Clearly Allison Stover’s amazing post Love. Horses. Men. resonated with many of us. Judging by the 553 (and counting) Shares, many of us have sent the post to friends, relatives, and significant others in an attempt to say, “See! THIS is what I have been trying to explain to you! THIS! EXACTLY THIS!”
While reading Allison’s post, I found myself tearing up, nodding my head in agreement, and laughing at the old memories her words evoked. I even called my Mom to see if she could find a picture of the cowgirl costume she made me, the one that I could not wear to school (darn uniforms!) but changed into every day when I got home.
I searched Facebook hoping to reconnect with the grade school friend who shared hours upon hours of Breyer horse and Black Stallion adventures with me.
Horses were no longer an integral part of my life when my husband and I started dating, and eventually married. I rode occasionally when we went to visit my horsey friend, but other than that and being asked to stop on the side of the road so I could pet a horse in a field (Dad, are you reading this?) my husband did not have much exposure to my horse self. That side of me managed to stay suppressed through year of marriage and the birth of two children.
It wasn’t until my youngest was five that I said to him, “You know what? I need some “me” time. I want to get back to riding. I miss it. I’d like to start taking lessons again.” Poor guy had no idea what he was in for, and quite frankly, neither did I. Weekly lessons turned into twice weekly lessons, and soon the youngest child was asking for lessons as well, then the older one wanted to try his hand at it.
At about this time, we found ourselves driving up to New Hampshire to look at a horse to lease; a sweet mare that had a tendency to lick everyone she came across like a big ol’ Golden Retriever. And so we found ourselves leasing a horse, one that was very large but so safe that both re-rider Mom and newly minted semi-larval riders could walk, trot, canter, and jump her with no worries.
Sugar quickly became an integral part of our family. The husband wondered what in the heck had hit him. His life was not only ruled by soccer and lacrosse schedules, but now riding and showing schedules as well. Not only did the kids and the wife want to spend hours at the barn, there was talk of finding a new place to live that actually had its own barn!
The horses (by now we had borrowed my friend’s pony for my daughter ) now factored into our family vacations, at least in the kids’ minds. The poor man had to listen to “How are we going to get Sugar and Cookie to Disneyland?” or “We can’t go to the beach, Sugar doesn’t like the water.”
Things reached a head one night when my son watched the news and saw how bad the economy was and how many people had lost their jobs. He went into instant Defcon 5, worrying that one of us would lose our job and what that would mean to the horses.
I made the mistake of telling him. His cheese slipped completely off his little cracker. “We CAN’T lose them! We can sell the house first! I have money, I can help!” and off he went to get his wallet, piggy bank, and college fund statement. The husband’s head was spinning. How did things get so out of control, and where did he fit in this new family dynamic?
My barn friend and I were sharing a glass of wine after a lesson one night, and were chatting about the whole horse/relationship balance issue. She asked me a question: “If your husband was driving your horse and they were in an accident, who would you help first?”
My husband laughed when I answered her question by asking, “Are either of them critically injured and has anyone stopped to offer assistance?” Guess he was happy I remembered our old lifeguard training (offer assistance to the more critically wounded in a multi-victim scenario) and that I didn’t metaphorically leave him lying bleeding by the roadside.
Bringing this back to what Allison wrote in Love. Horses. Men, (sorry, you know I tend to ramble on) I think it’s just what Allison said, “How do you explain that while the horses aren’t necessarily more important than him, they are definitely more dependent?”
It’s like when we had the kids. All of a sudden, we had these precious new little beings, and to paraphrase Allison’s words, you just love them and they love you back, and you “don’t have to DO anything to receive it except return and give love.” And you just love the heck out of them, and do your best by them, because it’s your privilege and your responsibility and your joy, and “you never want the love or the trust to stop. You never want any of them to question you and your intentions. You always want to meet their needs.”
One of my proudest moments as a parent was also one of my proudest as a horse owner, and coincidentally, made me feel better about my answer my friend’s question from long ago. My son was riding my mare, just warming her up before a lesson. She was just ambling along, and without warning, my son decided to turn her towards a series of 4 ground poles. Before she or anyone else knew what had happened, she’d gotten her feet tangled up and was down on her knees. My son went off to her side, landing on his feet. He told me later that he jumped off her to see if he’d hurt her, and to give her room to get to her feet without worrying about him.
My first emotion was concern for my son. My first reaction was to jump off the horse I was on, and rush to his side. However, a second later I realized he was definitely okay, and immediately started to worry about my mare. Bless her beautiful maternal heart (she’s had several foals) her first thought was for my son as well. Even before she tried to get to her feet, she was reaching her head out to him to lick him, from her knees, as if she were asking him if he was okay. He hugged her and patted her, and she gently nudged him out of the way. Only once she made sure he was clear did she get up.
This is why we love them. Because theirs is a simple love that just exists, whether it is deserved or not, and just asks to be returned.
It is what love should be, in its best, purest form. It is what we all should aspire to.
As Allison so beautifully put it, “The horses taught us, gave us this gift, without words.”
Thank you, Allison, for a beautiful and thought-provoking post. Thank you to all the horses in my life that have shared their teachings with me, I’m sure I was and am a very frustrating student! And thanks to my family, for loving me and for letting me love them (however inadequately at times) and for understanding my need to love horses as well.