Your Turn: We’re gonna need a bigger checkbook

Mary Anne Payne loved competing in the adult hunters… until her daughter started following in mom’s horse-loving footsteps. She recounts her journey from the ring to the rail.

From Mary Anne:

I had a pony when I was 13 that used to roll under the pasture fence (at least that’s what we were TOLD) and wander over to one of Atlanta’s most exclusive golf courses (where they used to play the Atlanta Classic, darling) and partake of the lush grass on the fairways. My parents would get a call from the barn to come over and fetch said ginormous FAT pony eating expensive golf course fairway at 6 a.m. So mom would drag me out of bed, put me in the yellow Pontiac Bonneville station wagon with the wood on the sides and hand me the halter and command me to go find my pony. This was in 1973.

Oh the sacrifices we make.

For my 40th birthday my husband grudgingly made the mistake of agreeing to my big gift. A nice expensive (to me) hunter that would carry me in the Adult Hunter classes and 1) not toss me at the first oxer 2) be pretty 3) be a seeing eye dog and 4) win the hack. Which is what you want when you are 40 and can’t find a distance because you are too vain to wear bifocals when you are riding….


Ocala in 2002, “Heading for an oxer, hoping not to die”

At the time, my daughter was 5 and enjoyed traveling to horse shows with me and the crew. She was way more interested in the ice cream at the concession stand, the pool at the hotel, and running and leaping over stacked hay bales than actually getting on an animal. Which, thankfully, worked well. Because, you know, this time in my life WAS all about ME.

Then a mom friend of mine who actually really did train her daughters (one made it to the Maclay Finals) started training at a barn near my home.

It was time.

Time to introduce my darling spawn to the sport that will ultimately drain my savings and prevent me from getting a facelift.  Or having a clean house, car, or for that matter, a vacation home.

She started taking lessons. We bought only the good stuff – no vinyl paddock boots for a 6 year old. No sirree!  Tailor made hunt coats, Tailored sportsman kid jods, all leather crop (we have a great consignment shop here, but still not cheap).


Katie & her first pony, Larry

This was a really bad sign.

There went my appropriately named lovely Adult Hunter Empty Pockets.  So this mom sold her hunter. After all, when your kid is asking you, “Hey mom, how DID you do in that ‘Fossils over Fences’ class?” something’s gotta give. Off to Florida. With tears in my eyes I handed him to a friend of a friend who had a great barn and took wonderful care of him. And won, a lot.


Kid 1, Mom 0.

You see, this particular family doesn’t have a dad performing at The Garden, or that invented software, or is the Mayor of New York. Just an Airline dad and a real estate slingin’ mom.

I really, really enjoyed the pony mom era. Wearing a cute straw hat, grooming that little sucker who had to be nuked to pull his mane after he nearly killed me in his stall, loading up my belt buckle with pony ribbons, braiding sweet child’s hair with pink ribbons flying in the breeze. Unicorns and rainbows, my friends.

Ponies 1, Facelift 0.


Pre-teen Katie

Then she gets to be oh, about 13-14, and the jump crew becomes her new hobby, AND she hangs out around the jumper ring more often than the hunter ring.

Hmmmm. I wonder why???

Now comes the time for custom boots. Custom coats, custom half chaps. And don’t even get me started on the shad belly…

And you leave teen monster in the hotel room to get a little extra sleep and you arrive on the show grounds at 6 a.m. to lunge pent-up beast for one hour in 30 degree weather, pick stall, groom and braid the tail to save a little extra money. Princess mounts lovely hunter, snaps at you for not wiping boots down and parades in to the ring all to pick up the WRONG LEAD in her equitation class.

Horses 1, Facelift 0.

dro (1 of 1)

Katie & Dro, her currently leased jumper

In what other sport, or anywhere, for that matter, would you don expensive all Italian leather boots, custom made wool jacket, pima cotton monogrammed long sleeved shirt, cotton and spandex pants with suede knee patches, mom-made needlepointed belt with dogs on it, in 90 degree heat, all DAY, and then have to pee in a Port A Potty??????

But off we went. To the barn. To shows. Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn. It was still the best time of our lives and worth the fact that all that sun, dust, wind, rain, sleet, early mornings and money is the reason that my house is a mess, my wardrobe is tack shop-Target chic, my hair is its natural color, and the lines on my face are deeper and more pronounced.

So, daughter is now 17, refocused on school, and horse-less, and looking in to colleges. That have riding programs…

So much for that facelift.


Mary Anne Payne lives in the North Atlanta suburbs, and NOT a farm because she would like to stay married. She has one daughter, 17, two terriers that poop in her house, two cats with attitudes and is currently horseless. She rode hunters for years until her daughter decided to ride because she liked the outfit. A desperate horse-wife and real estate broker, she writes at her personal blog Forever 51 on mid life, teens, and humorous events. She thinks she’s a writer because she was the editor of her newspaper in high school.


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