As I wrapped up my first year as head-coach for an local high school equestrian team (a tale in itself that I might tell later on), I came upon the startling realization that these young horsewomen had absolutely no knowledge of an invaluable asset that was plentiful and right under their noses. So, doing my coach-ly duty as both a fellow female and a horsewoman, I let them all in on this secret source of manual labor:
The “Horse Show Boyfriend”.
Now the Horse Show Boyfriend need not be an actual boyfriend (for all of you parents whose hearts just momentarily stopped beating). Any male friend will suffice for this particular purpose. He must simply be physically strong, weak-willed, and ideally in love with your daughter (or you, if you happen to be single, this also applies to grown women and men their age). His purpose is only to make your life as a horse show parent or competitor easier for the several hours that you are on the grounds. Odds are, at the high school level, your daughter will be completely exhausted by the end of the show, so there’s minimal chance that they’ll end up spending unsupervised time together after. There’s really no downside.
Since local horse shows are almost always on weekends, this frees up most potential HSB availability. In the case of high school equestrian team, the majority of boys in that age group have unlimited availability on weekends, and will certainly clear their schedule when they receive the text from your daughter that reads “I’m at a horse show, you should come up and see me! You can meet my horse!”. Amazingly, these boys will ignore the last sentence of that text and ditch their friends and prior commitments to hop in the car and come to your daughter’s side. Well, more like your daughter’s horse’s side. This is where you come in.
Once the HSB arrives, it is your job to make sure your daughter does not forget that she’s there to ride and compete despite the unplanned testosterone presence. You can make sure this does not happen by quickly putting the HSB to work. No teenage boy wants to stand around at a show full of girls and VERY LARGE horses who have VERY LARGE hooves and VERY LARGE teeth and conspicuously stand out. Give him something to do so he looks like he fits in. Need water buckets filled from a quarter mile away? His legs probably aren’t broken, he can carry them. She needs her saddle pulled out of the trailer? Send him after it. Let him show off his pubescent muscles for her by verbally instructing him in proper saddling technique while she gets dressed in the privacy of the truck (this also insures no accidental peep show while your back is turned). Can’t get the girth tight? Have the HSB do it! Be sure to warn him that the horse might reach around and try to bite if he pulls to quickly, (this is a great opportunity to instill a healthy fear of the horses in the HSB). Once the horse is tacked , the HSB makes an excellent horse-holder for the bridled horse that can’t be tied to the trailer any longer while you do important things like drink your coffee and chat with other parents.
While your daughter is heading to the warm-up pen, allow the HSB to accompany her. They will get a bit of one-on-one chat time, and you can rest assured that no physical contact of questionable nature will take place because she will be mounted on top of 1,200 pounds of escort while he walks alongside. Bet you’re glad you bought her that horse now, aren’t you? The HSB won’t enter the warm-up pen, he’ll loiter outside in case she wants to chat on her way by, so you can keep a close eye on them both and potentially get some private-conversation time with the HSB. Save the death threats for later, you may never actually need to use them. Use this opportunity to explain what the judge will be looking for when your daughter goes in to show, and teach him a few horse-savvy terms so he can understand the mysterious language everyone around him is speaking. Perhaps offer him something to drink or a few bucks for the concession stand. Then leave him alone to nervously wonder why you didn’t tell him about your gun collection at home.
The trick to perfecting the usage of the HSB is to make sure your daughter is aware of his presence at all times. No self-respecting teen is going to throw a tantrum in front of this guy. This will be the most peaceful horse show you’ll ever attend, relish it. If the HSB hints that he might be leaving soon, invite him to a post-show dinner! If he accepts, he’s in it for the long haul, he might be able to tolerate your daughter’s hobby, and you’ll have someone to unload the trailer tonight when you get home. If not, and he doesn’t have a good excuse like “I have to go to work”, “I have a lot of studying for the SAT to do”, or “It’s my turn to dish meals at the soup kitchen”, he’s not a keeper anyway and you’re better off letting him prove that to your daughter right now. Explain to her beforehand that if he can put up with her showing and get along with her horse, he’s worth keeping around. No man is worth the headache if he can’t help out at a horse show from time to time. The best part of the HSB is that there’s no commitment on anyone’s end. If this one doesn’t work out, invite a different one next time.
Now if you’re an older horsewoman and thinking this whole HSB thing doesn’t apply to you, think again. Use the man in your life to your advantage. Compliment him on how great his pickup would look…definitely better hooked to your trailer than any of the other guys’ trucks at the horse show. Get him a comfortable lawn chair to set up in the shade and make sure there’s cold beer in the cooler, and then let him be.
If you’re like me, and you’ve got a man who has figured out the Horse Show Boyfriend scam, yet still enjoys tailgaiting the shows with his friends, just go with it. They might get a little carried away, but as long as they’re not disturbing anyone else or spooking horses, who cares? Horse shows are painfully boring to non-equestrians, and unless you’re at a show with a lot of beginners, making a drinking game out of rider falls will lead to a group of very sober, bored men. That’s never a good thing. It is also very important to stress to the men BEFORE they become intoxicated that, under no circumstances, are they permitted to do any “improvements” to your horse trailer without your prior consent. Horse shows spark competition not just amongst the riders, unfortunately.
The most important thing to showing with an HSB as an adult is the bartender feature. A little Southern Comfort in your coffee before your class helps to calm nerves, and if nothing else, you quickly become semi-famous on the local show circuit for being the traveling mini bar. Plus, after three or four modified coffees, you don’t even care how catastrophic of a train wreck your ride was, AND you have a designated driver to drive the rig home! Perfect horse showing, every time!