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Life Transition from Junior Class Rider to Adult Rider

Life provides many opportunities for change and transition. As a young woman, I became famous for saying, "Plant me in dirt, water me weekly and I promise I will grow -- this experience I do not need right now." Unfortunately, few heeded my request, but it brought some humor to some pretty bumpy life experiences.

One of the major life transitions for horse showing moms and daughters occurs as your daughter ages out of the Junior classes and becomes an adult. My angst began in that last year of horse showing, which was my daughter's senior year of high school. In the past, when my daughter's colleagues had reached this stage in their horse showing career, I saw their moms appear infrequently at shows, and sometimes they disappeared altogether. Consequently, I began to wonder how I would handle the transition from a jam-packed weekend schedule that centered on horse showing to a weekend in which I was free to do as I pleased. Not only was I launching another child into adulthood and off to college, but I was losing a familiar way of life from the last six years.

I looked in vain for someone who would understand my angst, and came up empty-handed. My angst was a personal one that I could not really share with the trainer, who simply viewed me as a customer with a quickly expiring income potential. I then began to watch and study other moms and how they were dealing with this issue. Some moms were dealt a lesser blow in this "empty nest syndrome" because their children were continuing to show as adults by either living at home or taking their horse to a school with a show program. I watched one family bribe their daughter into staying home and going to college by buying her another show horse. And, there was yet another group of moms who seemed ready to embrace this change because they sold the show horse and gave up horse showing entirely.

Fortunately for me, I figured out pretty early on that this was my problem and not my daughter's. She had her own grieving to do about the end of this stage of her horse showing career, and she was grappling with the normal child-parent tug-of-war that ensues when a child leaves home to go to college, as well. Her plans included riding horses on a varsity team several states away, so her life was full of possibilities. I, on the other hand, was the one who would be left behind, no longer attending the shows, no longer driving the truck with horses, and no longer spending those mostly wonderful weekends in close proximity to my child. Due to my mother's hospitalization, I missed her last horse show on the circuit before college, so my losses seemed even greater at that point.

Midway through the year, it occurred to me that my job as a parent was to let go and continue helping her transition into adulthood. She would be attending horse shows as an adult, which meant that my role needed to change. I now needed to help her evolve from a teenager to an adult and help make that transition as smooth as possible. She needed more responsibility not less, more listening than advice from me, and most of all needed me to retreat from being an active participant to simply being an observer who would help when asked. It was tough for me to learn to let go of my role as director and source of guidance and let her find her own way. I realized I could best help her by providing a positive role model of how a mom can let go and give her the space she needed to assume responsibility for her own life. It didn't mean I stopped going to horse shows, but I had to step back and be less intrusive while I figured out this new parent-adult relationship.

Other mothers facing this same transition have shared with me that they miss horse showing and the special connection they had with the horses, the activities, and the social interactions. Their daughters tell me they still want their mothers to show up, but there is a subtle change or shift in the relationship. At this stage of their career, the daughters do more of the work and work more with the trainer and groom, and they interact in the barn with the adults as well and want girl time without their mothers around. The #1 need they have expressed to me however is to have their mothers continue to be the unconditional, ever-supporting fan -- the person who watches them show, cheers them on, and if needed, extends a helping -- not a controlling -- hand.

To all of you young adults, be kinder and gentler with your mother. Change is hard on you both during this transitory time. And, if you'd like to really help your mom during this period, consider telling her "thank you" occasionally for all those years in which she helped you get where you are now. It'll be a gift she'll treasure always.

Copyright (c) 2007 Kathy Keeley

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About The Author: Veteran show mom Kathy Keeley has six years of horse showing experience from locals to A Circuit to NCCA Varsity Equestrian Shows. Get your free horse show packing list when you subscribe to our newsletter at , the first online community created especially for horseshow mothers and daughters who want to learn how to successfully navigate the horseshow circuit and maintain a great mother-daughter relationship.

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