A Letter of Thanks – 10 Gifts from my Horse Show Dad
by Robyn Duplisea
There is not a single Father’s Day that passes that you are not on my mind. In so many ways, I owe you for the life I have today. Specifically for the lessons you taught me and the support that never wavered.
This year for Father’s Day I would like to focus on 10 of the gifts you gave me over the years. Well I may have hunted to buy you the best tie or coolest new golf shirt; you continued to gift me without me even knowing it.
- Responsibility – Allowing your young girls the opportunity to have horses, be a part of the 4-H program and show was such a privilege, but teaching us that our responsibilities came first no matter what was the true gift. Thank you for my teenage years when staying out late was not an option, as I had to do chores early in the morning or there would be no showing. You gave me every chance in the horse world as long as I held up my side of the bargain, – good grades, hard work and the knowledge that the horses ALWAYS came first. At the time I did not know that these lessons were the basis of being an adult. You can do what you love and is fun, but the chores must come first.
- Passion – You shared your passion with me. Not just for the horses, but specifically for the mental challenge of the trail class. You never failed to get excited to see my sister and I navigate the most difficult challenges with a smile on our faces and a fire in our bellies. You wanted your girls to be passionate about what we chose to dedicate our time to, and when my sister decided to go penning and leave the show pen, you were happy she had a passion for it.
- Sacrifice – I did not understand as a kid why you spent so little time on a golf course, when you clearly loved the game. I often did not notice at night when you finished a long day at work how exhausted you were as we loaded the trailer and headed off to lessons. I should have known on Saturday morning after working all week that you would have loved to sleep in – but instead were up at the crack of dawn with us to head to a show. You (and Mom) gave us all of your time and finances so we could live our dreams. As an adult I look back and see the many sacrifices you made for us, and never once did I know it, or did you let us feel guilty for this. What an incredible Dad.
- Gratitude – When we felt down that others had it easier or even better (in our minds) you reminded us how lucky we were to have what we had. Your gratitude for each day and moment was reflected in your daughters as we learned to work with what we had. Perhaps other people had better bred horses and fancier tack but we were so grateful for the opportunity to ride that those trivial things became less important.
- Laughter – You were not the loudest Dad at the shows. Your sense of humor was reserved for those close to you, but once they saw that twinkle in your eye they knew they were in for a good laugh. You taught me to find the humor in the every day and to embrace it. You made sure I could laugh at myself and my blunders and you were there to point them out in case I missed them. When I felt sorry for myself or sad, I could be sure you would be there with a corny (or dirty) joke to cheer me up. No one loved bathroom humor more than you lol.
- Dedication – You taught me if I was going to do something that I should give it my all. There was not an option of “horse hopping” every time things got tough. You taught me to work with what I had to make it it’s best and to find the good in every moment. I was so successful in Showmanship and the pattern classes as a youth, because my horses may not have had the best movement but they were broke and I worked had to develop the skills they could master.
- Support – Win or lose, you were ALWAYS there. For every ride and every moment. You celebrated with me when I won my first International High Point and you held me when I had to say goodbye to my beloved 4-H horse who suffered a catastrophic accident. I always knew your arms would be there to lift me up in the hard times and embrace me in the good times! One of my favorite memories was the year we were at an AQHA show with cheap cross over fees. Every time I came out of the pen you sent me back in as you had entered me in the open division. I would never have had the confidence to do that, and darn it we actually won a few classes against the trainers. You made me better in every way.
- Independence – You always wanted us to be able to do it on our own. From saddling my horse correctly to getting on, you taught us to find a way to do it. As much as I always wanted my Daddy there to give me a leg up and help me find my way, you wanted us to have the confidence to meet life head on.
- Love – You always gave us the most you had to give. Not a day went by that I did not know you loved your family. When you were tired or even a little grumpy you still made sure we knew we were loved. You also loved the horses, each for their own personalities and talents. You taught us they were not just animals to serve us, but partners and friends.
- Loss – 16 years ago when you passed, I really didn’t know if I could go on. You were far too young at 55 and I was not ready to no longer have my Daddy by my side. I wanted to give up, crawl under a rock and pretend the World had stopped moving. Your final gift was to teach me about great loss and becoming a survivor. You taught me to say goodbye without losing the love that lingers on. You taught me the importance of building memories to last a lifetime as some day they are all we may have. You taught me that though you are gone, you are not that far away, and you gave me the gift of the dragonflies that swarm to remind me you are near.
Dad, The lessons you gifted me throughout my life gave me the tools to live without you as much as that hurt. I continue to follow my passion and live each day with love and gratitude. I hope to be even half of the person you were and to someday look back and think yeah, I made you proud.
Every time I see a dragonfly I think of you, I carry you with me in every ride and every moment to remember the man who built the woman I am today. I miss you and so wish I could have even one more day with you, but instead I choose to focus on how lucky I was to have had the best Dad in the world for all those years.
This Father’s Day I cannot give you a gift, so instead I will choose to focus on what you gave me and to celebrate to love and memories we shared and to honor all of the incredIble Horse Show Dads.
I love you Dad, for eternity.