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Families Who Show Together: Kids and Parents Joining Forces in the Show Pen

Somehow Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s a time for reflection, giving thanks and, most importantly, family. We are thankful to be part of one of the only sports that allows us to directly compete and share this passion with our families.

Horses afford us the opportunity to bond, teach, show and uplift each other. Win or lose, when you’re competing with someone you love, the experience is that much better. Watching someone work toward a dream that you share with them is humbling and motivating. You know how hard they push themselves, because you have been there yourself. You want it for them as much as they want it for you. That’s something special.

With the Congress and AQHA World Show over, we had the chance to catch up with some of the industry’s leading kid/parent teams to find out what they enjoy about showing together.

Madison Musser and Rebecca Fussell

This Texas family has a rich and diverse history in the horse world. Rebecca’s paternal grandfather was a racehorse trainer and her dad, the late Connie Wills, worked for E.P Waggoner. He rode and showed Poco Champ and also handled stallions including Poco Bueno. He was eventually introduced to halter horses when he went to work for R.Q. Sutherland. Rebecca’s mom, Betty, was a jockey with an aspiration to be the first female jockey in the Kentucky Derby, which she was well on her way to do but life had other plans.

As for working together at the shows, Rebecca says the two of them are a team. “Madison is excellent about getting herself and her horse ready by herself. If I’m not showing, I will help her, but she has it under control the majority of the time.”

Madison echoes her mom by saying that they are “a good support system for each other. I usually help her with her horse when I’m not showing, and she does the same for me. It is always fun having your mom there to support and motivate you to do your best.”

For Rebecca, the best part of competing together is that she can relate to her daughter. “I know how much effort goes into showing at this level…I am her biggest cheerleader.”

Madison says the best part of showing together is having her mom there if she wins. “It makes it that much more special because she knows how much effort and work I put in. She is always there to lift my head when things don’t go as planned.”

When asked what showing together has taught each of them, Rebecca answered with patience. “Madison is a teenager, and I know every parent can relate. Also, learning to control my nerves because I get more nervous about when she shows than when I do.”

Madison explained that showing with her mom has taught her that no matter what, she can’t have a bad attitude. “She has taught me to work hard for what I want because things won’t happen if I don’t put in the effort.”

And her effort has paid off. At this year’s Congress, Madison brought home the champion trophy in 12-14 Hunter Under Saddle. She was also fifth in equitation, Top 15 in horsemanship and showmanship and ninth in NYATT Showmanship.

“We are so blessed to be able to do this together. This is quality time that we get to spend together,” Rebecca says.

Livvie Van Lanen and Rob Huver

Livvie Van Lanen of Green Bay, Wisconsin competes with her mom, Jane and step-dad, Rob. Both of them have been riding their entire lives. Jane knew she wanted to raise her daughters (Livvie and sister, Liza) as horse lovers too.

When Livvie first started out, she and Liza showed their aunt and uncle’s halter horses in addition to their riding horses. Liza focused on the halter and hunter under saddle but is now taking a break to focus on her career. Livvie says that her sister always watches her online and does make it to a few shows a year to spend horse show time with the family.

“It’s a shared passion in our family. I can’t see us not showing together,” Livvie expressed. She says, the best part about showing together is traveling and getting to spend time with their ‘horse show family.’ The group trains under the guidance of Highpoint Performance Horses.

Showing with family isn’t always a cake walk, as Livvie puts it. She says she wasn’t always open to the constructive criticism that her mom and Rob provided. Now she recognizes and appreciates their knowledge and support toward one of her most treasured passions. Jane is reportedly the go-to mom for the best showmanship and horsemanship hair.

Competing together also means sharing a horse. All But Sudden (Stevie-Wonder) was shown mainly by Livvie during her youth years while Rob exhibited him in trail and western riding. Now that Livvie is an amateur, she and Rob take turns and focus on the shows that they enjoy most.

Livvie was only able to show at Congress in one event due to college midterms, but she ended up eighth in AQHA and sixth in NSBA in Amateur Trail. Also, this was her first world show as an amateur where she placed in the Top 10 of the Level 3 Amateur Trail.

Taylor and Liz Brown

Taylor and Liz Brown, of California, are another mom/daughter team to be reckoned with. Horses have been in the family for years. Taylor explained that her dad’s side of the family had a cattle ranch and her dad still team ropes.

Taylor and her mom, Liz share a horse named Absolute Best Asset (Axle) who is in training with Bruce Vickery and Anthony Montes in Pilot Point, Texas. They help each other by videotaping their rides and offering their support. “I love competing with my mom because she is the one who makes it possible for me to show. She is my number one supporter, and I’m her number one fan.”

The duo says that competing is all about having fun. “My mom and I always have a great time, win or lose,” Taylor says of her experience.

Liz competed at the Congress and was third in Novice Amateur Western Riding, ninth in Select Amateur Western Riding and a finalist in both the novice and select showmanship.

Taylor just finished up her 2017 AQHA World Show with an impressive seventh in both Level 3 boxing with Zoes Shining Bay and western riding with Absolute Best Asset. She was also a finalist in Level 2 showmanship and western riding.

Lindsey and Sandy Stevenson

Lindsey was born into the horse industry. Her mom and dad had a training business when she was young, but now she and her mom, Sandy, show under the guidance of Dan and Darlene Trein. They both show He Is My Choice (Ebert) in the all-around events and will be showing My Daddys Lazy.

“We work together with running patterns. I keep my horse at home because I like to be able to ride as much as I want and we have a lot of shows that are in a close range to home,” Lindsey says.

Sandy explained that they help each other by practicing the patterns and switching to who is being the judge. “It’s a two-person team when it comes to getting Ebert ready to show. I have certain things I do, like banding and doing the hoof black (she’s a mess with the hoof black), and Lindsey’s has the task of keeping those white legs clean and doing his tail.”

The girls have had a very successful 2017 including Sandy tying for first in the Level 1 Novice Amateur Select Showmanship (named reserve champion) at Congress, and currently leading the nation in Novice Amateur Showmanship.

“It’s not always easy taking a lesson from your daughter, but the teamwork is very rewarding. Without her, I would never have achieved the results I had this year. There was nothing like this year’s Congress. Being called out two firsts and two seconds on the judges’ cards…I’m pretty sure she was happier with the outcome than I was. All her hard work this year paid off.”

Lindsey was 12th in the Amateur Showmanship at the Congress but was unable to show at the AQHA World Show because her trainer was judging the show. She has her sights set on 2018.

This dedicated team says that this year will be hard to beat, but they are excited about the future. Sandy will start showing in the Novice Amateur Horsemanship and Trail. Lindsey plans to start showing their younger horse later in 2018.

Lindsey left us with this thought about working with her mom, “It teaches me every weekend that there is no way we could do this and be successful without each other. It takes a great team to make everything work.”

Power Teams

These kid/parent teams are embracing the family aspect of horse showing to its capacity. They can support each other, learn from experience and share some of life’s most precious gifts; time and horses. Congratulations to all of these exceptional exhibitors on their accomplishments in 2017 and wish them good luck in the new year.

Photos @ Shane Rux, Ali Grusha, Terri Cage

About the Author: GoHorseShow writer and MQHA Queen, Morgan McCarthy Warda, is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in Wildlife Biology and Writing. Morgan grew up actively competing on the AQHA circuit. She balances her time between her job as an Soil Conservation Technician, showing, writing, being an MQHA board member, and running a saddle dyeing business (Revitalized Saddles). In the future, Morgan plans to obtain a Master’s degree in Wildlife Management and continue to be an active member of AQHA.