It Takes a Village

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schuping


2021 has not started out the way I envisioned. My always-find-the-positive mentality has been tested beyond its usual threshold. There have been days that I have genuinely wondered how I was going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, because it felt like the universe was plotting against success—both personally and with the ponies.

Of course, it has not been all doom and gloom. PonyKid and her green pony have made huge progress in the last six months! My pony has (finally) started to act like a grown-up pony. Shows are up and running again. I have so much to be thankful for, but that doesn’t mean that I do not give myself permission for a brief pity-party every now and again.

I have just about given myself ulcers over the seemingly never-ending treatments/scopings/medications/costs of ridding the pony from ulcers. Every time we make forward progress, it seems we take two steps back. We unlock the key to a lead change, and then we lose straightness. One pony has spent more days missing a shoe than he has with all four feet shod. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schuping

In the last six months, we parted ways with a trainer, lost friends we thought were there for a lifetime, forged stronger friendships with some, and made new friends too. We’ve switched barns twice, and are learning to roll with the punches. “It’s always something” is the resounding theme for this year so far…and it’s only February!

The thing that continually restores my faith in everything is what an incredible village the horse world truly is. When we found ourselves parting ways with a trainer three days before a horse show, one phone call later a friend stepped up and said, “Come on! We will have a great time!” And you know what? We did have a great time.

We came home from that show ready to figure out the next step. A few phone calls later and PonyKid was ecstatic to learn she would be able to start riding with a trainer she had never thought possible in her wildest dreams! I would have given just about anything for that kind of opportunity at her age. Of course that partnership is not without some drawbacks…said trainer is gone to shows far more than my pocketbook will allow for us to attend. So we piece together plans, and cultivate a village.

Photo © A&S Photography

A trainer that PonyKid has done some catch riding for, is willing to come down once a week to teach, and PonyKid can go up to her place and ride all the green ponies her legs can handle. Another trainer can come out and put some training rides on the pony (because while the pony is not outside of my own set of capabilities, I cannot always guarantee I have the time to squeeze in an extra ride) once a week. Another trainer from 8 hours away, who we bought a pony from years ago was at a show where we were in December and asked if PonyKid could hack a horse for her. PonyKid loved her teaching style, so we met back up with them at a show in January. That went so well that she flew back down a couple weeks later solely to coach the kid.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schuping

Both PonyKid and myself have made friends from all these opportunities. We both have had more fun than we have had in years at horse shows. But most importantly, each of these different perspectives have taught my child more about herself and her riding than any one person ever could. She has learned what kind of instruction works best for her (spoiler alert: it is not the same as what works best for me). She has learned that the same thing, but said a different way, can make a dramatic difference in understanding. She has also learned that she is far more capable than either of us were giving her credit for.

I grew up riding with a single trainer, and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But my childhood trainer was adamant about there not being a “one size fits all” solution for every rider. What works for one, might not for another. She believed in exposing us to dressage principles and jumpers and racing and was open to input from experts in their respective disciplines. That’s not the norm anymore, and I think maybe it should be. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schuping

Some of us are lucky enough to find one trainer that can fill the role of mentor/cheerleader/bonus parent/friend/sibling/enforcer all in one, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I consider myself very fortunate to be in a situation that allows for all the puzzle pieces to fit together, in different ways depending on the day. Not only does it give the kid a wide range of perspectives and skill sets to pull from, but it gives us a wide range of scheduling and show options as well. It’s given her the opportunity to pull from multiple sources of confidence and to grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible under our previous circumstances.

It really does take a village to raise a child. It takes a village to raise an equestrian in the same way. And our village goes far beyond the trainer—it includes our vet, farrier, friends who come simply to cheer her on, friends who take in our ponies at a moments notice when need be, braiders, mental skills coach/bemer expert… so many incredible people. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schuping

I am grateful and humbled to call these people our village as well as my friends. I am incredibly proud that my child thinks “we should ask the vet” when she doesn’t know the correct course of action and that she is open to trying new methods and listening to new thoughts when an issue comes up. Our village has also helped her tune into her inner voice as well, and she can tweeze out the pieces that will be of most benefit to her. It’s a pretty incredible thing to watch your child grow up into a talented rider, but it’s even more incredible to look around and recognize just how many people contributed to her success and are still here cheering her on!

About the Author: Ponymomammy juggles her roles of mother (two human, two ponies, and three doggos), wife, and perpetual amateur in Camden, SC. When not shuttling kids, or riding, she can be found feebly attempting to clean or cook, usually in dirty breeches from an earlier hack. Both she and her daughter enjoy showing on both the local, and A rated, show circuits.
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