Friday, May 9, 2008

A Mother's Nature

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.


Anonymous said...

It's really nice having a mother that understands your horse habit as much as your mom seems to, Cindy.

Please excuse a quick brag moment about myself. Sas' feet have been getting really long and I've been trying for two weeks to get ahold of my farrier to come trim her (she's barefoot). He does a good job but is unreliable, and I can't find anyone else that does a good job. So finally, today, I went down to the feed store and got a file and a hoof knife, and I trimmed Sas myself. It turned out pretty well. I've read, watched, and asked lots of questions so it was pretty much just the hands-on experience left. She didn't limp, and she wasn't tripping anymore, and it was pretty even. As long as she goes barefoot, I think I can trim her myself from now on.

One more thing. Recently, I entered our local library's story contest in the teenage group, and yesterday my Mom got a call from them saying I won first place for my western, "Retirement to Boot Hill." They're having a quick awards ceremony on the 20th. First prize is a $50 savings bond, so I can use that for college later on.

Thanks for listening, I'm just bursting to tell all the cool things that've happened to me!


Anonymous said...

I love my mom. She's great.

We were going over my registration for the state championships this July and the regional championships in August, and she absolutely forgot how old I was. One part asked, "Age of exhibitor as of 1/1/08." She put down 16 at first (that's how old I am), scratched it out, and wrote 15. I had a good laugh over that and she fixed it.

She points out really random things when I'm riding. At one point, Bucky was giving me issues. I got on him and he whipped around and bit my stirrup iron. I gave him a jab with my toe to get him to let go. He then proceeds to lash out with his teeth at every step. After I corrected him with the biting, he goes on to bucking. He was just in a really foul mood. My mom goes, "He seems a little bit antsy." Ahem.

I love how my mom doesn't know much about riding in general but she does try. She critiqued my old jumping pictures from literally eight years ago and goes, "You need to stop throwing yourself at Leo's neck. It's not that attractive."

Another time - I was about to go in the arena at a show, and my mom runs up to me, wipes dust off my boots, washes Bucky's face, and polishes his hooves like she always does. Then she stands up, and I think, "Oh no.... pep talk." She says, "Gina, please remember to release halfway up the neck. Grab mane if you need to." I turned to her and said, "Mom. I'm about to do a dressage test."

I love mommy. I cooked her breakfast today.

Hope you have a good day judging!

Anonymous said...

i wihs my parents were like that. But they put up with my horse craziness somewhat! Especially my mom, she helps so much

Cindy Hale said...

Oh, I always love reading about everyone's mom. My sister and I were very fortunate to have a mom who was a cheerleader and a good shoulder to cry on when things didn't go well. No one loves you like your mom, right?

And I've been known to resort to nipping off a bit of bad hoof myself in an emergency. And I've learned to unclinch and yank off a loose or twisted shoe. Good skills to have!

Sass: CONGRATS on your writing award! How exciting!

Anonymous said...

I am myself a mom, and rather than spending all day with my daughter and mother, I was working; bar tending to raise enough money for gas to go up to Nevada to pick up a horse, in fact! I am luck enough to have been selected as a trainer for the 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover, so now I just need to get the horse back here! Then we'll see what I have to do to raise enough money to get to Texas in September and compete! My mother understands my horse crazy-ness, and while my daughter is only 1, she adores the horses and riding on her rocking horse. We already have a kid's saddle for her, too!

Anonymous said...

My mother is great, but i do wish she shared the same love for horses as i do. She could then relate when i complain about not getting to go out to the barn one day and just how important horses are in my life. you are very lucky that your mom is a horse fanatic also.