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A Parent’s View from the sidelines with Steve Parker

This article is from the March 2020 Horse Deals magazine.

The Parker Family. Photo: Narelle Niksic Photography

The Parker Family. Photo: Narelle Niksic Photography

How did Hayden and Mitchell commence their riding career? Their mum Lisa always managed to have a horse or pony at home which she would ride for pleasure or to help move stock around the farm. When the boys were about eight years old Lisa had a couple of ponies she had managed to trade for some of my sheep and Mitchell and Hayden showed a bit of interest. We took the boys along to a Sharyn Van Somerens riding school for some lessons and to see if they were keen before we bought them a pony of their own.

What were your initial thoughts when you realised Hayden and Mitchell were into horses? Growing up on the farm myself I was made to have riding lessons as a child and could ride but chose not to. I was happy (probably not as much as Lisa) to see the boys learning to ride, as I still think it is a good lesson in life to be able to manage animals.

Did you have experience with horses prior to their interest? Very limited as I chose not to be involved with horses. My only memories of riding as a child were falling off. So in saying this, I tried to avoid them as much as possible.

Does your own personal or lack of personal experience with horses have an impact on their sport? I don’t think so, it probably made it better for them. Both Lisa and I were quick to get them into our local pony club Emu Creek in Terang, and they both started to get lessons locally from some very experienced coaches once they started to show more interest in showjumping. I think my lack of knowledge let me take an outside look at what they were doing, as I had no preconceived ideas on how they should have been doing things. We have been very lucky to have the assistance of the Haworth family helping the boys in their showjumping pursuits from very early on. They knew we didn’t know a lot about the sport and helped guide us and the boys along their journey so far.

Hayden riding Fat Boy Slim. Proud Dad, Steve, watching from the sidelines. <br>
Photo: Geoff McLean from Gone Riding Media

Hayden riding Fat Boy Slim. Proud Dad, Steve, watching from the sidelines.
Photo: Geoff McLean from Gone Riding Media

What were your expectations of Hayden and Mitchell’s first ponies and what did you end up with? I expected that they would continue to ride the riding school horses and we wouldn’t have to get any for them. Lisa had other ideas, and within a short time they had one each. Mitch had a loan show pony that had been around the traps a bit but didn’t like to get her feet off the ground and jump jumps. And Hayden had a young pony that hadn’t done a lot and was a bit of a handful with his young antics. Neither boy has had an easy schoolmaster of any kind along
their journey.

How do you juggle your time for horses between the rest of your commitments? We have both been lucky that Lisa and I have had our own businesses, so our time away can be managed a little easier. In saying that Lisa did return to full-time work last year to help assist more financially with the boys’ horse riding dreams. This has meant Lisa hasn’t been able to attend some of the bigger competitions that run for longer periods. I run a sheep farm, producing prime lambs and commercial rams, so a few of the farming operations have changed the time they happen within the year to better suit when the boys have the most events on. Our daughter, Kate, has pretty much grown up knowing nothing else but the boys riding horses, and she is pretty happy tagging along as there is always someone she finds to play with, and she cannot wait to take a couple of Haydens rides off him, especially Fat Boy Slim. The boys basically look after and work their horses themselves throughout the week, so it is more the competition and lesson time that we have to manage.

What are, or what do you think are, the life lessons and benefits of Hayden and Mitchell being involved with horses? Apart from the basics of looking after the health and fitness of their own horses, there are so many other lessons/experiences that they are learning along the way. They have both been involved with other sports like football and cricket, and at the time were probably better equipped to manage the highs and lows of sports. You don’t win every time, winning is not always in your control (especially when riding a horse) and you have to manage your emotions when you win and lose.

They have to learn to respect their horses and learn that the amount of time and effort they put into their horses and training is what will help them reach their goals.

The friendships they are making along the way with their fellow peers is also something I think they will look back on in future years. The sportsmanship amongst the general showjumping community is terrific, and the boys enjoy the assistance and banter they receive (and give) from their fellow competitors, regardless of their age.

Mitchell riding Myridersnota Roxstar. <br>
Photo: Geoff McLean from Gone Riding Media

Mitchell riding Myridersnota Roxstar.
Photo: Geoff McLean from Gone Riding Media

As a family what sacrifices have you had to make to fulfil their passion? Probably the biggest sacrifice is time. We have chosen to give both boys the best opportunities we can afford, so our time at this stage in their careers is what we believe is the most beneficial. Because we do so much of it as a family we don’t do as many destination holidays. We always try and do little things when horses are being spelled, or encourage the boys to do something different and have a break from their riding.

Horse riding is known as high risk. How do you come to terms with the risk factors? There are risks in a lot of sports that kids play. Horse riding is no exception. The boys’ coaches and ourselves try and make sure they understand the dangers of things not going right and are ready to progress to the next level in jumping before they put themselves in any danger. That being said, things can go wrong from time to time, we hope it doesn’t but I guess we are always prepared for it.

What enjoyment do you get out of watching them ride? It gives both Lisa and I great pleasure watching the boys achieve results that they have been training hard for. The hours they put into the sport, on and off their horses, are huge so to see them rewarded is gratifying. The hardest part is when you see them have a bad ride, and you know they have put just as much effort into having a bad ride as a good ride.

What advice can you give to other parents whose child may be interested in riding? It is a great experience for your child, even if they do not go into it at a highly competitive level. Pony club is a great starting point and exposes kids to many different disciplines and teaches them about horsemanship.

Hayden riding Yirrkala Pippi Longstockings.<br>
Photo: Geoff McLean from Gone Riding Media

Hayden riding Yirrkala Pippi Longstockings.
Photo: Geoff McLean from Gone Riding Media

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