LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY—Fresh off a week of round-the-clock observation at the 2023 USEF Pony Finals, Thomas Casing, a social anthropologist with the University of Michigan, came away with some revolutionary insights on what he deems “previously unseen parenting behavior” in pony moms.
Here, a few of the highlights from his report:
“In her native habitat, the pony mother is a constant flurry of solicitousness, full of competitive angst, and kind of frenetic, hyper-awareness of her surroundings.
She is not only intimately familiar with the horse show schedule for each day, but also her pack’s likely competition. She has memorized the trainer associated with each pony in her child’s division, and each animal’s pedigree highlights, and estimated market value.
Yet despite the added stressors of her environment, the pony mother does not neglect her every day parental duties. She knows, down to the spoonful, what her child ate (or didn’t eat) for breakfast, and how he or she slept the night before. She lines the nest of her ring bag with ample supplies: water, treats, sunscreen, Tide pens, rubber bands, Band-Aids, and Goldfish crackers for emergencies.
Among most species in the natural world, displays of bright plumage are a means of attracting positive attention from prospective mates. Not so for the intrepid pony mother who, in her flowy, patterned maxi dress or skirt, only has eyes for her young offspring.
“Are your heels down?”
“Have you checked your diagonal?”
This is the call of the pony mother.
Forced to supervise her child and pint-sized yet astronomically-priced equine investment for long hours under the hot Kentucky sun, face and eye protection is essential to both the pony mother’s comfort and her quarterly ablative laser regime.
Oversized designer glasses are essential; as is a strategically creased floppy hat, or the more casual, “I just threw this old thing on over my blowout” baseball cap. These are the tools of her trade. Yet despite her seemingly lavish embrace of pale-pink-hued acrylic nails and Italian oxford tops, don’t fooled. The pony mother, in her element, is a fearsome species to behold.
Above all, she is a champion of her young, who will fight to the death should she feel her child’s medium green pony hunter score is a shade too stringy, or their trainer has in any way underestimated her child’s ability to jump the real division classes, try ponies well outside the agreed-upon price range, or read above grade-level (generally speaking). God help you should you attempt to slip into ‘her’ parking space, or take too long placing your smoothie order ahead of her in line.
The pony mom’s survival appears to depend on a constant supply of caffeinated beverages, both hot and iced, minimally sweetened, and cut with almond, soy, or oats—anything but a dairy-based byproduct.
Only then, during a rare moment of contemplation—while simultaneously slurping the remains of her grande-sized shaken oat latte, completing her daily five-minute mediation, and wrapping a third set of kegel reps—does she reach peak pony mom.
Now and only now is she fully ready to tackle the innumerable demands of her day. The horse-holding, sideline coaching, post-round whooping, tantrum-navigating, braid bow-tying, snack-purveying, sunscreen smearing, coach-accommodating, burden of the pony mother.
In her natural state, she is truly a sight to behold.”