When Riding Was All Blue Ribbons

“I want a pink ribbon! Why do I always get blue?” cried my 5 year old daughter as she burst into tears. Tears turned to anger, and she asked again, “why do I always get blue?” Equestrian Moms, I tell you now, there is NO answer to this question.

The first “shows” my daughter “competed” in were called “Lead Line”. These are classes within shows where very young riders are allowed to “compete” by being led around the ring by an adult while the judge asks the rider to change gaits, walk or trot. Ribbons are then awarded to the participants. Lead line riders always all get blue, first place, ribbons. The next level of showing is when a child is able to accomplish the same riding tasks only now, without an adult leading the horse. The judges evaluate the horse and rider and present ribbons for first, second, third places. Often at this level, ribbons may be awarded for up to 12 places. This enables virtually all of the riders to get a ribbon. These shows, are as much fun for spectators as for the riders. I always looked forward to them. There was no pressure and usually no competition either; although the kids know that they are being judged against other riders.

As I’ve said previously, my daughter LOVED to compete. She would prep for these beginner shows as though she were going to the Olympics. It was amazing to see my daughter, at ages 5 and 6, take responsibility for getting her horse ready for these shows and practice her riding. Practice was sometimes on horseback in lessons, or sometimes on the back of her older brother!

It appeared to me, the other kids her age at the shows were not approaching their shows with as much dedication and single-mindedness. The result being, my daughter, almost always, placed first and was awarded a blue ribbon. “How wonderful!” you are saying. Wonderful it was for the first couple of shows…then it started. At such a young age, my daughter didn’t want all the same color ribbons even if they WERE blue. Other riders were receiving different colors of ribbons for placing differently and she became jealous of their growing collection of various colors.

So, my 5 year old, who was usually the youngest in any of her classes, set her sights on collecting ALL of the various colors of ribbons…..especially the coveted pink one (fifth place). When she announced this goal to me, as an Equestrian Mom, the “fun” I’d had at her shows disappeared. Even if she decided to not ride up to her ability, there would never be a guarantee that she would get THE color of ribbon she was looking for that day. YIKES! All I could think of was disaster in the making.

The result of her plan was that even if she tried not to place first, she seemed to always somehow be awarded one of those pesky BLUE, first place ribbons. Once she came in second and got a red ribbon which was probably the best day of her life until then. But no pink. Hence the cry, “why do I always get only blue ribbons?” You can see how she felt about blue ribbons by looking at her face in pictures taken from those shows.

As an aside, this is one of many issues that can arise when very young children start riding. If the kids legs are long enough, they take direction well, and can differentiate between their right and left hands ( in riding known as inside and outside hands) the child is probably old enough to start riding, but not always emotionally ready. As an Equestrian Mom, your support and understanding will be essential to navigate the early years. And, lest I forget, you need a sense of humor just to keep your own sanity.

As my daughter started to compete at recognized shows and began traveling through the US to attend those shows, she collected every color of ribbon….including the coveted pink one, just 20 years too late.