I was talking to a young mother friend of mine last week. She asked where to get information about getting her daughter horse riding lessons, and all that entails. How much would lessons cost? What factors should she look for in choosing a lesson facility? Is her daughter old enough to start riding lessons? Of course, I’m happy to answer all of my friends’ questions, but it did get me thinking. Up until now, there has not been a website that could help non-riding parents find out answers to these questions. Parents who are not riders themselves are left to bungle around trying different stables, trainers, and finally trying to make the decision about whether to buy a horse by themselves, without a good source of information to help them in making these decisions. This is the reason Equestrian Moms was formed.
I am a non-riding mom who has made more mistakes than I care to admit, and truly stumbled through the horse world trying to figure out how to provide a safe, horseback riding adventure for my daughter. So, I can say without a doubt, I know what you are going through.
Did I mention that I have been, and still am, a horse Mom? Now going on 26 years! Why, you ask, when my daughter is now 29 years old, am I still involved in the horse world? A very good question. Are you familiar with the saying: ‘Once a mom, always a mom’? It applies even more in the horse world. Once an Equestrian Mom, Always an Equestrian Mom. Through my website, Equestrian Moms, I will attempt to answer questions – like the ones my friend asked – with the goal of helping you navigate through your child’s riding career. I am not an expert on horses, equestrian sports, or riding, I am just a mom who has been through all the trials and tribulations of getting my kid started in the sport. By sharing my experiences, I think it will help my readers be confident, Equestrian Mom.
So, let me tell you how my Equestrian Mom story started. I had trail ridden farm horses a few times in my childhood and taken one English riding lesson when my family lived in Virginia. At 30, now living outside of Ocala Florida (big, big horse country) I decided it would be fun to actually learn to ride. The one hang up was that I was a mom of 2 children, one 5 and one 4. I found a trainer who would allow me to bring my two kids to my lesson and put them on a schooling horse (schooling is what a horse is called who is owned by a barn or trainer and is used mostly as a lesson horse) while I took a lesson. My first lesson went very well. My kiddos were both on horses just standing under a tree in the shade of the outdoor arena. Their horses didn’t want to leave the shade of the tree in the outdoor arena and they were perfectly happy just sitting on their back watching as I had my 30-minute lesson. I was so happy. This seemed like the perfect activity for all three of us and I was enjoying really starting to learn real horsemanship. Then my second lesson. My son was still happy to sit on his horse under a tree, but my daughter was not. She wanted to learn to ride too. She was 4. The trainer said she was probably too young to get much out of the lesson, but she allowed my daughter to participate in MY lesson. My daughter instantly fell in love with riding, horses and competition. The bad news was that her “competition” was me! As the trainer asked “us” to walk around the arena, my daughter sped up so she could pass me and be the one in front. We were in a circular arena so there was really no one in the lead, we were both just walking, trotting and by lesson 6, cantering around the arena on command. By then, my 4-year-old daughter’s competitive spirit took over her whole being. She HAD TO BE IN FRONT of me at all times. Again, we were in a circle so the faster she went around the circle to get in front of me, the faster she ended up behind me again. This started the crying and screaming of frustration from my daughter who couldn’t understand how I could magically always be ahead of her.
My daughter was (and still is) a smart kid (as I know all of yours are too), but at 4 she just wasn’t smart enough to comprehend geometry; even though I tried to explain to her that in a circle, she could always be in front of me IF she slowed down. My 4-year-old was having none of that and in the next 2 lessons continued to go faster and faster to pass me. By lesson 8, the trainer took me a side and told me that our arrangement wasn’t working out. Although my son was still happy to sit on his horse under the shade tree at 25 dollars a half hour, my daughter and I were unteachable together. She was absolutely right. The trainer also suggested that my daughter and I each have separate lessons, which wasn’t a possibility financially. SOOOO, I became an Equestrian Mom. I quit taking lessons which allowed my daughter to get private lessons. With me out of the ring, there was no competition. So, she was able to focus on the trainer, and she has been riding ever since.
I was basically an accidental Equestrian Mom to begin with, but over time became a very involved and – I hope my daughter would say – supportive Equestrian Mom. Your story may not be the same, and could happen accidentally for you BUT, rest assured, you will know the moment it happens. Relish and celebrate being an Equestrian Mom, it is an experience like no other. I wouldn’t change a thing.
The epilogue is that when my daughter started riding solo, I took my son off his stationary hour, because it seemed crazy to pay the fee to have him stand under the tree when I was not in the ring. He was sad at first, but I made it all better (at least temporarily) with a new video game. More on siblings who don’t ride in another post.
-Susan, Equestrian Mom