We’ve all heard that tired old line parents of horse girls often use when talking about their offspring—“She won’t need a boyfriend if she has a horse.”
You’ve learned to respond to this sentiment by shoving handfuls of corn chips in your mouth, stifling your plentiful opinions from falling out all over the place, while you search for the right words. You watch alongside her blissfully ignorant parents as the child lovingly grooms her four-legged, man replacement plan.
After chewing dramatically for what seems like a long time, you decide it’s not your place to educate anyone on the subject. After all, your own idiotic parents probably said the same thing when you were her age, and look how great that theory turned out? *Coughs up corn chips*
The progeny in question smiles toothily at you, tries to wave her curry comb-free hand, and is bitten, hard by her #%*€ of a horse. “Oooohf!” Both you and her parents cringe in unison as the child squeaks and hops around, flapping the pain away. “Shake it off Ashley!” (Thick southern accent) encourages father of the year, while silently mouthing “OH.MY.GOD.” at you, his eyes bulging out of his head.
His horrified expression turns to shame as it becomes apparent that this particular horse is a bigger jerk than any human boy could ever be. He’s made a pretty huge parental miscalculation and it’s far too late to switch the bait.
How It Starts
Your daughter will love her new horse unconditionally. No matter how heinous her mud-encrusted beloved is to her, she’ll excuse him with the generic domestic disturbance response of: “He didn’t mean it. He just gets upset, no I don’t wish to press charges.”
Strangers in Walmart will look at you like a monster as you walk with your bruised and beaten 12-year-old, and you may have to explain to security, that the 1,200-lb. “Christmas pet” you gave her is responsible for the damage. She’ll swear he’s sorry, and that he’ll never do it again. You both know this is total crap and stop to pick up horse treats on your way to the barn.
Whoever said “love is blind” must’ve been talking about a girl’s love for a horse. The thing could be lumpy, 35-year-old Pinta-Quarter-loose-bred, with mange, an overbite, one eye and a harelip—she will still consider it the MOST majestic creature she has EVER laid eyes on, cover it with Showsheen and kisses and giggle, while you watch on in horror.
She’ll spend all the allowance money she receives on her horse’s controlled mint dependency. “When he doesn’t get his candies, he gets a little angry,” she’ll explain as she shoves fistfuls of peppermints into his chomping jowls.
The wretched creature only releases his ears from their token position (pinned flat against his skull) when plastic wrappers are crinkled and his candy lust is satiated. You consider staging an intervention, but you don’t actually want to touch the beast, so you let your child continue to be a servant to her beloved’s minty demons. Who are you to complain—she mows the lawn for slave wages and your vehicles have never been cleaner.
When he decides he needs to supplement his candy-rich diet with vegetation, he’ll do it on the way to the arena. He skillfully locates her paddock boot with his hoof and pins it to the ground in order to immobilize her. He then meets his nutritional requirements, holding her in place as she screeches and pounds on him with her tiny fists of tween rage. You swear you see him grin between mouthfuls of grass, “Yes my tiny minion, do your worst.”
He has a wandering eye and will make his “come hither” face at any child passing by his stall. He doesn’t discriminate—as long as they have pockets with reasonable treat potential, he’ll try and seduce them.
When he “dumps” her, it won’t be over the phone, it will be in a stonedust arena that hasn’t been drug in a while. He will refuse to be captured for at least 12-25 minutes while he trots around the ring pushing over all the standards.
Hell horse screens her calls from the field. He may glance up to see who’s yelling for him from the gate, but sends her straight to voicemail and continues stuffing his fat face.
He may occasionally show her affection, but these moments are mint-motivated and brief. They conclude abruptly once he realizes she intends to ride him.
Think again my tiny dancer, think again.
He will reject her… or eject her from his saddle when he feels under appreciated. Or just for fun.
You’ll need to foot the bill for your genius boyfriend replacement scheme. Your daughter’s veterinarian will be on the family phone plan so your child can call to discuss new “butt lump developments” at her leisure. You’ll keep asking the vet to pull the plug on every visit, and they’ll just laugh and laugh… and hand you the invoice.
Those luxury horse-condo fees compete with your mortgage, and you’ll need to break the news to Mom that you can no longer afford to send her to that 50+ retirement community in Florida she’s been asking about. “Don’t be selfish Mom, Buttons gets nervous without full board.”
Your child’s tiny she-human hands are good for butt scratches, make nice sacrificial food alters and are fun to bite. Fun fact: He knows her fingers aren’t carrots.
Her blossoming relationship may get her noticed at school, for all the wrong reasons. No one wants to be the smelly kid, but she wore her new ballet flats to visit Barn Jaws last week and will now smell like fresh horse pee for the rest of her young life.
Turns out, horses eat more in one week than the entire U.S. Olympic curling team.
The Relationship Gets “Serious”
Your daughter may spend more time at the barn than at home. You’ll begin to suspect she’s up to something besides barn chores. You may even hope she’s beginning to show signs of typical tween rebellion and is sneaking off to do typical jerk kid stuff.
You’ll show up early to pick her up, hoping to catch her in a scheme, but there she’ll be, scampering across the paddock, balancing some turds on a rake laughing like she just escaped from the asylum.
She’ll put a “keep out” sign on her bedroom door, and it may break your heart, but honestly it smells like a farm animal in there, and you know she’s just looking at horses on the internet and rolling around in her blue ribbons.
Magically, those painfully awkward, 75-lb., zit-canvassed adolescent boys you once dreaded appear fairly benign after your barn parenting adventures. You’ll start campaigning for a homecoming date, begging the young men of the neighborhood to please take her with them. You’ll pay for a limo, they can have a late curfew, and a nice dinner if only she won’t make you her groom at one more show.
She’ll want to get her school pictures with her horse. You tell her she’ll be the only girl in school to have their yearbook photo with Satan, but she insists, and gets ready anyway. She wants it to be perfect and spends a few hours curling her hair and watching YouTube makeup tutorials. She puts on her nice clean outfit and you both head to the barn.
The shoot goes as follows:
- Horse immediately snorts grass-snot slime all over clean shirt.
- Horse wipes vibrant clover-drool across meticulously curled hair.
- Horse poops six to 12 times in four minutes.
- Horse pretends to be horrified by the camera lens and rips the shank out of her hands.
- Horse fear-farts as he flails back to his field, spooking a few lesson ponies in a nearby arena, small children start flying off all over the place. “Whose pony was that?!” you ask their horrified parents.
- Your daughter’s carefully applied makeup runs down her face as she sobs in defeat.
- You snap a picture.
The hard truth is, giving your child a horse as intended boy repellent will only delay the inevitable. You’ll consider crawling in an oven when the shocking discovery is made that your daughter is capable of having both a horse, annnnd a boyfriend at the SAME TIME.
Crazy, I know. Let it all sink in.
This may all come as a surprise to you, considering she smells like livestock and has bigger biceps than most boys her age. But for every smelly horse girl out there, there will be some sad sucker willing to follow her around the barn, carry her tack, hold her horse, and laugh nervously when it tries to bite him in the eyes.
The difference though, is that you will have afforded your daughter an advantage over other, less stinky girls her age. She will not be intimidated by any boy, because she wrangles 1,200 pounds of irrational disaster-horse every day—for fun. She won’t put up with being disrespected, because her horse has taught her how much respect she deserves and how to get it.
That terrible creature will teach her to love unconditionally, and deeply, even if it means getting hurt. She’ll learn what it is to work hard for very little, and to be grateful for it. Her horse will make her strong, and show her what it is to put another’s needs above her own. She’ll value herself when others won’t, she’ll learn who she is in that barn, and what she’s really made of. These lessons in themselves are what make a horrible little horse a gift worth giving.
Someday someone might ask you if you worry about your daughter as she climbs into a young man’s car for a first date. If you’re anything like my dad, you’ll reply, “That girl will be just fine—it’s the boy you should be praying for.”
Alice Peirce was raised as a self-described “feral horse farm child” in Howard County, Md. She’s made efforts to leave the horse world over the years but always comes back and has worked for a number of people in various disciplines. Currently she’s riding young racehorses and training foxhunters in Monkton, Md., where she hunts with the Elkridge-Harford Hunt.