to procure them without breaking the bank)

When my daughter first decided she wanted to do horse shows I got a list of what she needed from our trainer. Needless to say there was quite a lot of stuff.

First there were the clothes—yikes. But my trainer had a great suggestion. Since this was my daughter’s first year showing and we didn’t even know if she would like it, why not check out the consignment store where we usually shop? We did, and we ended up with a beautiful jacket and shirt for a fraction of the price. It was hardly worn and it fit her perfectly. Saving money on that made buying everything else from gloves to boots to a new helmet a lot easier. Then, after a year of showing, we decided to buy her a new jacket. So I dry-cleaned her old jacket and the shirt and brought it back to the same store where it was sold again.  I used that money for her new show clothes.

What to bring

Besides extra lessons and lots of cleaning and polishing there are a few things to remember for a horse show. Probably top on my list are chairs and suntan lotion. Anyone who’s been to a show knows it’s either hurry up and wait, or just wait. Also there never seems to be a tree in site so that’s the reason for the suntan lotion. I buy a case of water for the barn—and bring some sort of snack. The kids always seem to be too nervous to eat but it’s good to have something around for them to munch on.

At the in-gate

When my daughter is heading down to the ring I have a bag that I take with me.  Inside is a cloth to clean her boots (although this never seems to happen), a sports drink and water. I always throw in some extra bottles of water for the other kids. My bag also has my camera, video camera and a sewing kit. (I know—but you never know when a button will come off.)

When you think it’s over, it’s not

After the show when we’re all exhausted from getting up at the crack of dawn we go back over everything we packed—the brushes, the liniment, the Show Sheen—and that’s when we refill and repack everything. So when it’s time for the next show there’s no “Where is my pin?” or  “Where are my lucky socks?” the night before a show.

And when you’re tired after a show, remember your horse is, too. So make sure you take proper care of them before heading off for home.

A few notes on etiquette

  • First off, don’t rely on your barn and the trainers to supply everything for you. If they give you a list of things you’ll need for the shows, buy them.
  • If you use something up replace it. You’ll not only earn your trainer’s respect you’ll be teaching your child what’s right and wrong.
  • Don’t forget: If you use someone’s horse during a show, a note to the owner from your child thanking him or her afterwards goes a long way.

Riding horses and competing in shows teach our kids a lot. How to be tough under pressure, how to be there for each other, and perhaps most importantly how to treat people and animals with respect.

About Barbara: 

Barbara describes herself as “a 13-year-old girl when it comes to horses, except I’m an adult woman who only started riding 7 years ago. I talked my daughter into going with me, and she’s turned out to be a terrific rider who does lots of shows every season.”

She goes on explain her belated introduction to horses:

“OK. I grew up watching Bonanza. So maybe that’s where it came from, or the fact that my parents both had horses and ponies when they were young. But when I was growing up I wanted a horse. I mean I really wanted a horse. Unfortunately that never happened. However, I did win on the dog.

After taking a vacation where we went horseback riding I decided that now was the time to learn how to ride a horse. So I called a barn nearby and signed my daughter and myself up for lessons. After all how hard could it be? I had visions of riding around and jumping like crazy after a few months.

Well after my first lesson I could barely walk. It’s been 7 years since then and every time I ride I learn something new—and that something is usually a muscle I never knew I had. But I love every minute of it. I love grooming the horse. I love washing the horse. I love riding and jumping and I even love when I make stupid mistakes. But what I love the most besides the bond you have with this beautiful animal is that when you’re riding you can’t think about how bad your week was at work. Or what you should make for dinner. You need to think about what you’re doing right then and there. So for that hour while I’m riding I escape from the world.

It’s not easy starting when you’re older—I’m not as brave as the kids and I will admit sometimes before I jump the thought does run through my mind—I have to go to work tomorrow and I don’t want to fall off. But starting when you’re later gives you an appreciation too. I don’t take my health for granted and I try to work out to stay in shape to ride. Don’t you love those people who think you just sit on the horse and it does all the work? And when I’m having a bad day you can bet one thing is for sure you’ll find me reading about horses or just looking at photos of them.

Guess you’re never too old to be crazy about horses.”


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