Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Living With a Horse Person

A horse lover's required space
Did someone you love just announce that they’ve bought a horse?  Did you fall in love with a horse person before you realized what that meant?  Have courage!  All is not lost.  There are ways for a non-horse person to enjoy life with a horsy type with minimal bloodshed.

Most non-horse people find it very difficult to understand why anyone gets into horses.  The animals are large, tend to smell strongly, require endless attention and care, and all equestrian sports require huge outlays of cash for equipment, transportation, and in service to that Fashion Forward look.  In addition, horse people can be very single-minded and self-centered. 

It has been bandied about (even right here in my own home) that horse people should all be kept together out of range of non-horse people for the sake of everyone’s sanity.  I don’t think that’s entirely necessary.  It is, however, vital that non-horse partners find a way to communicate with and enjoy life with the horse people into whose scary world they’ve wandered.

First, be sure you’ve hooked up with a real horse person.  Some people simply like horses.  They like to look at photos of them or watch them go by in parades.  That doesn’t make them horse people.  If you have managed to find a horse liker as opposed to a horse lover, you’re in luck.  You’ll only need to attend an occasional horse-related event or verbalize appreciatively when horses appear in a movie or TV commercial. 

If you’re sure you’ve got a full-blown horse addict on your hands, you are going to have to make some adjustments, but don’t feel that the full burden is on you.  Horse people, under duress, can adjust as well, just not quickly.

Non-horse person faking it:  FAIL
Pretending to love your partner’s horse is not a good place to start.  If you’ve never been completely obsessed by anything, you can’t appreciate what it means to love a horse.  Your partner may immediately assign you to some sort of horse duty—standing foal watch, stall-mucking, waiting for the vet or shoer and standing around while they minister to the animal—believing that you are happy to have the chance to be involved with Darlin Daisy’s care.  There are horse lovers in this world who can’t afford a horse or have no place to store one, and they do tend to flock around horse owners just begging for a sniff of leather or the feel of a soft nose.  If your partner puts you in that category based on a lie, you’re done for.

Even worse, if your partner has, as many horse people do, a lot of money and little common sense, you may find yourself (as did my own partner) owning a horse and being expected to ride it.  Unless this is part of your game plan, be honest and up-front about how you really feel about Daisy and her kin.  Better to lose your lover than wind up stuck in a world you never meant to join.

Before you panic and break off your relationship (or disown your child, as the case may be), there are good things about horse people, and with the right attitude you can take advantage of the situation without serious damage to your mental or physical health.  For one thing, barns are often really nice places to hang around.  They tend to be quiet.  A barn full of horses is a nice place to be on a rainy day.  There’s something soothing about a bunch of animals softly chewing hay while rain beats down on the roof.  Bring along a comfy folding chair and a book, and you might find that you’ve got a new favorite hiding place.  All-steel barns are really poor places for cell phone reception, which makes “I was in the barn” a viable excuse for missing all sorts of unpleasant events and chores.  No horse owner will ever find fault with that excuse for anything short of the birth of your child or a parent’s funeral.

Non-horse person finding his path:  SUCCESS!
Horses are actually nice animals.  They are kind and forgiving, and they have a sort of sixth sense that makes them willing listeners when you’re feeling stressed and over-burdened.  You can spend time talking to Daisy, which will make your partner happy and might help you find Enlightenment. One never knows. 

Horse people can be a lot of fun to be around.  They tend to have outrageous senses of humor.  They also tend to be willing workers.  If you need help with something around the house, just mention it at the boarding barn.  You may find yourself with more help than you could have rounded up on your best day at the office.  Horse people are often a little hyper but generally enthusiastic.  Just don’t expect the job to be done the way you’d planned or that they’ll all agree and get along famously while the project is afoot.  Alcohol and cookies can smooth over the rough patches.

Your partner will probably be the most independent person in your life.  If you’re male, you may find that you’ve hooked up with a female who is more mechanically inclined than any of your male friends.  The counter man at the local tractor parts store once told me that he can tell a horse woman as soon as she enters the building because she’ll have a ruined part in her hand and know exactly what it is, what’s wrong with it, and how to replace it.  Don’t expect her to be an outstanding cook as well.  She may spend more time cleaning the barn than the house.  Learn to clean while she fixes your car.

If you’re a non-horse woman paired with a horseman, expect that he’ll do eight things at once, and only the horse-related projects will reach completion in a reasonable amount of time.  But he’ll be honest about his addiction and will have energy to spare.  I’ve never met a bored horseman.  They are always busy with something, and you can put that tendency to good use around the house.  Don’t give him a list; he’ll use it to wipe saddle soap off his conchos.  You will rank lower than his horse, but after all, you can take care of yourself, and he’ll expect you to. 

With a little understanding, it’s possible for the horsy and non-horsy to live together in harmony.  For sure it will never be dull and the highs will make the lows worth enduring

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