As equestrians, it’s often a struggle for our muggle friends to understand our commitments to horses, competitions, and barn families. One hour at the barn often turns into four, we’re gone most weekends, and typically our social life is the first to suffer given any opportunity to spend extra time at the barn. When it comes to dating, we enter into a whole other ballpark of trying to explain why we’re busy and why our horses come first.

Mastering the art of dating muggles can be complicated. After all, they don’t understand what a bridle is and they probably can’t even help hand walk your horse at a show. Despite these challenges, sometimes they can be better than dating a fellow equestrian. After all, you’ll never compete against them for a ribbon, the only horsey phrases they’ll know are the ones they hear your trainer say, and they’re really talented at filling up water buckets or helping you carry a muck bucket. Dating a non-equestrian can be great! However, just like with dating anyone, you have to wade through a lot of less-than-desirable potential partners before encountering someone to whom it is worth explaining how you actually win ribbons.

The most basic part of dating a non-equestrian is the inevitable “I ride horses…” conversation. Over the years I have tried multiple tactics: pushing this conversation off for as long as possible, being up-front about it, and casually throwing it into the conversation when you hit the point of discussing hobbies. In my vast experience, there is no right answer in regard to broaching this subject. While the hobbies strategy often is the easiest, it’s always an awkward conversation that can lead to unpredictable responses or questions.

While bringing up the subject of horses may not seem like a big deal, this is the first test to see if this potential partner is up to the task of dating an equestrian. I once had a guy respond with, “Oh, so you’re essentially a rich, crazy cat lady just with a bigger and smellier animal.” Well then, he’s not a keeper!

Other responses include men trying to make my passion for horses into a dirty joke, asking what “real” sports I enjoy, and some confused questioning about the fact that the “horses phase” somehow lasted past middle school for me. The most common muggle responses to learning that I ride horses involves a dirty joke or telling me about the one time they rode a horse and how they almost fell off.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some men that respond well to this new piece of knowledge and embrace the nonchalance that it deserves. Some may call it unfair, but to me, gauging how a guy reacts to learning I ride horses tells me a lot about their personality and how understanding they may be in the future. You know you’ve found a potential keeper when they ask thoughtful questions about your riding, or continue with the conversation as if it’s not abnormal to meet a girl who loves making her horse do ballet or leap over giant obstacles.

Once you get past the initial conversation in which you reveal where a majority of your time and money goes, you’ve begun to walk through the forest of dating a muggle. Like any relationship, there’s no clear path to making it work. There will be many times when they don’t understand. When you try to explain that you’re crying because you blew a transition in front of the judge, there’s a 90% chance they won’t have a clue what that means, especially in the beginning. That being said, muggles provide a breath of fresh air and a reminder that there’s more to life than horses, which can be helpful for staying grounded and keeping riding from becoming too consuming.

While many girls dream of dating an equestrian who “gets it”, I find the muggle life to be much more entertaining and suitable to my personality. I appreciate the outside perspective, the polite nod and smile, and the fact that they have their own life and hobbies that can contrast with my own. Plus, you never have to worry about competing against them, because trust me, that can get awkward sometimes!