The Chronicle's newest blogger takes you through the adventures of being a "horse husband."
My name is Jesse, and I am a horse husband. Now, don’t take that literally. I am not actually married to a horse. Well, not directly anyway. But there are a lot of horses in my marriage. When my wife refers to someone new, it is usually another round of a game we play in the car called "horse or person?"
"We are going to pick up Joey on the way…" "And Joey is a, um, person?" "No, Joey is a horse." "OK, cool, then he can ride in the back."
You would think the game would get easier based on the context of who is introduced, but you know, it kind of isn’t. All the people and horses are doing the same things—showing, getting their leads, trailering in. So in short, I know a lot of horses, and a lot of riders, but sometimes I can’t tell them apart, not by name anyway.
Horse husband is actually short for "horse show husband." I go to a lot of horse shows. Usually they are located close by, on the weekend, like NFL opening weekend. I typically have three primary responsibilities at any horse show. I watch other horse show husbands, and I see them doing the same three things. First, I carry the bucket. The process of preparing a horse for the ring takes about 20 minutes, and all told, the horse and rider strap on about 50 pounds of leather. But the funny thing is—no pockets!
So that’s where I come in—me and the bucket. Any accessories you want to bring, it goes in the bucket. I have seen more than a few horses on the way to the ring, looking left, looking right; looking for who is bringing their bucket. It is kind of like carrying their purse. They might not need anything in it, but it’s just the security of knowing it is there.
After we get to the ring, horse and rider go off to the practice field and run some scrimmages, and I head up into the stands. It’s important to get there early, to get the best position. Well, the official photographer and the judge pretty much have the best positions staked out, so I guess actually, you are looking for the next best position—the one with good angles. Horse husbands are the official videographers of the show, so anybody who couldn’t actually get to the show will be watching on YouTube whatever you capture in that little viewfinder, so in a way, you are recording history. I personally take my inspiration from those old NFL Films footage. I try to get down close to the ring, so you can see the clumps of dirt flying up, the heavy breathing, the trash-talking trainers pacing the sidelines.
When the division is completed, the grounds crew comes in to prep the field and the champion is announced. This is the third responsibility for the horse husband—accepting the trophy. They have a makeshift grandstand set up, just like the one they use for giving out the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl. The ring master is up there, doing her best Terry Bradshaw impersonation. She has a microphone and everything.
I know, I didn’t actually win the contest, but how are you gonna get the horse and rider up those steps? So I am there as proxy. "I am accepting these ribbons on behalf of My Boy Malloy and the best fans in the league..." I mean, um, "thank you."
Then I walk the ribbons back through the barn—think of that Lombardi Trophy getting handed from player to player who put their palms on it—until it reaches the trophy case outside the tack room.
That’s life as a horse husband. It has its highs, its lows, and the natural rhythm. I do it all for love of the game.
Jesse married into the horse world in 2009. His wife, Diane, rides and trains with Dev Branham in Tomball, Texas. He has ridden, if you must know, but he does not ride regularly. Jesse prefers to interact with horses more on an eye-to-eye level, two and four feet firmly on the ground, respectively. He enjoys long walks in the pasture and grazing on a rainy afternoon.