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  • Writer's pictureDyan Vorster

Unsung Heroes

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” J.R.R. Tolkien

As an instructor and horse show mom in my own right, one of the things I have come to appreciate over the years is just how much my parents sacrificed to enable me to compete.

My mom had no prior experience with horses (she was quite frankly scared of them), and was clueless when it came to anything related to the sport, but she had one outstanding qualification that perfectly fitted her for the job of horse show parent – because of her love for me she was prepared to lay aside her own fears and lack of know-how and put all of her energy and resources into doing whatever was necessary in order to help me succeed.

My dad - never a good spectator - after hauling me to show after show finally decided, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” He had ridden horses on his families farm bareback as a boy, but that was about the sum total of his experience. Undaunted, he started taking riding lessons at the age of 46 and was soon competing alongside me in show jumping and cross-country events.

As mentioned in a previous blog (, horses are not a hobby, they are a lifestyle – a lifestyle which will consume a very large chunk of your finances and time and will have a profound effect on every single member of your family, whether they ride or not.

Being a horse show parent requires that you become a personal assistant (keeping track of entries and classes, and getting your kid warmed up and in the ring on time is no mean feat), a hairdresser, stylist, and show groom (which essentially involves a lot of frantic elbow grease interspersed with long boring hours of standing around holding horses while you wait for classes), oh and let’s not forget chief cheerleader and sport psychologist. All in all, a pretty impressive resume!

My daughter is now grown, and I find myself adopting and raising a new set of “horse kids”. As they begin competing in shows and we celebrate the small victories and commiserate over the inevitable disappointments together, I watch with fascination the evolution of a new generation of horse show moms and dads. As an instructor, I have quickly come to realize the incredible value of these unsung heroes. I would go so far as to say that their dedication and commitment to the sport is a pretty accurate indicator of how successful their kids will be.

Thank you mom and dad, for me the sky was always the limit!

My dad, Dave Emslie, riding Man the Decks

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