Jitterbug’s Guide To A Happy Marriage

May 7, 2015 - 4:47 PM
A show is the ultimate testing ground for a Horse Show Boyfriend/Husband.

The day my Human bounded into the barn aisle with a glittery thing on her left hand (which turned out not to be a peppermint fragment, as it happened…oops) probably delivered the largest surprise of my week. I will never quite understand how I managed her through that relationship successfully, yet still can’t get her to boost my hay ration to a first-world level.

Anyway, at first I considered this announcement (which she made repeatedly, in pitches that I’m pretty sure damaged my left eardrum) would just be another source of distraction from her training. After more consideration of course, I realized that a successful wedding and marriage are central to the Human’s well being…but more importantly, they’re central to mine.

The most important element of long-term success of course, is helping your Human select the right biped partner. I wrote about this at length around Valley Tines Day not long ago, but there are a few additional tests you should put a Horse Show Boyfriend through before it’s advisable to allow him to graduate to Horse Show Husband.

  1.  Horse Show Husband Test #1: How patient is he, really?

    I know better than anyone that dealing with the Human short-term is excruciating. Just waiting for her to fetch my dinner takes hours, and after six years, I’m still waiting for her to figure out how to keep that right heel lower than her toes. Fortunately for me, she eventually leaves the barn to go to dinner or a much-needed therapy session or something; I can only hypothesize that a lifetime of listening to endless deliberations about the benefits of a restaurant’s chicken fingers versus their cheeseburgers would be soul-crushing. 

    Luckily, there are ways to test his patience, though they may come at the expense of one or two of your regularly scheduled events or pricey clinics. In my case, I found the best test of the current HSB/HSH’s patience was a blatant, otherwise inexplicable refusal to trailer to a nearby schooling show.

    Knowing the stubbornness of my Human, I recognized from the beginning that it was bound to be a four- or five-hour ordeal (it was). I laid out a set of highly specific conditions for my ascending the trailer ramp, and changed them every 15 minutes throughout the morning, guaranteeing that we’d never actually leave home.

    The HSB/HSH waited around for a few hours and when things got really desperate, he ran out to fetch her some donuts. He failed to give me any however, so I gave him a B+ for this test.

  2. Horse Show Husband Test #2: Does he have an eye for detail? This is a quality more central to wedding planning than anything, but given how many strands of hay I’ve had to chew out of her hair over the years, it might be the glue that keeps them together. Male humans need to be needed after all, and boy does she need constant supervision from someone.

    This test is based on long-term observation more than a single performance or two. For example, when the Human inevitably fails to put my bridle straps in their keepers, does he graciously tuck those pesky things in (and even better, loosen that flash noseband a little)? Does he notice her mistake in giving me two cookies and reach into the bag for a third, fourth, and fifth? Does he recognize the difference between alfalfa and grass hay? These things will give clues as to how well he will manage to keep her presentable at work functions, whether he can help make sure she turns her library books in on time, and if he will help her remember to deposit those paychecks in time to pay the feed man. The last part being the most important. 

  3. Horse Show Husband Test #3: Does he fight fair? It’s a sad fact that even the most perfect of relationships are not without a few arguments. My career has provided me ample opportunities to spot good conflict resolution skills.

    A stand-up Horse Show Boyfriend serves as the voice of reason in debates between himself and the Human, as well as in debates between me and the Human. If he’s truly the voice of reason, he’ll manage to acknowledge gracefully that I am always right. It’s good practice for his life away from the barn, when he’ll have to acknowledge that in their herd structure, she is always right. (It’s about the only time she ever is ‘right,’ but even the lowest pony on the totem pole has to have someone to pin her ears at.)

    Key phrases I’m looking for include, ‘You get more ponies with sugar cubes than you do with spurs,’ ‘Why don’t we step back from dressage and reexamine our priorities here?’ and, ‘Taking the long spot has got to be a joint decision, you know.’

    Bonus points for, ‘Jitter looks so stressed. How about I just run to the gas station and pick you two up some more donuts?’

  4. Horse Show Husband Test #4: Does he embrace your success? Marriage is essentially an eternal team-building exercise, and as such it’s important that the parties involved learn to celebrate the success of their teammate…no matter what.

    Fortunately, I got the Human proficient enough at her equitation a few years ago that we were able to participate in local shows without judges laughing her out of the ring (at least, not every time); this provides me an excellent reference point for his team-mindedness.

    I’ve made sure that these experiences are as trying for him as they are for the Human, thanks to a few well-placed grass stains, slobbers, and “mysteriously vanishing jumping boots” that all occur after she has mounted up.

    Despite his somewhat sunburnt and dehydrated state, a good potential HSH will shake off these stresses and celebrate the upsides to my dressage test. (And to hers. If there are any upsides to hers.) I’m listening for him to give the Human honest but encouraging feedback like, “Well you stayed on through the middle of Fence 4, so let’s count that as a win!”

    Also, “Well, the comments on the horse’s form are great, so now we just have to work on you,” and, “Jitter sure tucked those knees high after you two parted ways at the water obstacle,” are considered acceptable. 


For anyone interested, the happy couple has registered at SmartPak. Under my name. The registry is mostly cookies. They have signed off on it, promise.

Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky. Photo by Dark Horse Photography.



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