I don’t envy the parents of competitive riders! Looking around on show day reveals just how emotionally and physically demanding the sport of horseback riding can be. Show moms and dads have the arduous task of trying to help their young riders cope with the rigours of competing and that can encompass everything from overwhelming excitement to extreme frustration and exhaustion, sometimes within the span of just one class. It’s not an easy or enviable job but someone’s gotta do it!
Watching our kids struggle is never easy. Life is full of ups and downs and this is especially true in the sport of riding…yes, the pun is intended! Parents have a need and a right to understand what their kids are going through and it’s the coaches’ job to fill them in. A little basic training goes a long way to helping parents figure out why a class ribboned the way it did. This is especially true when every rider in a class appears to be riding the exact same way but the Judge keeps ribboning Bay’s and “our Suzy” is riding a Chestnut. Subjectivity’s a bitch and depending on the sport a judge’s decision can turn our amazing round into a flaming pile of pony poop. To the uninformed it might seem that if Suzy were riding a bay she too would be in the ribbons, but as usual things are not always what they seem.
At times like these parents in the know can provide insights which can help a rider understand what went wrong but, more importantly, they can provide a comforting shoulder to cry on. I coached my daughter for many years and she taught me an important lesson. In those dark moments when things seemed to be going wrong, no amount of rationalizing, analyzing or plotting on my part was going to make things better. What she needed most in those moments was for me to step back as a coach and step up as her mom. A well-timed hug from her biggest supporter me, was just the thing to help pick up the pieces and carry on.
Although the coach’s job is to be front and centre show day helping to decipher and decode all the happenings for young riders, at the end of the day kids rely on their parents to make sense of their world post-show. Taking the time to walk parents through some of the nuances of the sport along with class requirements and judging criteria does require a commitment of time and energy from the coach. However, the insights gained more than compensate for that. Especially if mom or dad can help reinforce the things you’re working on and perhaps lessen the inevitable emotional roller coaster ride that is the sport of champions.