It`s Supposed To Be Fun

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Horsemen are competitive — always have been — and that’s OK, but there are constructive competitive attitudes and destructive attitudes. When a child leaves an arena, he or she should hear praise for what went well in the ring, not be attacked for what went wrong. It’s bad for the competitor, the spectators, the trainer/parent and probably even the horse!

Recently I witnessed a young girl, probably 9, leaving the show ring while being verbally attacked by her mother and trainer. Apparently, the girl hadn’t stayed close enough to the horse’s shoulder when she trotted him in a showmanship class.

Everyone in the vicinity of the out-gate was made aware that this child “did a bad job.” Never mind the fact that this tiny kid was leading a horse that was easily over 16 hands. The mere fact she could control the horse well enough to be in the class at all impressed the heck out of me. Her mother should have accentuated what the girl did well and made a mental note to work on trotting at home. At least she would have left the ring with a smile on her face and the desire to try again.

Another trainer refused to let a kid leave the ring. She was unsure of the equitation pattern she was supposed to ride and was literally in tears, wanting to be excused from the class. The trainer yelled at the kid and forced her to stay. The kid did it — and did it well — but was it worth the overall negative experience'

We’ve all read about the “soccer parents” who get so wrapped up in their children’s grade-school sports events that they scream at coaches and referees — even at each other — over what is literally a child’s game.

I know there are sometimes college scholarships at stake for a few outstanding teen athletes at high-school events, but I’m pretty sure recruiting scouts are wise enough to know when a bad call is a bad call and not the athlete’s fault. Why can’t those parents' If a kid is having fun, isn’t that enough'

It was for one parent at a 4-H show. Her child evidently made a mistake during a flat class. As the kid rode by the mother, I heard the mother say, “Don’t worry about it. Just have fun.” That kid’s face instantly went from a frustrated frown to a big grin. I’m betting 10 years from now that kid is still enjoying horses. I’m not so sure about the showmanship or equitation kids I saw — unless their parents and trainers can lighten up enough to realize that in the big picture of life it doesn’t make that much difference.

’Til Next Month,

-Cynthia Foley