A Valued Member of the Team
There’s a chance he doesn’t understand the difference between reining and Western riding or know that you can run to either the right or the left in the barrel race, but he catches on quick. He’s a good listener, no matter if you have a good run or one you’d rather forget.
At home, he loves the weekends when he fires up his tractor to work the arena and scrape the stall runs. He serves as de facto horsekeeper to the equines left at home when the others head to an event. He fixes fence, digs trenches to redirect water in flooded pens, and provides Dad Strength when required.
At a show or event, his main role is go-fer. He fetches back numbers, gets drinks from the concession stand, and runs back to the trailer countless times—bringing one fly spray after another, until he gets the right one. He gives legs up to anyone who asks, and he even remembers to say “Flip your chaps down!” right before you go into a class.
Then he sits in the stands, sometimes alone or with another displaced dad, and watches his wife and kids “do their thing.”
What We Learn From Him
He might not be able to teach us to change leads (or even tell us when we’re on the wrong one), but the Non-Horse Dad brings valuable insight to the barn, arena, and trail. He provides outside perspective, endless encouragement, and even a bit of levity on a tough day.
I know, because my own dad falls into this category. He’s probably ridden four times in his life (and has no interest in doing so more frequently), but his lessons on sportsmanship, tolerance, patience, and understanding greatly influenced my life with horses. It also showed me what you get back when you support the interest of someone you love, even if it’s not something you’d pick. The smile on his face when he sees me, my brother, and my kids with horses says it all.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Non-Horse Dads (and Horse Dads) out there. We appreciate all you do.
This appeared in the June 2014 Horse&Rider "Letter From the Editor" department.