Mother’s Day has come and gone, and many of us were unable to get together with our moms. Although spending time on the road and being far from home is common in the horse world, this year was different. Due to quarantines and travel restrictions, many of us find ourselves isolated, separated from our families and worried about their health and well-being. No matter how far away or how old we are, we never stop missing our moms.
So, even if we are sending our love from a distance, we’d like to raise a glass to the strong, formidable women who raised us. Thank you for always being there, for picking us up when we fall, and showing us how to face our fears and follow our dreams. We love you, we miss you, and we can’t wait to be together again.
My mom has always been so supportive of my riding. I remember being little on ponies, and I was so afraid to show at competitions. My mom was riding at that time as well. We both went to the Monmouth County Horse Show, and she showed her horse, Gwen, even though she didn’t really want to either, just to show me not to be afraid. I was so young, but I remember that very vividly.
Jessica and her mom.
I’m so lucky to have such a close relationship with my mom. I find what’s fun about growing up is that your relationship with your mom evolves. Now, my mom is one of my best friends. No one makes me laugh harder than her! It’s difficult to be separated from family right now, but everyone has to do what’s necessary to stay safe. I FaceTime with my parents a lot, and I just look forward to being able to be around them again!
Since I started riding at 8, my Mum has always supported me in everything I did and still do. She used to drive me to all the shows and help me with the horses. For a while it was the blind leading the blind as neither of us knew how or what to do, which probably also brought us closer as we were both learning. But she is always my biggest fan and supporter, which gives me a lot of strength. It’s interesting now as I look back to the way I was brought up. I think my parents instilled values and gratitude in me, which are very important to have growing up, and I hope I can instill the same in my daughter Chloé. Reflecting is always a great way to look ahead. People have different ways of bringing up children and it’s definitely an art and work!!
Unfortunately I’ve been distanced for a very long time from my parents. I have lived now 20 years in Europe so I’ve gotten used to it, but I never imagined that I would live anywhere other than Australia. I think it’s very hard from both sides that we are so far away from each other, and I can’t imagine if Chloé left me at 24 to go and live far away. My parents come every year to visit, and I go there almost every year to visit them. We FaceTime almost every day, which really helps. Thank goodness for technology. When I first came to Europe, emails didn’t even exist so I was sending letters and making the odd phone call. So fortunately we can communicate in much better ways. When I see my Mum I look forward to just spending quality time with her, and I hope it can be sooner rather than later.
Our families are our roots, and my Mum will always be my soul director in life. I look up to my Mum for advice and comfort, and I’m very fortunate to have a Mum like mine.
When I was a kid, I had some bad falls and I had a lot of broken bones. My mum was always the one who ended up taking me to the hospital. If there weren’t bones sticking out or blood spurting out, she bandaged me up and let me carry on. Even though my parents weren’t riders and, now looking back, I think they must have been terrified seeing me fall off and get hurt, they never tried to stop me. For that, I have to be grateful. My mum just backed me all the way.
I had my two older kids right in the middle of the height of my career. There are people who say you have to put off having children to have a career, but I don’t agree with that. You can be a great rider and still have a family. Although I was a professional, my mom always said, no matter what, the baby comes first. I had those family values deeply instilled into me by my mum.
My mum is so smart. She’s done it all before, and she’s always the best person to ask. She’s been there, done that, gotten the experience. Whatever you are struggling with, whatever phase of life, usually your mum has some experience. And I know my mum is always going to give me the best answer she can. I think, if you ask someone for advice, they might tell you what they think you want to hear or what makes them look good. But, not my mum. She’s my best friend, and now, my daughter is my best friend too. We have no problems owning up. We aren’t afraid to say to each other, you know, I did that and it wasn’t very smart. Don’t do that.
Being separated from my mum during this pandemic has been quite sad and difficult. My mum is getting older, she’s 78, and my dad died a couple of years ago. It’s been hard to be separated for a longer period of time than planned. All I want to do is have a nice cup of tea with my mum. I can’t wait to sit down with her and catch up on what’s been going on.
My mom got me into riding and the sport of eventing. She rode with me until she was 7 months pregnant. She actually had to have a special safety vest made for her! She instilled in me a work ethic and a love for horses, and she’s still one of the greatest horsewomen I know today. She didn’t necessarily teach me the technicalities, but she taught me how to communicate with a horse naturally and how to understand their senses. She always led by example, teaching me things that you can’t learn on paper or in the best riding schools. It doesn’t matter how old I am, when my mom says I can do something, I know I can do it…I feel invincible.
Laine and her mom.
Right now, my mom is in California, and I’m in Virginia. Not being able to travel, it’s hard. My mom is going through a tough time right now because she recently lost her horse. Not being able to be there for her is so difficult; you never really feel like you can do enough over the phone. I’m grateful for the technology, but nothing takes the place of human interaction. I just really look forward to seeing her again, going on crazy rides and galloping through the mountain ranges. I look forward to spending time with those I love the most, my family and my horses.
Ellesse Jordan Gundersen
I’m very grateful for the way my mom has supported me. As a kid, I had off the track thoroughbreds, and they were very spooky horses. Whenever I would go in for my dressage test, she would literally scan the whole area and find anything that might make a sound or scare my horse. One time there was a road close by, and she literally went out onto this dirt road and tried to stop the traffic. She wouldn’t let the cars pass until my test was over. It’s funny, because she’s a tiny woman, maybe five foot nothing, but she’s not afraid to handle horses or handle people.
From the time I was 16, I lived away from her, and home was a 21 hour flight away. If I was lucky, I would be able to see her at Christmas. During our time apart, the one thing…besides her cooking…I missed the most is her comfort and her uplifting words. I’m very critical and hard on myself. Whenever I think I’m not good enough, she’s always been the voice who is stubbornly telling me otherwise. No one can ever replace that comfort your mom gives you.
Ellesse and her mom, years apart.
We are so cautious now, during this pandemic. If I get sick, I might be fine or my husband might be fine, but at their age, our parents might not. It’s not really about trying to protect ourselves, it’s about keeping them safe. We have to be mindful right now of the safety of the older generation. We owe it to them. Our moms have so much to offer us. Mothering doesn’t stop when we leave the house, and I’ve learned so much from my mother in these last few months since I’ve become a mother myself. My relationship with my mother grounds me and reminds me where I came from. Growing up, the life we had was wonderful, but it was also hard. My life today is like a crazy fantasy, but she reminds me of how it started and what’s important.
Feature photo courtesy of Jessica Springsteen.
Written by Cheryl Witty-Castillo
Cheryl is a former competitive figure skater turned book nerd and equestrian sport junkie. She views the written word and photography as an intimate conversation with the power to both tell an individual's story and unite a community with a shared passion. When she isn't writing or teaching, Cheryl loves spending time at home with her babies and their various furry rescue pets and carnivorous plants.