There is an American proverb which says “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Well, today I walked in my Mother’s shoes (not literally as she has tiny feet!) and was groom for the day as she competed the wonderful American Pie. And I must say it was certainly enlightening.
Pie loves to go out and about and I am not sure he is convinced by my excuse for restricting this this summer – being 30 weeks into growing a new human holds me back a bit. So, last weekend, Mother took the reins and did an In Hand Veteran class at the South Oxfordshire Riding Club Show near Henley-on-Thames.
I got thinking about what advice I could give to the mother before her class – finding a space as you go in, not walking behind the really slow horse so you get stuck, walking with purpose to keep Pie’s interest, standing out in front so not to block his beautiful head….. As I started to overwhelm her, I stepped back to think about what she does in the same position. What makes her so good to have at shows? The answer I came up with is calmness, detail and simplicity.
Calmness – nothing fazes her or if it does she never shows it. I think when my brother came home with bleached blonde hair once she had a momentary blip but generally she is calm. When you are competing, having someone with you with this composure is invaluable. It’s contagious and the horses will certainly appreciate it too. My answer to mothers unexpected nerves before the class was a calm “Pie either wins or the judge is wrong so just enjoy it!”
Detail – it’s amazing how much there is to think about when you are assisting. Where is the ring, how long before the class, what to take to the ringside… The more shows you go to the easier this becomes but make lists if it helps. A bottle of water in your grooming kit can be invaluable on a hot day. As a competitor, knowing someone is keeping an eye on things and will know if there is a delay, a ring change or a judge change means you can focus on what’s important – doing the best job with your horse. If you are assisting, it is your job to worry about the details so the rider doesn’t have to.
Simplicity – to me the most important. Being a perfectionist (and a bit of a control freak), having someone else compete my horse was by no means easy. I could have given a million instructions but I had to remember to keep it simple – it is not the time to overwhelm and confuse the competitor with a plethora of information. Three things is probably enough. On this occasion – give him space when you run, keep the energy up to keep his interest and remember the judge is always looking so stay aware.
I don’t think I have ever taken mother for granted at shows but maybe I judged her a bit harshly when I think I always had the harder job. Being at the ringside is certainly just as hard as being in the ring.
So the proverb is very wise and the experience certainly opened my eyes. Plus, if you follow the proverb and someone gets angry at your judgment, I suppose you are a mile away and you have their shoes!
P.S. By the way, they did amazingly and won their class. It feels just as good assisting a winner as being a winner – well nearly…