"Your job as a parent is to lead by example and show your kids that no matter what, they can get through anything and use the experience to transform their life," Farris states. Photo © Impulse Photography

Five Things Every Horse Show Parent Needs to Know

Most people would agree that being a parent is one of the hardest yet rewarding jobs on the planet. You worry, support, nag and bribe your kids to do the right thing, and at the end of the day, all you really want is for your child to be happy. Then, one day, your dear son or daughter says four innocent little words, “I want a horse” and life as you know it will never be the same. Before you take on the role of a horse show parejnt, or if you are a seasoned veteran, here are five things you should know to make the most out of your horse parenting experience.

#1 – Understand your role
If you are showing on the national level, you have most likely enlisted the help of a professional trainer. With that said, there is an unwritten structure that exists in the horse show world, and to some parents, it seems counter-intuitive. After all, you paid for the horse, you pay for the trainer, it’s your child, therefore, the horse, the trainer and child all report to you, right?
Not exactly. Think of it this way, when it comes to matters of the equine variety, the trainer is your trusted advisor and consultant, so choose them wisely and treat them as such. Your role as a parent is to manage the process, which entails setting the goals, budget and master plan for your son or daughter and gain agreement with the trainer. That way, there are no surprises or missed expectations from either end, and if changes need to be made, it is your job to communicate them to the trainer.

As a side note, another nuance that may surprise you is that when the trainer asks your child to do something, you may notice how they jump to attention and respond quickly and swiftly as if they are given a command by an Army General. Your job is to sit back in amazement and be proud that your child is learning how to follow orders in a highly structured environment, and just maybe, some of that discipline will show up at home.
#2 – Horses are expensive

Let me say it again. Horses are expensive. It’s not the cost of the horse; it’s the cost of everything else that adds up quickly. Gone unmanaged, it can spiral out of control. The key is to set a budget, and stick to it. Once you decide how much you will spend, then allocate your assets accordingly. This may mean you will have to do with one less outfit, or a new saddle, but you are teaching your kids financial responsibility. Take time to figure out how much you are willing to spend, and stick to it.

#3 – You are their role model
When kids are involved with horses, they will have the opportunity to learn some of life’s biggest lessons-both pleasant and unpleasant. How they learn to deal with any significant event comes from you. When life throws you a curve ball, do you accept it and deal with it gracefully, or do you tend to ask, “Why does this always happen to me?” and claim that life isn’t fair. Somewhere along the way, you will encounter some unpleasant situations ranging from not placing when they had their best ride, going off pattern when it really mattered, a sidelining injury or the death of a horse. Your job is to lead by example and show your kids that no matter what, they can get through anything and use the experience to transform their life.

#4 – It’s not about the trophy

Winning is great, but developing a winning attitude is better. Horse showing is one of those sports where not a whole lot is in our control. We can’t know exactly how our horse is going to behave, if it is going to rain, how the judges will view our performance, and who we compete against. What is in our control, is to understand that it is a privilege to be able to show and that it is meant to be enjoyable. When you pay attention and praise your kids for doing the right things, such as being kind to their horse, mastering a new skill or being responsible for getting themselves organized and ready to enter the pen on their own, you are teaching them that the character they are building is the ultimate prize.
#5 – What your kids want to hear
I devoted an entire article to this subject in January, and you can read it here but it bears repeating. Over the course of 30 years, high school athletes were asked what they wanted their parents to say after a competition or game. You know what it was?
I love watching you play.
That’s it. Simple and to the point. No nit-picking and re-hashing every moment, good or bad. As a horse show parent, my challenge to you is to do more than just saying the words, the challenge is for you to do that. When you truly love watching your kids ride, you will have given them the best gift of all, your unconditional love and support.
Kirsten Farris is a regular contributor to GoHorseShow.com and a Certified Sport Consultant, Certified Equestrian Fitness Trainer, and the Author of The Workbook for the Equestrian Athlete – A Guide to Showring Success. Kirsten and her horse, Lyles Al Lie, were the 2012 and 2013 AQHA Select World Champion in Hunter Under Saddle. For more information contact her at: kirsten@equestrianathlete.com © 2013

Photo © Impulse Photography