What’s a show mom?
A show mom is a category of mom that all young riders know and love. Show moms are the ones that come to their daughter’s horse shows, not just to watch, but to support and be a part of their child’s world.
You don’t actually have to be a mom to be a show mom. For example, I’m not a mom, but I surely consider myself a show mom! They’re the mother figures that are there to help, keep everything in line and support the girls who are showing.
It’s usually 50/50 — some mom’s are naturally show moms (they think, why would I miss my daughter’s horse show? It’s her life!), and some mom’s aren’t (they think, I really don’t want to spend a whole day or weekend at my daughters horse show… I have to [fill in the blank] and I can’t loose that much time).
The best thing I can relate it to is the mothers of high school football players. Are you the kind of mom that will get in the car and drive 5 hours to an away game? Will you stand in the cold weather, dressed in your home team scarf, cheering them on? And then drive home to get back in the middle of the night? Or are you a home-game only kind of mom— you’re interested, and you’d like to watch, but only if it’s convenient.
Either way, I can’t judge. Honestly, I get it.
Being a show mom takes an immense amount of commitment to your daughter’s life rather than your own. It means that you will loose precious time just “hanging out” doing what your daughter likes to do. My mom was not a show mom, so I can see it from both sides. But I’d like to give you some insight as to what your daughter is really thinking, so that you can make an informed decision on how involved you’ll be.
Why does your daughter want you to be a show mom?
Deep down, every girl wants their mother to be genuinely interested and involved in their daily life. Yes, even when they’re pushing you away. They want to connect with you and they want you to understand them — the real them.
For horse girls, so much of their personal life is spent at the barn. If you’re not there with them, you’re missing on a huge part of their life — who they are, how they interact with people and how they’re growing.
I’ve always found that my barn friends are the closest to me because it feels like they know “the whole me”, who I truly am. Just like a non-horse friend that doesn’t really understand the whole them, do you want to get to know only one part of your daughter? The part when she’s at home in front of you? I know this is hard, and this is blunt, but this is the part where I look at it from your young daughter’s point of view. It’s an important side to see.
When you’re not a part of her barn life, you’re missing out on an opportunity to be involved in her world. To know her better. To build a strong lasting bond and a friendship together.
The best thing about this opportunity is that it doesn’t go away when your daughter hits puberty. Even if she wants you to be far away from her at all other times (I know, she’ll make this quite clear!), your teenage daughter still wants you to be her show mom. You’ll never be uninvited from this opportunity. Take it.
For purely practical purposes, your daughter needs help while she’s at a show. It’s tough to go it alone — that’s why professional riders hire grooms. It’s helpful to have a secondary person there to help them.
If you’re not there, it teaches your daughter
- in a stressful exciting moment in her life, you won’t always be there, and
- to use a surrogate support system (aka, someone else’s show mom) because you’re not there
If you decide that you’d like to give this “show mom” thing a go, here’s what you need to do to be prepared for the day.
What’s involved with being a show mom?
Every discipline of riding has a different type of show, so the day-to-day needs are all going to vary. But here’s the general line of what you can do to help her out, no matter what type of show you’re at.
Ah, towels, the magic of the horse world. There never seems to be one when you need it.
Remember to pack towels for wiping off her boots and saddle before she goes in to her test, or for wiping down a dusty (or grass-slobbered) horse.
Be at the barn the night before to help pack up the trailer.
Packing for a horse show can be a big project, especially if it’s not your trailer and you have to bring everything in and out every single time.
She’s got a list that she has to remember to pack, along with bathing her horse, braiding (sometimes) and riding that day. The prep for horse shows can almost take as much time as the show itself, so it’s always helpful to have an extra pair of helping hands if you have time the night before.
When you arrive, help her find her number and time when she should ride.
When you arrive, she’ll need to check in and get her bearings.
You’ll want to help her find her number (it usually goes on her saddle pad when she rides), and figure out about what time she’s riding. You’ll want to keep an eye on the time to help her figure out when she needs to tack up, when to be done with her warm up, and adjust that time if the classes are running slow or fast that day.
Pack yummy lunches.
Bring good lunch. Make it a special occasion. My personal favorite was packing Maine Italian Amato’s sandwiches in the morning that we would open up later. Find out what she wants, and make it a special treat. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should make her smile looking back on it.
If it’s a weekend show, make sure you’ve done some grocery shopping in advance for snacks to share with the group.
Help groom and make sure that she has all of her tack in line.
This is where you become a second hand to your daughter. She can groom, she can tack up, we already know this. But at a stressful time, you’re helping her by being her “right hand woman”.
Just ask her what needs to be done, and you’ll get the hang of it after a few shows.
Watch her horse while she changes.
Again, you’re just being a helpful set of hands here. There’s a moment in time where your daughter is tacked up, and she has to change or finish getting herself ready before she can get on her horse. She’s halfway through both processes and may be running behind.
The reason for this stressful moment is because if she’s showing in a class where you have to look “pretty” like dressage with white pants or western pleasure, she’s going to want to change after she tacks up so that she doesn’t get dirty.
Instead of having her feel stressed with leaving her horse to change, you can watch her horse for her or help finish tacking up while she’s getting ready.
Bring water for after her warm up.
When you go watch her warm up for her class, pack some water along. This is one of the simplest moments where every girl wishes her show mom was there. If you’re by yourself, there’s no good place to put water down. Plus you have to get on and off your horse to get a drink.
She may not think she’s thirsty, but she will be. Shows are often hot, and warm up rings are often dusty. After she warms up, she may need to kill time for 10-20 minutes before it’s time for her test. To allow her to show at peak performance, give her some water while she’s out there riding.
Watch her test.
So simple, but this one is a big deal. Don’t grab something from the trailer or go to the bathroom and miss it. This is her proud moment to shine. Be there for her by watching it.
Hang out with her after her test. Be her buddy.
This is where you really win. For all of your help, you get in return 1-5 hours (or more, if it’s a weekend show) to just hang out with your girl. Talk. Spend real time together. How often do you get that opportunity with your teenage daughter at home?
This is really special time for both of you. It’s unplanned and not rushed. Bring some chairs to camp out by the trailer or watch the other girls in your group ride. Just make sure that she’s untacked and her horse is comfortable and fed/watered first.
Make friends with the other moms.
There’s lots of other mom’s that are in the same situation as you — get to know them and make some new friends. Maybe the barn will become a place where you like to spend time with your daughter and your friends!
Whether you really want to be at the show or not, it’s always funner to have a community. If your committing your time to doing this for your daughter, do yourself a favor and make friends with the people around you.
All these things, your daughter is capable of doing. We both know that. But you’re not actually doing her any favors by making her go it alone and be independent.
Choose to be a part of her life, and help her with whatever she needs at her shows. You’ll find a fun community in the process, and build a long-lasting friendship with your daughter for years to come.
Hi! Great blog post:) I am a horse show mom to a little boy who competes in dressage. Although there are times I want to shoot myself from stress, he loves it and wirks his butt off to be the best rider he can.
Karen Zieman says
I love being a show mom for my *son*. I realize that the majority of children in the horse world are girls, but it’s incredibly frustrating to see article after article about moms and daughters bonding over horses. How many moms can say they have that kind of bond with their teenage son? I just replaced the word “daughter” with “child”, and your article is great. Thanks for allowing me to vent.
You know what Karen, you are so right!! I heard this originally when I posted the article, but I think you’ve inspired me to do something about it finally 🙂 I’ve got something in the works, but I’m glad to hear your vent! Thank you for sharing.
Betsy Childs says
Hi Hannah – The timing of your blog on being a show mom was perfect. Jess and I were discussing the Youth Dressage Festival and I was asking her if she really wanted me to attend because I will be the only mom in her group, the others have decided not to go. She said “you’re going, I need you.” Well let me tell you, that was music to my ears! . . . I’m thinking of having a T-shirt made up that says “Jess’ Groom . . . And . . . PROUD Mom!!” What do you think, too much?
Yes, make the shirt! You’ll need to make one for her too that says “I’M JESS.” Have so much fun together!!!