Friday, May. 24, 2024

Amateurs Like Us: An Open Letter To My Non-Horsey Husband

To My Dear Husband: 

I have a confession to make, a little lie I’d like to set straight. It’s been weighing on my mind for a while now, and it’s time to get it off my chest.

Remember last summer when I got my custom saddle? Remember how excited I was to receive it? I took a picture of the box and sent it to you at work.

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To My Dear Husband:

I have a confession to make, a little lie I’d like to set straight. It’s been weighing on my mind for a while now, and it’s time to get it off my chest.

Remember last summer when I got my custom saddle? Remember how excited I was to receive it? I took a picture of the box and sent it to you at work.

It was a pretty big purchase, by far the most expensive single item we had purchased in our new marriage. It’s pretty awesome that you agreed to it without complaint and I was so happy! My knees hanging over the flaps of my first off-the-rack saddle wasn’t the best look or the most effective ride. Getting one custom fitted was basically a dream come true. But I digress.

I was still oiling/conditioning/petting/fawning over the saddle when you came home from work. You congratulated me, acted appropriately impressed, and then you uttered perhaps the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard: “So now you have everything you need.”

It’s a good thing I wasn’t facing you so you couldn’t see my expression. I swallowed hard, panicking on the inside. That’s when it happened. The little lie that has turned into a whopper: I muttered a weak, “Mm-hmm,” smiled sweetly, and went back to my saddle polishing.

I knew it was a lie. I knew it even before I said it. I just didn’t want to ruin the moment, didn’t want to argue, and most of all, I didn’t want to destroy your horse-related innocence.

You are a smart man, a high-level executive with advanced degrees. You are a master of logic and reason. And it would be a perfectly reasonable thing to assume, that I had everything I needed, if there was anything at all reasonable about the horse world, and if the number of horse-related items one needs was finite, concrete, or predictable.

You’ve been remarkably patient through this process. You understood that when we purchased my first horse (well, the first as an adult) that I needed everything. There wasn’t a page in the Dover catalog that didn’t have something I needed.

And you know we’re talking about the thick annual catalog, not the flimsy sale ones that come seemingly every single day.

The expense is nothing short of staggering. But each time we purchased yet another piece of gear, we reasoned that as soon as we bought this brush/blanket/bridle/helmet, we wouldn’t need to buy one ever again. Well, not EVER again but not for a while. Right?

Yet the UPS man continues to stop by, and the recycle bin fills up with boxes from Dover, Smartpak, Amazon. Sometimes I try to flatten them and hide them at the bottom of the bin, but you always seem to find them anyway. And then I make an attempt at an explanation:

 

  • “My irons with the offset eye are frowned upon in equitation so I had to buy plain Fillis irons for shows.”
  • “Aria runs through my hands in the French link snaffle so I’m trying a slow twist eggbutt.”
  • “It’s a scrim sheet. The other one I have is a fly sheet. Yes, they’re different. Or are you talking about the cooler? No, not the ice chest. The horse cooler.”

 

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You can’t really say, “you don’t need that” because I can out-jargon you in a heartbeat, so basically your only choice is to raise your eyebrows and grumble to yourself. And you’re not really a grumbler by nature, but there’s really no other way to respond to the constant stream of “justified” packages. I get it.

Here’s the truth, and you may not hear this very much in our marriage, so enjoy it now.

I WAS WRONG.

SO WRONG.

LIKE, UNBELIEVABLY WRONG.

My original estimates of how much this sport/hobby/lifestyle/addiction would cost and what gear I would need were so far off that I don’t even know what to say, except to try to explain my reasoning (I swear, there was reasoning involved) and where I went wrong.


There’s always something more I need.

First, horse blankets. I know I told you that I was experienced in horse care, citing my childhood riding experience as evidence. But the entire blanketing situation was new to me, because as a child in Louisiana we let our horses grow their own coats in the winter since there were no winter horse shows. Come spring show season, we simply spent hours currying our wooly mammoths until they looked like proper equines again. This is no longer the case.

Now we body clip to look presentable for the winter shows, so even here in sunny California, we need blankets. Note the plural. At the very least, each horse needs a lightweight sheet and mid-weight blanket. I know you think this is ridiculous as “cold” is 55 degrees and somehow you wear shorts year-round, but as I’ve told you many times, the equines are incredibly delicate little creatures, in need of numerous items from the Dover catalog just to stay alive.

On the bright side, we only use blankets for a limited number of months, so they should last many years. But I’ve seen with my own eyes—and sent you pictures of—the damage that one horse can do in one night to an “indestructible” blanket. It’s truly horrifying. We lucked out and do not own a blanket shredding horse, but we still had a lesson to learn that first winter.

“Our” mare, Aria, looks particularly pretty in sky blue, so with your blessing, I bought her two sky blue blankets. The only thing is, like many of her colleagues, she seems to enjoy lying in her own manure. Sky blue is significantly less beautiful when mottled with greenish-brown.

So the choices are to spend the rest of our lives washing horse blankets, or give in and buy new ones. The closer to poop-colored, the better. Look, I’ll let you decide. But don’t blame me when your work clothes smell like alfalfa. Or worse.

Next example, breeches. My original estimate was that, for my first year back to riding, I’d need three to four pairs for schooling and one nice beige pair reserved for shows only. That estimate, in retrospect, is hilarious.

The care instructions say something like “machine wash cold, line dry.” Fair enough, but they fail to mention a whole other set of rules if you’d like your breeches to last longer than five minutes. After retiring several pairs of breeches that should have been in the prime of their lives, I feel the following should be added to the care label:

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Machine wash cold, line dry. Do not conduct any sort of grooming activity while wearing. Do not allow the barn cat to use you as a scratching post. Do not carry buckets unless clean, dry, and empty. If you must ride in them, stand in your stirrups at all times with no part of your breeches touching the tack. Under no circumstances are you to fall off your horse while wearing breeches. Should you own a horse who enjoys the feel of belt loops between his or her teeth, an immediate sale of said horse is recommended.

This explains approximately 14 of the boxes that have arrived on our doorstep in the past two years. All I can say is that I am sorry, and that I am in the process of writing strongly worded letters to all the breech manufacturers.

Example No. 3 is riding boots. Some people say a good pair of leather boots will last you for several years, a rumor I perpetuated when I repeated it to you. I have since learned that those people are delusional. Sure, maybe you can start by estimating a three-year life span. But then you must adjust.

Subtract at least a year if you do not, with religious fanaticism, take your boots off immediately after your ride, then clean, condition, insert cedar boot trees, and wrap in bubble wrap. I’ve also learned that you must subtract another year if the boots cost you more than $1,000. Yes, the life span decreases as cost increases. Do not try to understand, just accept it as fact. Finally, subtract two years and 364 days if there is a new puppy in your household. Yes, I’m still mad at him too.

Being a horse husband is no easy role. The time. The money. The smell.

To add insult to injury, you didn’t know what you were getting into. In the ultimate bait-and-switch, I waited until after you proposed to reveal my deep dark secret. When you met me, I was a city girl, working 60-hour weeks in a snazzy Los Angeles office. My nails were manicured, my boots were high-heeled, my dresses designer, my tan lines nonexistent. Sure, I mentioned once or twice that I “used to ride horses”… but you had no way of really knowing what that meant.


Remember when I didn’t have a farmer’s tan? Yeah, me neither.

You couldn’t know that my nails would be filthy and my farmer’s tan would be appalling. You couldn’t know that once I started riding, I’d wear the same jeans and the same two t-shirts at home every single day until you dragged me to Nordstrom in a fashion intervention.

Luckily for me, you’ve accepted that this is an addiction that is out of my control. A lesser man wouldn’t have. Without you, and the other supportive horse spouses (and moms and dads) across the world, it would be a whole lot harder for us equestrians to get our fix.

I won’t tell you that the gear purchases or any of the other outrageous horse expenses will stop. But I promise to be grateful, to be honest, and to learn how to better estimate costs. Oh yes, and to hide the empty UPS boxes a little better.

Love,

Your Equestrian Wife

Lindsey Long lives in Southern California with her one tabby cat, two Great Danes, three hunter-jumpers, and a husband. She recently returned to riding after a 15-year hiatus and is desperately trying to make up for lost time while balancing a full-time job rife with deadlines. Her goals include winning pretty ribbons, finding appropriate distances with some degree of consistency, and not losing her breakfast at the mere thought of a hunter derby course. 

Read all of Lindsey’s blogs.

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