Summer draws to a close and school has started again for most kids by now. As a horse show parent, or any parent of a committed athlete, it is an art and a feat of tactical scheduling to combine your child's lessons, practice time, fun time and academics. I am interested in unique formulas that you parents have used to tackle the challenge.
As a parent to four daughters, each competing in sports, not part of a middle or high school team, it was a big challenge. For my horse showing daughters, it was especially difficult, because at that time, there were not school based equestrian teams. And, frankly, the schools did not show a lot of love for kids that were equestrian competitors. Most teachers and administrators did not understand equestrian competition, or have a great deal of respect for it. If my daughter were on the football team, or say the lacrosse team.... then I think the attitudes would have been softer. I had my share of "exchanges" and negotiations with principals and teachers. Ultimately, for us, I found it best to be pro-active and reach out to the administration and teachers right from the start and notify them of the challenge that we would be facing with time away from school and the classroom, our value of education but also equestrian athletic competition, and ask for a cooperative partnership. That helped a little. There was always that one teacher that seemed resentful and uncooperative.
Attending a horse show and all that is involved (bathing, clipping, cleaning tack, packing up equipment) and arriving in time for Friday afternoon schooling, eats into the Friday school day, if the child is part of those preparations. In our family, that all fell on us- the family groom team. Many a Friday, Mom was bathing ponies and pulling manes, then hustling off to school to pick up daughter after noon (half a day at school counted as a full day).
Even with the showing time discounted, as with any student athlete, establishing day to day priorities and making time for riding, lessons, and homework requires self discipline and tactical maneuvering.
If your student athlete and family is blessed to participate in upper level competitions, the travel and show schedules and the time away from the bricks and mortar classroom is amplified. Many parents now utilize at-show class rooms and tutors (at the big, multi-week events), home-schooling, and online schools.
Each child and family situation is different, but education was set as a top priority for my kids...we had to find a way to do both and perform at a fairly proficient level. A college degree was a non-negotiable expectation for my daughters, so the high school grades and studies needed to be pointed in that direction as well. Somehow we managed it all. Kudos to the girls. They each received their degrees (the youngest is finishing up at the University of Georgia). Ultimately for the daughter that had the most strenuous riding schedule, she finished her high school degree online, as she had the opportunity to train in Mexico and Florida those last two years. She then went on to get her degree from the University of Kentucky while riding, training and competing.
What have been your creative solutions to supporting both competitive equestrian training and competition along with academic achievement? We would like to hear from you!
Morgan Taylor is the founder, owner and producer of Horse Show Ventures Hunter/Jumper horse shows in the greater Atlanta area. Three of her four daughters competed and showed growing up. For many years she and her daughters owned and operated a boarding and training facility in Milton, Georgia.