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Honoring Mother’s Day with Horse Show Mother and Daughter Duos

When it comes to Mother’s Day, it is easy to celebrate the women in our lives who go above and beyond every day. Mothers are always selflessly putting their children first when rarely receiving the thanks they deserve. On top of being an everyday Mom, Horse Show Moms are one-of-a-kind that deserve all the love and recognition on Mother’s Day. Without our Horse Show Moms, horse shows wouldn’t be the same.

GoHorseShow had the pleasure of interviewing mother and daughter duos that have the privilege of showing together. These duos get to experience all the major shows, the highs and lows, the laughter, and the tears together. 

Follow along with Robyn and Emma Garcia, Jennifer and Bella D’Onofrio, and Ann and Lillian Woodruff. They share their experiences on what it is like to be a Horse Show Mother and Daughter pairing. 

Daughter Questions

How has your mom impacted your horse career?

Lillian Woodruff: She has been my strongest support system and has inspired me to keep going through my most challenging times. She’s pushed me to where I am today and made me stronger, both in and out of the arena. (pictured right)

Bella D’Onofrio: My mom has impacted my horse career in many ways. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would be where I am today. I fell in love with horses when she put me on her show horse when I was tiny. She has impacted everything, from my trainer to my clothing and financial support. We have also gone through some very tough horse losses, but we are getting through it with each other’s love and support.

Emma Garcia: I always tell people that my mom is my “business partner.” We buy, sell, own, and breed our horses together. When I first started showing, my mom did not ride, but now that we ride and show together, it has made the entire experience more fun. Since we both show the hunter under saddle now, we can coach each other and give advice.

What is your favorite horse show memory with your mom?

Lillian Woodruff: My favorite memory was when I used to barrel race, and she would have our dog in the stands with her. I could hear her cheering and Buzzy barking above the rest of the crowd noise during every run. They have always been my two biggest cheerleaders.

Bella D’Onofrio: There are so many memories that will stick with me forever –  the world show when she screamed and almost fell over the rail in excitement, to her running across the Celeste when I won the Congress. I will never forget the first time I won the Level 1 Championship; she knocked my hat off because she squeezed me hard. (pictured left)

Emma Garcia: Unfortunately, whenever my mom places at a big show, I am usually at school, so I have to watch the live feed and text our trainer for updates, and I hate that I can’t hug her. Despite that, one of my favorite memories was sitting in my zoom class this past semester watching my mom show the Level 1 Select Hunter Under Saddle and crying in the middle of class when my mom placed. Not only was it her first World Show, but she was also showing my old horse, who is genuinely our unicorn. It was such a special moment, and even though I couldn’t be there in person, I still called my mom as soon as she was back to the stalls. 

What makes your mom the best Horse Show Mom?

Lillian Woodruff: Her humor keeps each day at a show interesting. Some days can go by slow, but there’s always something to laugh about with her at the barn. She can always turn things around and cheer everyone up, even if we have an extra-long day or a bad ride.

Bella D’Onofrio: There are so many reasons. Some of the biggest things are that she does everything without complaining or a grudge. She is willing to do anything I need, no matter how it has to be done. We sit down the day before we leave for the horse show and make a list of everything we need. She never forgets the horse’s favorite treats. We can’t go to the show without them. She also always makes sure that I make it to all my events, whether going back and forth to a soccer game and getting dressed in the car to run in, make my class, or constantly coaching on the rail. It’s always great to have another person watching and telling you if you need to change anything. There is never a class where she fails to video to look back and see what needs to be fixed for next time. The pure joy we share after the perfect runs are nothing short of the best moments.

Emma Garcia: I feel like I have the most supportive show mom. Even when I have a rough ride, my mom is almost always on the side, reassuring me. The only time she isn’t there is when she’s prepping her horses. She is not only an amazing show mom, but she is my teammate and road trip buddy. I can’t imagine horse shows without her.

Does your mom have any unique pieces of advice/horse show rituals with you?

Lillian Woodruff: Before every class, my mom always helps me get ready and tells me to “do great but have fun.” She’s always encouraged me to keep my passion at the center of what I’m doing. 

Bella D’Onofrio: Yes, my mom and I have many rituals before every class. She comes over with a yellow boot shiner and a squishy pink hoof pick and gives me a good luck boot polish and picks my horse’s feet. We enjoy everything from frozen dinners in the camper to traveling around the county.

Emma Garcia: Our first goal is always to have fun, so before every class, my mom reminds me that this is my hobby and I should be enjoying it no matter the outcome. I tend to get nervous before I show, but my mom’s pep talks always make me confident. One of our horse show rituals is to listen to whatever song we like at the time of the morning we show. It is usually a song that will hype us up. (pictured left)

Mother Questions

What is your favorite part about showing with your daughter?

Ann Woodruff: Watching Lilli’s personal growth and development throughout her life, especially in the realm of horse showing, has been one of my favorite parts of this journey. It’s been wonderful to watch her as she’s grown year after year and the skills she’s developed in different disciplines. Above all, I cherish the time spent together and the memories that we’ve been able to share through this experience.

Jennifer D’Onofrio: My favorite part has to be the high fives and hugs that come after big wins, at that moment when it all comes together, and you know their dream has come true. There is no more incredible feeling. Congress wins, and World Show titles come with incredible dedication, lots of heartache and tears, and grit along the way. But when it all comes together, I am so lucky to share her joy.

Robyn Garcia: My favorite part of showing with Emma is getting to spend time with her. Especially now that Emma is in college, going to shows is often the only time I get to see her. Emma is my biggest cheerleader and, occasionally, my harshest critic. I value her opinion and everything that she has taught me about showing.

What do you think your daughter benefits from showing horses?

Ann Woodruff: We’ve seen Lilli’s self-discipline, responsibility, and work ethic take shape through her horse showing career. The time and dedication that it takes for mastering the skills that she needs and persevere through the long days, extended seasons, and disappointments have helped cultivate a plethora of skills that she’ll need for life outside the ring. And while Lilli should be incredibly proud of all of her accomplishments and triumphs, she remains humble and gracious through it all.

Jennifer D’Onofrio: I think showing horses has taught Bella how hard work can pay off. It has taught her that you must care for your horse, even when tired and exhausted because they depend on us. Whether we win or lose, they still need our love and care. And you learn to bounce back, keep working and try again. I think that will be key in her career and life.

Robyn Garcia: Emma has learned to manage her time and accept failure through showing. Emma has remained an honors student through high school and college while continuing to show. She has learned to balance school, her rescue horse at home, and her show horses. Emma has also learned to accept defeat gracefully and practice harder to achieve her goals.

How did you and your daughter get into showing?

Ann Woodruff: I showed horses as a child and young adult, and after 25 years of getting out of the sport and not having horses, we purchased horses for our ranch in Montana. My love of the horses evolved into her showing at a local fair horse show in Montana. Once she got that initial taste of showing, that’s all she wanted to do, so she started showing at some regional saddle clubs in Georgia before fully diving into the world that we’re in now. Since Lilli began her collegiate career this past fall, it was time for me to get back in the saddle and, after 40 years, showed for the first time in December of 2020.

Jennifer D’Onofrio: I was born with a horse infatuation and showed 4-H, open, and the Paint horse circuit. I was so lucky my parents worked so hard to give me those opportunities and gladly provide the same for her. When Bella was born, I just hoped and prayed she too would love horses, and she did. Bella started showing my youth horse in leadline and walk-trot at the age of four at our County fair. He was 34 when he passed away and truly blessed our family. I went to Congress and called on about 30 horses to be her first small fry horse, and luckily one of those calls was to Missy Thyfault. She has been our long-term trainer and Bella’s second mom ever since.

Robyn Garcia: Emma has loved horses since she was about two years old. I waited until 11 to put her in riding lessons because I knew it would be all-consuming once she started. Emma began showing when she was 12 through a local boarding barn. In 2015, Emma joined Lynda Danielson with her hunt seat horse, Lovin This Tail. Emma has had numerous hunt seat and all-around horses with Lynda. I had never really ridden as a child, but began to ride shortly before we joined Lynda. A year after Emma joined Lynda, I began to show Emma’s first show horse in showmanship. Soon after that, I bought Hot Lollipop and began to learn the all-around events. This past year, I began to ride hunt seat with Emma’s horse, HRZ Elegant And Blue.

What is your favorite class to watch your daughter show in?

Ann Woodruff: Since Lilli shows all-around, it is challenging to choose one specific class as my favorite. I would lean more towards showmanship as my favorite because I love how poised and confident Lilli is while she executes her patterns. 

Jennifer D’Onofrio: Wow, that’s a hard choice! Honestly, she loves every single class, and so do I. If I had to pick, it would probably be trail. I think I ride every obstacle with her…counting strides and clucking the entire time. My videos are always quite entertaining. And I think I’ve improved my lung capacity to hold my breath three to four minutes at a time. Happy Mother’s Day to all the awesome Horse Show Moms out there. It’s the best job in the World.

Robyn Garcia: My favorite class to watch Emma show is hunt seat and equitation.  Emma is a beautiful rider, and those are her favorite classes as well. 

GoHorseShow would like to wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day!

About the Author- Kaylee Mellott has been showing Quarter Horses in the All-Around events for over ten years under the guidance of her father, Jeff Mellott, and Highpoint Performance Horses. She is a graduate of Baylor University, where she was a member of the Equestrian Team. When Kaylee isn’t riding, she enjoys reading books, watching Netflix, and hanging out with friends and family.