Showing horses passed down, daughter to mom

That might sound backward, but many mothers take the reins when their daughters hang them up.

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WALLA WALLA -- Soccer moms step aside, show moms are stepping up in the saddle.

"I have been a show mom for 20 years. There were many shows where I made sure she was on her horse ready. Now she helps me get ready," Debbie Ragan, 49, of Sagle, Idaho, said, as she sat on her horse, only minutes before she would enter the ring to compete for points.

What is a show mom?

Like a soccer mom, they do everything that needs to be done to get their kids competing in their sport. For Dawn Zacharias of Joseph, Ore., that meant washing, saddling, banding and numerous other types of muck-work, so her daughter could earn points at shows. But unlike most soccer moms, shows moms often take up the sport after their daughters have grown up.

"I was her slave for 20 year. Now I am making her my slave. She is my horse show mom," Zacharias said. And she wasn't the only mom who had climbed into the saddle with a little help from a daughter.

On Sunday at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, the vast majority of the contestants showing quarter horses were women. And if you took a closer look at those faces, you would notice some family resemblances. That is because horse showing is a legacy that is often passed on from daughter to mother.

"My daughters showed. Now it's my turn now that they are up and out," said Stacy Muzljakovich, yet another mom who took the reins after her two daughters let go.

The 50-year-old mom even traveled 270 miles from Duvall, Wash., alone, not counting her horse Junior. And she said she would do a few more trips alone this year because she loves to show. And in some ways, doing it alone is easier for her.

"I have always had horses, but there just wasn't enough energy at the end of the day for the three of us to show," she said.

Many of the mothers who continued in this sport said it gives them great satisfaction to see their daughters working as hard as the had to for all those years.

"I am enjoying watching her. She has to wash them, now she saddles them, and she bands them. Now mom holds down the lawn chair and barks orders," Zacharias said. And though she wasn't barking, she was definitely sitting in her lawn chair relaxing.

"It's good. We enjoy each other's company. There are not times that we don't argue, but we get along," Zacharias said, as she leaned back in her chair. Then she also noted that for her, competing in horse shows was something that she didn't get to do when she was a teen.

"I grew up on a ranch and we never got to do anything like this," she said.

Mothers also said the have continued in this sport for the same reasons they started, to do something positive with their daughters.

"It is an excellent mother-daughter sport. I think it has been a healthy way to raise our child," Ragan said. And her daughter, Lizz, was within earshot. She came this weekend not to compete, but to support her mom.

Another reason mothers said they took up this sport is because of the bond they developed through feeding, brushing, bathing and overall caring for horses.

"We all have this love for the horses because we cared for the horses," Muzljakovich pointed out.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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