Mother's Day is this Sunday. Guess how I'll be spending it? No, I won't be at a family picnic honoring my mom. Nor will I be sitting around a table in a crowded restaurant, sipping champagne while watching my mother unwrap a bundle of gifts. And since I haven't foaled any children myself (just in case you were wondering) I won't be the center of anyone's attention. Instead, while most of you are celebrating Mother's Day in some traditional manner, I'll be judging a horse show. Somehow, that's fitting, is it not? I mean, why start now to cancel horse-related activities in lieu of family obligations? Besides, trust me: My mother understands.
My mother is the great enabler who not only encouraged my sister Jill and me to fully embrace our horse craziness, but she rode into the madness right along with us. When Jill and I traveled the horse show circuit our mom came, too. I can still remember the years spent at the Santa Barbara "turkey" show. It was called that because it was held over Thanksgiving. Rather than staying home and hostessing a typical feast, our mother could be found sitting in the chilly grandstand at Santa Barbara until well past dark, cheering on Jill and me in whichever class we were silly enough to be riding in. The wind would be blowing, the cold ocean air would be biting through our huntcoats and more often than not it'd be raining. But our mom would be sitting near the front row of the bleachers, wrapped in her red parka, with one of our barn dogs (Sugar the Samoyed or Nancy the Old English Sheepdog) lying across her feet like a shaggy rug.
When we weren't competing, our mom would offer up encouragement as only a mother can. Sometimes she'd toss out unsolicited observations that ignored reality. For example, I'd be on a 17-some-hand 3-year-old that was just one hop, skip and leap away from bolting into a bucking frenzy and she'd say, "He looks perfectly well behaved to me. Are you going to try cantering?"
She also had a knack for pointing out things that really were better left unsaid. There was the time when I was schooling my equitation horse in the warm-up ring at a show, just before a medal class. My trainer had set up a large oxer to sharpen up my horse and I was really focusing on nailing it just right. Half of a stride off and I'd land in the middle of the jump or catch the back rail. I came cantering around the corner, my brow furrowed in concentration. My mom was standing on the rail and just as my horse was about to leave the ground I distinctly heard her say, "You know, Cindy, that oxer is really big."
Over the years Jill and I were pleased to notice that our mom developed a certain level of horse knowledge. She was a decent judge of conformation and she could tell a good mover from a poor one. And she could ride quite well. Though she always rode in a western saddle, our mom learned how to post the trot and she was quite adept at trail riding. She personally owned three riding horses: Mary (a gaited something-or-other), Mouse (a sweet, gray Polish Arab) and Tudor (a silvery AQHA gelding that had been a former show hunter). And she was officially the owner and breeder of countless Thoroughbreds and warmbloods that she never rode and mostly pet and fed. Her favorite horse in this group-- in fact, her favorite horse of all time-- was Las Vegas, a gorgeous Trakehner mare she bred and raised. The dappled mahogany bay mare with the dished, Araby face was her pride and joy until she died an untimely death. My sister and I used to joke that Las Vegas was the daughter our mother always wanted to have.
Though our mom hasn't ridden in years due to her arthritis, her heart is still wrapped around horses. It's an abiding love that is no less than the passion my sister and I feel for our horses.
If you'd like to share your thoughts about your own mom, and how she influenced or supported your love of horses, click this link to a special article on Horse Channel. It's our latest installment of HI Spy:
Tell All About Your Mom
And, whether you're celebrating Mother's Day with your own mother this Sunday-- or if you're "the Mom" and you're Queen for a Day-- have a nice time. Just think of me. I'll be holding a clipboard and deciding who gets which ribbon, hoping not to incur the wrath of any Horse Show Moms.