Does our sport create tension between you and your rider? Do your worries sometimes interfere with your rider’s ability to focus? Parenting a competitive equestrian is tricky; I know from personal experience. I hope you’ll join me in conversation as we explore this topic. Please let me know if I can help you get clarity on some of these issues in your own family. Parents are my clients too.
It takes a Village One of the toughest challenges of parenting any serious athlete is the tremendous investment of time and energy required from others to support the dream--this is especially true in our sport. For most dedicated riders, moving up the ladder of competition means relying heavily on help from parents, siblings and often extended family as well. Watching the Olympics reminds us of how much extraordinary effort an entire family invests in order for one of its members to excel at such a high level. Trainers, coaches and friends are also part of the extended 'family' system which supports the athlete.
Intensive family involvement can be burdensome to the parent-child relationship, however, and can fog up our view about why we’re in the sport and what we hope to get out of it. Of course we're invested; but in what?
What is Success? Let's reframe how we define success. If we step back, we realize that we are hovering at a higher altitude than our rider. Yes, it's always thrilling when our child wins the jumper classic or a big medal, but we all know that there are many other kinds of wins that riding affords, and they aren't usually labeled as triumphs. It's our job as parents to hold onto the big picture and to ensure that our trainers do also. As the adults, we see the long term view and have higher level goals for our riders than they usually have for themselves.
Riding Goals vs. Life Goals For instance, a young rider is usually focused on riding goals, such as maintaining consistent pace to find the jumps better, or building core strength to ride the bigger jumps or riding corners more efficiently to cut down time, or winning a particular final. All those goals are important and valid. The bigger picture goals, or life goals--which coexist alongside riding goals--look more like this: learning poise under pressure, building grit and self confidence, handling public failures with grace, facing fears, and last but not least--getting back on the horse when you fall off (literally and figuratively).
The key for us parents is to actively protect the space around what we want for our kids as they progress through the ranks. It has been my experience that sometimes as a rider has more success in the show ring, it's harder, rather than easier, to keep a balanced long term perspective. The more we as parents can separate our higher level goals from our rider's more specific riding goals, the better we'll handle both the ups and the downs of our rider's career and the happier we will be with our investment in the sport.
Would you like to explore this topic more? Parents of riders are clients of mine as much as the riders themselves! If you are having challenges or just want to bounce some ideas off me, be in touch. I’m happy to give you a Leg Up!