I’m not sure my stepdad knew what he was getting into when he married my mother. Sure, she’s amazing, I think I’m pretty amazing, and we were one big happy family. My dad even accepted him and welcomed him into her life. However, I don’t know if he was ever fully warned about the grueling life of a horse show dad.

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Throwback to our first horse show together flying solo where my mom had to work. I still grimace in pain thinking about him attempting to help me put my hair in a hair net. Clueless as to how hairnets work or how to brush my thick, tangled, bushy mane, he tried his hardest. I cried, he felt horrible, and I begged my mom to never miss another horse show. There was another time when he was helping us carry the hay to our stalls, and a stranger’s horse lunged and bit him in the back, leaving a perfect snout imprint from the impact. No one warned my step dad that the life of a horse show dad was filled with many trials and tribulations.

Despite the challenges, my step dad embraced being a horse show dad. He was the first to tell me good luck, was never without a camera, and always could tell when I began to get “hangry” and needed food before my mother and I got into a battle of wills. He learned how to put on hoof polish, to always carry extra fly spray, and even how to put my name down on the order of go. When I switched to eventing from hunter jumpers, he began to enjoy it even more, after all, cross country was so exciting! My poor mother needs a large glass of wine to watch my cross country rounds, but you can count on my step dad to be fist pumping next to the biggest fence on course and cheering me on. According to him, stadium jumping is the scariest part because those things fall down with even a slight tap.

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When I competed my first preliminary level event, my stepdad flew out to Maryland with my mother to cheer me on. After my best friend forgot his keys at the event, they dutifully drove back from Virginia to Maryland to pick them up while I finished evening barn chores and took care of the farm I where I worked. Whenever I need someone to help at warm-up, I can always count on my step dad to be out there setting jumps and knowing my routine so well that I barely have to say anything.

My father has also been known to make appearances at horse shows or the barn. He always comes bearing a smoothie and is keen to ask questions and learn what he can about this strange sport. I am blessed to have two horse show fathers that have been there for me, lifted me up, and challenged me to do my best, have fun, and always keep a great attitude.

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Here’s to the horse show dads who have mastered the art of back-up groom and to the dads who are awesome just in finding the time to show up. To the horse show dads who have learned it all, and to the ones who finally learned your horse’s name. To the horse show dads who have taught us that being a good sport is more important than a ribbon.

Here’s to all the fathers out there, thank you for being you. Happy Father’s Day.

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