Dynamic Mother Son Duo Vanessa and Collin Froman
American Journalist Steve Rushin is quoted as having said, “Moms are as relentless as the tides. They just don’t drive us to practice; they drive us to greatness.”
For some horse show moms, this is a real sentiment. Of course moms are the ones driving their horse-crazy kids to actual practice, but more importantly, they are often the inspiration and drive behind the passion.
For AQHA and APHA exhibitors Vanessa and Collin Froman, this is elevated to a whole new level. Vanessa is a longtime exhibitor herself and continues to pursue her high-level show ring goals while balancing the role of horse show mom as she encourages her oldest son, Collin, to pursue his dreams.
This summer and fall will see this dynamic mother/son duo tackle all of the majors, and we mean all of them. The Fromans are headed the AQHYA World Show, the NSBA World Show, the APHA World Show, The All-American Quarter Horse Congress, and the AQHA World Show.
GoHorseShow caught up with the Fromans while they were at…naturally, a horse show, to chat about their unique relationship and how they both balance showing with life outside of horses.
Where it All Began
Vanessa was raised in a horse show family. She explains, “My mom and dad met at a horse show, and grandfather bred and raised horses locally.” With this history, Vanessa grew up showing and ended up showing paints as a youth and early in her amateur career.
Fast forward a bit, and after getting married to husband John and starting a family, Vanessa, like many horse show moms, introduced her boys (Collin, now 13, and Connor, now 10) to the world of horse showing through leadline.
Froman recalls, “With paints, they also have the color class which is great for kids and Collin didn’t have a good showmanship horse yet, so both of my boys started showing with both leadline and showing in the color class. If you ask Connor, he will say he is retired, but Collin has stuck with the horses, and he is very passionate.”
This year will be Collin’s first trip to the AQHA Youth World Show, and he’s moved up very quickly from his days in leadline and color class. Vanessa shares, “It was just six years ago that Collin took his first official walk-trot lesson. He was always around horses and riding, and I would tell him, ‘you do not have to show’ you can just ride, but he wanted to show.”
In that vein, Vanessa encourages him to focus on the classes that he enjoys most. In particular, Collin has developed a real passion for showmanship. Vanessa says, “Ultraviolet was Collin’s walk-trot paint mare. We had tried a couple of different walk-trot horses, and it was Violet that taught him about showmanship. She is a showmanship machine, and he started working hard with this class.”
She adds, “Reba (Assets Miss Reba) has been giving him the confidence to ride. It’s only been a year of him loping in the show pen. He works hard, and he gives up a lot to do this.”
As you might imagine from the list of shows, the Fromans are headed for this year, they are on the road and in the barn a lot working to make their dreams a reality. When we chatted, they were looking at a full three weeks of travel. So, just how do they balance family time friendships?
“It is hard for me to be away from Connor- so it is difficult,” Vanessa says. “I make a huge effort to be there for his soccer. For example, this winter, while most people would be spending Saturday’s at Jenell’s [trainer Jenell Pogue] to ride, Connor had soccer on Saturdays through the winter, so it was my priority to always be there for his soccer.”
Vanessa’s husband, John supports her and Collin during busy show runs by meeting Vanessa and Collin whenever possible. Vanessa explains, “When we are gone for a long time, John and Connor make the trip to be at the show with us for some time or will meet us at Jenell’s to spend time there, while we get practice time in.”
She laughs, “We’ve been living out of the motorhome since May 1st. We call it our summer home. But, for example, this Sunday night, John and Connor will drive out to spend part of the week with us at Jenell’s home so that we can have dinner and family time together. The Pogue’s have a pool, and we will all get dinner or enjoy dinner together.”
As for Collin, he focuses on spending time with friends when he is at home, and he and brother Connor connect through games. Collin says, “We talk and keep in touch, and when I’m at home, we hang out and play video games and get in as much time as possible. Last week we tried to see everybody because we were going to be hitting the road for the next month and a half.”
Vanessa adds, “Collin and Connor are best friends. Of course, they get on each other’s nerves, but they do miss each other when they’re apart.”
Training, Goals, and Sharing Horses
Vanessa is very competitive by nature, and admits, “It’s tough to balance being competitive and balancing the need just to have fun. I read an article a long time ago about sports parents and raising a mentally healthy child, and in it, it said that every time they watch their child play a sport, the conversation should be ‘Did you have fun’ and ‘I had fun watching you have fun’ – no critiques, so when Collin goes into the show pen, it’s ‘I love you and have fun’ and when he comes out its ‘Did you have fun?'” She also notes, “Watching your kids be happy is so amazing, and it is hard for kids nowadays to know what makes them happy.”
Balancing being a parent and knowing when to push and when to hold back isn’t the only challenge, Vanessa and Collin are sharing horses at times, too. Vanessa and Collin will share APHA/AQHA mare Into Certain Pleasures, or “Becky,” while at APHA or color-breed events.
Likewise, they’ll share APHA/AQHA western pleasure gelding, Hour More Sleep, or “Travis.” Vanessa says, “Now that he’s riding my horse and starting to do showmanship with my horse, it’s hard to shut my mouth. Sharing a horse is hard, and we’re still figuring it out.”
For Collin, sharing horses is a good experience, as he’s learning how to work with different horses. Vanessa jokes, “I do have one horse that I don’t have to worry about Collin stealing from me. My two-year-old hunt-seater, Dirty Diana. Collin has no interest in that class.”
The Froman’s have set an aggressive fall schedule, so what exactly are their goals, and what are they looking forward to?
Collin says, “I just want to show and do well. I’m just excited to show and explore the different grounds. I’m kind of nervous about showing; I’m always a little nervous about messing up.”
For Vanessa, she, of course, has goals for both herself as an exhibitor, and from the point-of-view as a show mom. “For me, it is about the experience,” she says. “I want to be up against tougher competition; it makes me work harder. My biggest goal is to get really good flying lead changes in patterns and to, in general, just get consistent. I want to do well, so I still get nervous, and so I want to go out there and represent [trainer] Jenell well and showcase my horse.
Vanessa continues, “As for Collin, I’m excited about the team things [Indiana Youth Team] and the experience of being in the team environment at the AQHA Youth World Show. It is harder to make friends at shows as a boy since there aren’t as many boys who show. At the NSBA World Show, his friends Tyler Brooks and Casey Snapp will be there so that it will be really fun.”
She adds, “I’m excited to show at the NSBA World Show. This is the first time for both Collin and me showing there, and we also sponsored the Senior Hunter Under Saddle.” She concludes, “Overall, we are getting our feet wet and going to enjoy the ride. This will be new for us, and it’s about spending quality time together.”
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About the Author – A native Michigander, Rachel Kooiker is a lover of horses who loves to write. She competes in all-around Amateur events with her APHA gelding, Hoos Real. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Curriculum & Instruction. She is an Instructional Technology Specialist in Grand Rapids, MI, where she and her husband Drew operate Kooiker Show Horses, where they raise select Halter and Performance prospects.