Competing without the budget? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 09:43 AM Thread Starter
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Competing without the budget?

My daughter and Harley just finished the year-end championship show. To recap, Harley is a 20 year old Arab we got 4 years ago and they have worked their way up to jumping 2'3" fences. That's as high as they will go, due to his age and arthritis in his hocks. He has the biggest heart, and is very happy to jump for her. She is continuing to work on a lot of things, but especially her position over those heights since they had only done low cross-rails until about two months ago. At the championship show (this is a province-wide show), they got two reserve championships (intro hunter stake and equitation), a few other seconds (including a 2'3" jumper class), and various other placings. Obviously she would have loved to have gotten at least one first, but it didn't happen. They did win a number of division championships at various sanctioned shows over the summer, so I think she was expecting to do better. Over the course of the two-day show, I kept asking her how she felt about her rides REGARDLESS of placings. I asked her to just forget about what she got in terms of ribbons, and just think of how she rode. On the first day, she wasn't very happy with her riding. Her position was too far forward up his neck, and his takeoff was often long. But on the second day, she worked really hard, and ended the last class of the day (for them) with a reserve championship, but most importantly, she was much happier with her position and her spots for that one. So that's great progress, and a lot of people noticed how she persevered. I am very proud of both of them - Harley was a perfect gem, getting his leads, and not ever touching a rail.

But here's what bothers me as a mom. All the other horses (especially the winning horses) are five-figure warmbloods, with the odd OTTB mixed in. Long, leggy bays were clearly judge favorites. And the tack! The saddles on most of those horses cost more than all three of my horses combined. Equipe, CWD, all the big brands. And there we are with our cheap, used Hastilow that is too small for my daughter (we're trying to find one that fits her better, but have a very limited budget), on our little 3/4 Arab. It is very discouraging. There is no way I can ever buy her a 7K saddle, or a 10K horse unless we win the lottery. To be fair, some other riders from our stable were not on 10K horses and were riding in Stubbens and Schleeses and still got some firsts, so I'm not saying it can't be done. But as a parent, it's a bit heart-breaking to see your kid trying so hard to compete against people with unlimited financial resources.

I guess I'm just venting a little. I know it's a good life lesson for my daughter who appreciates everything a lot more than the brats who get handed their fully-groomed, tacked-up, warmed-up horse (not saying they don't have to be good riders too, don't get me wrong, but it certainly helps to have a perfect horse and custom saddle). And my daughter doesn't have olympic goals or anything. She's pretty happy just sticking to the provincial show circuit, and she loves Harley so much that she doesn't want another horse anyway. It's just a little discouraging when you're always the underdog. A lot of the riders and parents are very supportive, but I did hear some girls snickering at Harley at one point, which absolutely broke my heart. I understand why some people get completely turned off showing now.
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post #2 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 10:38 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2015
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Hmmm... thinking over my post afterwards, perhaps it sounds a little ungrateful. I'm kind of answering my own questions here, but maybe I should just stop worrying about what others are riding in (or on), and just enjoy the journey. I have a bit of a type A personality, and unfortunately, so does my daughter, so coming in second all the time is nice, but not really what we aim for. We should be very happy with reserve championships! And I need to be more careful about how I might influence how my daughter thinks of her successes. Maybe the lesson is to remain humble, and keep working hard to improve without relying on tack or expensive horses to give us a leg up, but also, not to take any of it too seriously. I guess that's why I sometimes like to type up my thoughts -- it allows me to mull it all over. So thanks for giving me the space to do that!
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post #3 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 11:01 AM
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What kind of a background are you from? I find sometimes we project onto our children. I came from a VERY poor family, and as a solid middle class adult I find myself always wanting the best for my children so they don't have to go through what I did as a kid. I worry about how they are treated at school, how their peers and the teachers see them, etc etc. Not that I go over board with them AT ALL (they recently got their very first pair of name brand shoes) and I certainly don't mention these things to them. But I do find myself feeling similar to how you described in your first post.
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post #4 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 11:23 AM
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I understand where you are coming from, it does get frustrating at times. But, as long as your daughter is happy doing what she is doing then all is good! Your daughter has a great bond with her horse and no ribbon can beat that combo. That doesn't come from a trainer doing all the work and the rider hopping on for the show.
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post #5 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 11:25 AM
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@Acadianartist you just described my childhood to a "T" I have 2 sisters. My parents were very young parents (16 and 18 when my sister was born) My Mom did not work when I was growing up and things were very tight. This was the 70's and my Mom and Aunt made most of my sisters and my clothes (if I never see another Holly Hobby dress it will be too soon) My Mom grew up with horses so my sisters and I did too. BUT we always got the freebies or the ones that cost next to nothing. We were little Indians and rode everything bareback and barefoot. But when we got into 4-H we were definitely "out classed" Our horses were expected to do Western Pleasure, Hunter, and speed events - and they did. But our club also had girls whose parents spent thousands on their horses and their clothes. I guess we were fortunate that a lot of those families felt sorry for us and gave us their "old" stuff. But I can remember quite clearly one particular show where my older sister was riding her 3/5 Arab gelding Chico and they jumped the course beautifully and I mean as nice as you could imagine and my sister beat out a lot of those "richer" girls. My Mom cried. My sister worked so hard with her $300 horse and her ancient English saddle and it paid off - it did not happen often and as we moved into the 80's and we got older our hodge podge group of horses were less competitive with those fancier horses but I can tell you this. My sisters and I learned to appreciate our $50 dollar horses and what they taught us.

It is an unfortunate fact of life in todays world that money does talk. As your daughter gets older the competition will get more intense as will the amount paid for the horses she competes against and the tack etc these people have. As well as the money spent on lessons etc. Keep encouraging her to celebrate her own personal victories and to keep the joy she feels in riding there.

I talk occasionally with a couple of girls from my 4-H club one still shows the high dollar horses in AQHA shows - and the other does not ride at all. Neither ever enjoyed riding other than the thrill of the show ring. And here I am many years later - still riding and enjoying my cheap horses.
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post #6 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 11:36 AM
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Since I grew up in a similar situation, I'll let you know how I felt and maybe it'll give you a little bit of perspective from your daughter's viewpoint.

My parents never got me a horse, or even a leased horse, and only paid for my lessons for a few years before it was my own responsibility. I was working my own lessons off before I was even of legal age to get a job. My parents (not of their own fault, they were busy making sure we could afford our mortgage) only once or twice came and watched me at my dozens if not hundreds of shows (that I also worked off). I was limited to the stable's lesson horses, of which there were only two or three, and for perspective, the most athletic one was a 25+ year old Arabian/Welsh mare who mad a max jump of 2'3". She had no lead changes, no fancy tack, just whatever greasy lesson bridle the program could make fit her. I distinctly remember being extremely upset when we qualified for finals but then she began tripping and hesitating at jumps, so my trainer decided we couldn't go, for the sake of the horse.

I was the ONLY. rider. my age at that stable who did not have their own horse, and every single other girl my age had imported (yes, IMPORTED) warmbloods. They jumped 4'+ in their regular lessons before they were of age to get their drivers license. As a child, this made me beyond upset, because they didn't get to the place they were at because of just their talent - they got there because their parents were able to fund the imported warmbloods, the trainers, the supplements, the newest tack, the trailers, the grooms, the top-notch chiro, the rated show fees, etc. I saw it as - I could be that high level rider, if only I could have been in their position.

Before I was a working student at this high-end show stable, I was a working student at a small local stable that did fun shows. All the other riders my age were in the same position as me, they just wanted to ride and have fun doing it, and they were completely reliant on whatever the stable had to offer them. I was the barn owner's go-to rider for the green horses because I had a great seat to stick to anything that bucked, bolted, whatever. I was thrilled just to go to fun shows and on trail rides. It never occurred to me then that there might be other people my age riding insanely athletic horse breeds I had never even seen before.

I think it's all about perspective. Does she want to be a big fish in a little pond or a small fish in a big pond? After I moved stables, I longed for the days when I was a big fish in a small pond, blissfully unaware of rated shows and instead galloping dinky ponies through the trails with friends on equally dinky ponies. Now that I have my own horse, that's exactly what I do with her.

This isn't to say that your daughter shouldn't compete at that level, but maybe you could make sure she also has a healthy dose of other riders in a similar position that she can truly enjoy riding with. I loved competing, but I loved the feeling of communal belonging even more. Best of both worlds for her? I think she should be extremely proud of herself for getting the placements she did among all the five-figure warmbloods!
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post #7 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 11:45 AM
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I have a similar feeling to @WildestDandelion . Where I grew up with a single mom and we were very poor. My grandfather got me the horses starting with a $50 pony. A lot of the horses I grew up riding were lenders with the exception of a horse my grandpa bought me for a few hundred bucks because she had burned out of roping. My own son (now 19) never really cared about riding, as his thing was football and wrestling. But I made sure he had everything he needed for those activities. When I was a young single mom, it was a struggle but I'd always work second jobs to get him what he needed. Now my stepdaughter is getting into horses and although we cannot afford a $10K horse and she did get a horse that most would consider on the cheaper side that is grade she does have brand new matching tack that she got for her birthday. But she loves this horse, and I hope that is what drives her, like the love yours has for Harley. Love for the horse first, and for whatever discipline you do second.

I also think you're right about kids who have to do their own work with horses instead of having them presented to them fully tacked up will make them better overall horse people and heck, people in general. Your kid will appreciate her wins or seconds or whatever more because she is working for them rather than having them handed to her. Congratulations for your horse coming in second against all of those super professionally trained horses. That is something to celebrate.

I totally get you as a mom though. We want to give our kids everything, especially if we never had it. It hurts our hearts to see them at a disadvantage.

to ride on a horse, is to fly without wings
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post #8 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the stories all! Keep them coming! Yes, we all dream of finding that magical cheap horse that can outperform the expensive, highly bred and highly trained horses, but the reality is that it probably won't happen. Just being out there competing against the best, and not doing too badly, is something to be very proud of!

I suggested we do a trail ride tonight. That's something we both really enjoy, and that comes without pressure, just out enjoying the fall leaves on a beautiful sunny day. In the end, I hope that is what she'll remember most about growing up with horses. I also try to remind her that some girls would do anything to be lucky enough to have their own horses like she does. It's all about perspective. We may be poor compared to all the big names around us, but we're rich compared to many others. And if there's one thing I realized a few years back in my own career, it's that there will always be another level, and there will always be someone better out there. I've learned to settle for being pretty good at what I do, and maintaining a balance. Hopefully my daughter will learn to do the same.
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post #9 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 12:16 PM
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Location: Oklahoma
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Yes! My kids DO NOT appreciate how lucky they are to have horses in their back yard. I think my 7 year old son is starting to "get it" a little more... or at least he's enjoying it more. He's been scooping manure for us every day without us asking, goes out early to visit the horses etc. But there definitely isn't the comprehension of how privileged they are.

How old is your daughter?
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post #10 of 36 Old 10-16-2019, 12:18 PM
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You know those girls are not laughing at your daughter and Harley out of spite, right? Well, a couple may be, but most of them are probably scared spitless when those 2 show up. She works hard, doesn't have it all handed to her, and she's beating the big bucks kids (we used to call them PHDs, Poppa Has Dough) on her little guy and they're doing it without benefit of all that custom this and that and no fancy WBs. Really? At the PROVINCIAL level? I think I've told you before, those horses and that tack isn't for the kids, it's for the parents trying to keep up with the Joneses. Seriously? Jumping 2'3" in a custom saddle? My trainers would have made me leave such a thing at home and get real. A couple of the girls I grew up riding with had the big $ horses but NOBODY got custom tack until we were headed out into Grand Prix jumping. Those girls (one daddy owned a car dealership and one was an LA City High Muckity Muck of some description, I forget what now) didn't work nearly as hard on most things that the rest of us did. They also didn't leave the program knowing how to groom professionally, how to care for their own horses, how to clean their own tack and ESPECIALLY didn't have the grunt work ethic the rest of us did. They rode really well on their own horses but couldn't just jump on any old horse and get a good ride out of it. Back in those days, especially in eq championships, the judges were wont to have you swap horses between the finalists to see who could really ride vs who could ride their own pushbutton horse and look pretty. Don't feel sorry for your kid, she's not sorry for herself, and think about all the OTHER stuff she's learning and getting from working the way she does.

PS - In upper level competition, those kids who're riding the $10K horses? Might as well be riding a horse like Harley, there's always going to be the bunch whose folks buy them the $100K horses and have the $2K/mo trainer and the $80K rig to haul the horses (because nobody has an all arounder anymore, right?) in, and have the custom tack and custom tailored kit and ........ where do you want to draw the line? If the kid is hard to fit, I get custom clothes, same for custom boots, but seriously, custom tack for 2'3"? Get real mom and dad.

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