Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate just how lucky you are. Columnist Kristen Kovatch sends her mom a heartfelt thank-you.
Via text message:
Me: Happy Mother’s Day!
Mom: Thanks, just had a beautiful ride on the horse.
I’m reaching the age of appreciation in my life in which I can finally start giving Mom the credit she’s due rather than denying she had anything to do with my current success as a professional horsewoman. So many of my friends in college have been known to wistfully sigh and wish they too had an equestrian parent, to which I have been known to roll my eyes and tell them they don’t know how lucky they have it. They never had to deal with the text message or email asking me if I was regularly checking my horse for ticks (yes, Mom) or if I was considering feeding flax as a supplement (no, Mom) or if I was aware of the benefits of equine massage (whatever, Mom).
Removed from the situation, of course, it’s easy to see that Mom was always seeking common ground with which to reconnect with her daughter who had gone off to school five hours away and never looked back. I was never a child who appreciated criticism of any kind; instead, I strove constantly for unaided perfection whether in schoolwork or in horseback riding, reacting adversely to advice of any kind and especially if it came from Mom.
Mom wasn’t a professional horsewoman herself, but a lifelong horse lover who had always had to work hard for any time with a horse at all. I remember snippets of stories from her childhood, spending her time hanging around local 4H shows merely to watch and learn, or working off a riding lesson or two here and there. She never owned a horse; my grandparents were ignorant of the equestrian world and it remained a hobby and out-of-reach dream. I wonder how early on my mother recognized signs of the same passion in me, whether in my elementary school years demanding ponies for Christmas or hours spent on a rocking horse (I believe I flipped it over from rocking too hard) or even earlier, beyond the range of my own toddler memory. Can such things be genetic?
When I was old enough to display that this desire for all things equine was, in fact, a passion and not a phase, Mom took what little extra money we had and signed me up for riding lessons and summer camps, getting us heavily involved with the county 4H program. She spent countless hours at the rail of horse shows, watching my small triumphs and greater flops, helping me bathe the blue-eyed cremello pony I free-leased for years and years, being bitten and stepped on and generally abused not only by the Knothead as we affectionately called him but by my adolescent self who I recognize now as being a terrible sport to my ever-patient mother. Upon eventually owning our first horse, I was not very willing to share, choosing to ignore the fact that horses were a shared privilege rather than my own personal right.
How like a mother—spending her time and money so that her selfish daughter could enjoy the opportunities she never could in her own youth, living the dream she was unable to touch. Mom could have put part of my lesson money into lessons for herself, but instead she chose to further my riding as much as she was able, paying for my classes and trainer fees at countless local shows, waking up willingly long before dawn, letting herself be dragged about by stubborn ponies as I soaked everyone with the wash-rack hose. If she ever complained, she did not voice it to me.
Thankfully for Mom’s sake, after I went away to college she was able to get the horse she truly deserved. Her equestrian karma finally kicked in and she’s now happily thundering about all over various trail systems around our hometown with her girlfriends and their horses, fearless and free aboard the unflappable Winston who has a heart of gold despite a rather unfortunate-looking exterior. (Sorry, Mom, he’s just a little homely.)
What thanks did I give her for a lifetime of personal sacrifice? Never enough, of course, and never directly to her. I’d like to think that turning her years of support into a fairly successful career would show her how grateful I am. In case I didn’t get that point across, however, here’s to you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.
About Kristen: Kristen was an English major at Alfred University and was then hired on after graduation as the western teacher and trainer at the university’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center. She would joke on that irony but her students don’t find it very funny any more. Kristen coaches the varsity western team, teaches classes in western riding and draft horse driving, and keeps several of her own horses in training on the side. She shows reined cow horse and also shows western pleasure and horsemanship for fun. Between her horses and her students, Kristen is never short on stories to tell. Some of these stories can be read at her blog at thewesternlife.wordpress.com. She has also been published in Today’s Equestrian and Take the Reins.
Kristen & her horse Playgirl