In praise of perfect parents

Eventing star Mary King’s tribute to her Mum, Gillian Thomson, will have pulled at the heartstrings of every horse owner.

Mrs Thomson, who died early in January, wasn’t just the epitome of a not-particularly-horsey parent who encouraged her daughter to chase her dreams. She was a shining light, and we badly need more of her kind.

If you’re lucky enough to have a parent who is supportive and encouraging without being pushy, do tell us about her or him. If you’re one yourself, you’ll probably be too modest to boast, but keep reminding yourself you’re doing the right thing.

So what makes a perfect horsey Mum or Dad? While it’s great if they are knowledgeable about horses, that isn’t essential. Some of the parents I most admire didn’t have anything to do with ponies before their offspring showed them how easy it was to set fire to £20 notes, but they’ve done wonders. Here are a few examples.

  1. Someone who encourages you in your dreams. So what if you’re ten years old, can’t work out how to ride on the correct diagonal and are a bit mixed up over this business of striking off on the correct leg in canter? You can still watch Charlotte/Carl/Scott/Laura/Oli/Izzy and have every faith that one day, you’ll emulate them.
  2. Someone who believes in you through the bad times as well as the good – and gently points out that if your pony keeps having fences down, won’t pick up his foot when you think you’re asking him to or decides he doesn’t want to be caught, you need to work out how to get around the problem rather than getting cross.
  3. Someone who, having explained the above, then helps you work out the best strategy.
  4. Someone who, when you’re cold, tired and are drowning in a sea of homework, takes over pony duties.
  5. Someone who learns how to read a dressage test, tow a trailer, muck out and clean tack – so they can do all the things you need to have fun, and help when necessary.
  6. Someone who won’t muck out or clean tack because you’d rather do something else. It’s about accepting responsibility, and it will stand you in good stead later in life.
  7. Someone who stands up for you when non-horsey siblings moan about how much time the pony takes up, but also makes sure that you understand that they need support, too. If you don’t want to watch football or go clothes shopping – well, that’s tough.
  8. Someone who ploughs his/her way through all your “how to” books and spends ages searching online for videos of the best way to secure plaits.
  9. Someone who can laugh at pushy parents who think that if they buy a pony with a telephone number price tag, their child will automatically win every competition, from best turned out at Pony Club camp to leading junior showjumper of the year at HOYS.
  10. Someone who says that all that matters is that you do your best, have fun doing it and love your pony. That applies whether you’re six or 60.

If you have, or know of, a perfect parent, we’d love to hear about them. They’re a breed to cherish.