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Tales of a Horse Trainer’s Kid; Volume I

Happy with her performance at a local show, she poses for photographer Lauren Gall

The Wisconsin Futurity horse show rolled around a week or two ago and brought us our first taste of true blue Wisconsin autumn weather. The cool to warm fall sunny days were flanked with chilly and brisk evenings. As per usual I was under staffed & making miracles happen on a skeleton & partially volunteer crew. I had 7 or 8 horses in tow, plus two small children & one out of control boxer/farm dog.

It was a good show with some warm, familiar faces. Albeit friends faces were mostly covered & hiding their smiles behind the masks now required to protect each other from Covid-19. If we learned anything this year it has been how to adapt & be grateful for the opportunity to gather & compete, despite the rules & unusual changes. We greeted each other with smiles anyway, underneath the masks & we could see in all our friends eyes they were smiling. My children were particularly thrilled to catch up with their horse show friends. They made themselves scarce as soon as we stepped foot on the show grounds. They happily joined the bands of friends they have made at the hundreds of shows we’ve attended over the years. I was pleased for their scarcity & lack of sibling arguing around my horses’ stalls. My workload was considerable, my feet were weary, & my patience was razor thin. The distraction of friends to keep them busy was a very welcome one, to me.

It was Thursday night now & I only had two horses to put in the ring but without fail they were in classes with close proximity to each other. I had to plan this just right or I potentially would not make it to the ring on time with one of the horses.

My littlest child had found her dearest horse show friend. He is a little boy with beautiful blue eyes, bleach blonde hair & a man-sized, ever so charming, gap toothed smile. My young daughter ogled over her friend, never leaving his side. She refused to leave him even for a moment, not for a snack, not for a rest & not for the bathroom. Due to this, inevitably she wet her pants. She came to our stalls wet & sobbing. She was on a mission to change her clothes so she could get back to the important duty of playing with her friend. Knowing I needed to appease her quickly to avoid total melt down, I sprang into action.

A hard knocking little rider on her pony at the Glen Valley Classic Horse Show, 2020. She is in all her glory with her mismatched equipment as her momma forgot her pony’s tack. Photo credit to Emma Utoft

We were mere classes away from needing to warm horses up for clients who would be competing, so I had to do damage control fast. There was no time to go back to the hotel for a change of clothes. I am long past the need for a diaper bag on my parenting journey so I was ill prepared at best, for an incident such as this.

With little resources & no plan, I went to my truck to see what mystery items lay in the crevices between the seats just waiting to be discovered. Any number of items could be in there from the thousands of miles of road trips & horse shows to this point through the 2020 show season. I threw open the door with the sounds of my child’s cries still echoing out of the barn in the distance. Right away I saw a pair of athletic socks of mine in the cup holder, for what reason I may never know, but this was a good start. I then remembered I had thrown multiple pairs of shoes behind the back seat when leaving the World Championships weeks beforehand. If I was lucky they would still be there. Since nobody else would have touched them, there was a good chance I forgot about them somewhere on the lengthy to-do list & they would remain where they had been originally placed. My little angel had waited so long to urinate she managed to fill, even her shoes to the brim, once the flood gates had opened. I flipped the seat down to find multiple pairs of men’s dress shoes, women’s stilettos, and one pair of children’s riding boots. They were her sister’s & would be much too big but, desperate times call for desperate measures. These would have to work.

My big Kid and I

We were nearly there with just a class to spare before I would need to direct my attention to the horses & my clients. Rifling through empty Cheetos bags, stale goldfish crackers, & half eaten chicken nuggets under the seats, I suddenly became disgusted with my lifestyle swearing to all things holy that if I found some children’s clothes I would clean up my act. Right then, my prayers were answered. In between horse emergency medications, Saddlebred magazines & all sorts of foul evidence that I have children, appeared a dirty polka dot dress.

I returned to the barn to console my child with my findings. She insisted we go inside the curtains & to the security of the tack room to get cleaned up so nobody would see her. She was all at once feeling modest, even though the whole city of Milwaukee had already witnessed her doing a teary eyed walk of shame, while marinating in her own mistakes. We ran in the tack room & changed in a fury as her teeth chattered in the cool evening air. My athletic socks went up to her thighs. She complained about them being “Crinkly.” I of course told her how awesome & warm they looked trying to convince her the best I could that all of this was perfectly normal, not to mention highly fashionable. She told me her boots were too big & she would trip when she tried to run & play. I explained how amazing it would be to have all that room to wiggle her toes. I wish I could wiggle my toes that much!

I topped it off with a dirty polka dot dress & a coat that had been somehow spared of bodily fluids throughout the incident. I zipped her coat, a half a class to spare before go time. She erupted into tears again. “What?! Whats the matter,” I gasped. “Where’s my undies, my friends will see my butt,” she cried in reply. I told her that all she had to do was not lift her dress up & nobody would know. Her cry then turned into a scream. She was mortified at the thought. She just wanted to impress her wide grinning friend. How would she ever play in the rocks & dig with tractors dressed like this?

I needed to think quickly, I could not abandon her in her moment of need to get on the back of a horse. Conversely I couldn’t drop this train wreck on someone else’s plate so I could go & play horse trainer.

Two happy trainer’s kids. Photo credit to Maddie Dziobkowski of Saddle & Bridle Magazine

“SHHHH,” I hissed. “We will figure something out.” I desperately looked around the tack room out of time & out of ideas. I ran my fingers through my unkept hair & down the back of my neck. I was all at once feeling too old for toddler tantrums, total come-a-parts and sensitive little girl emotions. My finger tips landed on the bandana tied around my neck that served as my mask for these strange & unprecedented times. “I’ll make you undies,” I proclaimed. Her little voice, in an unsure whisper squeaked out, “How?” with an ever so untrusting tone. “Just hold still,” was my final instruction.

I tore through supply trunks ripping my bandana off my neck. I flew through the curtains back into the tack room where she waited for her fearless leader to offer a reasonable solution. Armed with one bandana, a large safety pin and a long strip of duct tape, I jumped to the task. I saw the smile return to her face as she inspected my handy work. I hollered for my helper to bridle the horse who was about to show. I was sure now, that my miniature me was back under control. I felt that she deemed this handmade pair of drawers to be an acceptable solution to what she considered to be a rather large problem. I ushered her off to play with her horse show best friend. The tears had shut off like a faucet just as quickly as it had been turned on.

I watched her as she walked away down the barn aisle. There was a particular dragging, shuffling sound that came from each step with her oversized boots. I assured her she looked great as she smiled back at me. She turned and began a rather heavy footed skip away. She grabbed at her backside straightening the bunched up bandana underneath. As she clung to her handmade skivvies I let go of my last shred of vanity. I resigned myself to the fact that I cared as little as she did about judgmental eyes or potential criticism due to the quality of her outfit. She is what she is. To me what she is; is about perfect. She is simply a horse trainers kid, whom at that moment, had a bandana taped to her bum. That same horse trainers kid will rule the world someday because of her resilience & ability to convey just what she wants. She is a horse trainers kid who can stick by even the simplest of her beliefs until she makes everyone around her uncomfortable enough as to where they decide to assist her with her wishes. By her own error she learned ingenuity under pressure, even if it was in the form of a set of shabby underwear. More so, she learned to be satisfied with the little things like the good company of friends, warm socks and boots that let you wiggle your toes a bit extra as you shuffle along.

Making new friends at horse shows on a year where nothing is the same except our ability to make friends at horse shows!

Published by Keenbehringer

Keen is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor seeking to motivate and inspire people to be the best version of themselves through their interactions with horses and equestrian sports.

One thought on “Tales of a Horse Trainer’s Kid; Volume I

  1. Your talents are many, but your writing skills are amazing. You need to write a book with your own illustrations which are equally if not more so impressive. In your spare time of course😉. Health and well wishes to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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