Varying Perspectives: Showing as a Youth with Horse Parents vs Non-Horse Parents
Speaking as a youth exhibitor myself, I witness the dedication and undying love for this sport that all of these children and young adults pour into riding. We are willing to stay up for long hours practicing in the hope of our future success with our four legged friends in the show pen.
Although we all share the same devotion to riding and showing, some of us have different upbringings in the horse industry. The parents of youth range from many diverse backgrounds, such as not having any previous knowledge of horses before their child’s interest, to being a horse trainer, to having grown up riding horses.
We interviewed four individuals to get some insight and explore the similarities and differences of growing up with “non-horsey” parents and growing up with trainers as parents.
Taylor has been riding ever since she was born, so 18 years, and started showing in the lead line when she was about three or four years old. Her parents, Jim and Deanna Searles, have been training for about 28 years. She spends a lot of time around horses every day because she attends school for a half day, then stays in the barn until late in the evening.
“I think my riding career has excelled because of my parents, but I think it’s mostly because I see them ride different horses and help clients all the time. I have learned so much from watching them every day.” She explains that she enjoys watching them teach their clients.
“Whenever I show, I don’t feel much pressure, although I used to get nervous when I was younger. I have a lot of fun showing and do not get as anxious as I used to. My mom focuses on the mental side of showing a lot, so she always gives me confidence and makes sure my head is in the right place.”
She is inspired by their dedication and their patience with customers and horses. “Although I love this sport and I’m inspired by their commitment, I am not sure if I will be a trainer when I am older. I want to see what is outside of the horse world, but I will most definitely show as an amateur.”
Ellexxah’s parents, Brent and Melissa, have been training for 35 years, so, naturally, Ellexxah was riding horses and showing in the lead line at just 18 months old. “I ride every day and practice on my own about 95% of the time. If I am struggling with something or if my dad has some free time, he will help me out.”
When she shows, she does not feel pressured by them when she is performing. “They know my weak spots and help me get into the right mindset before I go into the pen.”
“I feel as though I have an advantage because I understand the industry so well from their involvement, but regarding showing, I do not think I have anything more than what other people can work for.” She explains that their dedication and passion inspire her. “They have done this for so long. I would have thought they would have picked up a new job by now, but they have always stuck with it. I love watching them help clients progress with their horse, and they have helped more people reach their goals than I can count.”
Even if her parents were not trainers, she feels as though she definitely would have found her way to horses. “Even when I was young and didn’t fully understand the level my parents worked at, I still loved horses and spending time in the barn. If my parents were not trainers, I don’t know if I would be showing the extent I do, but I think I would have found my way to riding.” When she is older, she plans to be a trainer like them because of her passion for horses.
“One of my favorite memories I shared with my parents was my win in the horsemanship at the Congress in 2013. For the three years prior, I forgot my pattern, so all I was hoping for was to make it back to the finals. They walked hand in hand into the ring with the biggest smile on their faces. It was so meaningful to me to see how proud they were.”
Gavin found his way to horses as a kid when his cousin would help out at horse barns. “After spending some time at the barn with her,” he said, “I fell in love and convinced my parents to let me start riding.” Ever since he convinced his parents to allow him to ride ten years ago, he has avidly shown and began with 4H and open circuits before moving up to breed shows.
He further explains that his parents are laid back about his desire to show horses. “I don’t feel pressured by them when I’m showing because they are content with the happiness riding brings me.” Because of the dedication he has to this sport, Gavin has found that his dad has learned a lot about riding and loves that he travels to shows with him. “My favorite thing about my dad at horse shows is that he always helps me put on my chaps. I am not flexible enough to do it myself, and they are always too tight.”
His mom typically stays at home with his little sister during shows but will occasionally come to closer ones to watch him. Both his parents are happy that he found something he is so passionate about, so they support him every step of the way.
“My favorite memory of my parents has to be this past year at youth world when I made it back to the finals because everything we worked for was finally happening. I loved having them there and am so glad they traveled all the way to Oklahoma with me.”
“My parents like showing and they enjoy learning new things about horses all the time,” she said. “They are not extremely competitive, so I don’t feel pressured when showing. They love traveling with me to shows and meeting new people.”
“What I love most about my parents at shows is how encouraging they are. They are very optimistic and, even if I have the worst pattern of my life, they try to be as positive as possible.”
Although her dad was slightly hesitant about her showing at first, he now fully supports her and loves that she is so passionate about it. Her mom loves that she shows and appreciates the fact that riding sets her apart from her peers at school.
Before the 2015 Congress, Brooke was told she needed to have surgery on something that had been causing her pain. “No matter how bad it hurt, I wanted to show at Congress, so I refused the surgery until afterward. It was a rough two weeks, but my parents supported my decision because of how badly I wanted to show.”
It is clear that all parents, whether trainer or non-horsey, support their kids in this excellent sport. Regardless of upbringing, all youth exhibitors have an undying love for their horses and their showing career. While exhibitors raised by trainers typically start riding at a very young age, all natural-born riders somehow manage to find their way to horses.
To all parents out there, no matter your background, I promise that riding and showing to the extent many do is worth every penny. Foster your child’s love for riding, it will impact their lives in more ways than any other sport or hobby ever will.