Every little girl dreams of happily ever after. Every little horse obsessed girl dreams of Prince Charming and his horse. I was not unlike the rest of the group, and loved the romantic notion of my tall, dark and handsome prince who was going to sweep me off my feet and right onto a gorgeous horse and ride off into the sunset. Where of course, he’d have my own horse waiting right out of scene. Dappled bay with flashy markings.

Ten years ago, I accidentally called a boy by the wrong name – repeatedly, and had to Facebook him to apologize, and ended up with a coffee date. I knew nothing about him, except his newly corrected name. I got in the wrong car when he picked me up since it was too dark to see faces, and I drank a disgusting coffee drink in order to put on a brave face and not seem high maintenance. It only took him about 20 minutes to casually mentioned his Shasta, a bright chestnut mare with the attitude to go with her looks. Instantly, I forgot about the nasty coffee.

Did he have dark hair? Yes.

Was he taller than me? Yes.

Was he adorable? Yes.

Was he knowledgably speaking to me about riding? Uh, yes.

I was definitely in trouble.

And my God, he came with more than one horse. There was a whole freaking herd (and Shetland ponies!).

Might as well break out the ring ladies, this one is mine. After a few weeks, he took me home to meet his horses, parents and show me around their cattle ranch. He saddled up a friendly pinto gelding, Patches, for me, and grabbed his chestnut mare for himself. We strolled off around the property and I was in heaven.

However, the terrain was a bit more than I was used to, and I struggled to tell poor Patches what I was asking. That’s when I realized that I had made a critical error in judgement. I was dating someone much, much better than myself at riding. He told me later that he had learned to ride before he could walk, and literally taught his mare everything after he bought her in middle school. Suddenly my pretty tri-color ribbons didn’t seem to stand up quite as well as I thought they would. But he didn’t seem to care; we both loved being in the saddle.

We made it through the first few weeks of dating, after he decided to keep me around he showed me how to ride a working ranch horse properly. In turn, I tortured him with my English saddle and even let my hunter mare take him over a jump or two.

We live “in town” now and while he doesn’t always understand the boarding and showing lifestyle, he tries. When my mare was lame and an abscess was brewing, he hauled hot water out to the barn and soaked her when I couldn’t. He stands quietly at the ringside when I show, and claps when I don’t do something stupid. He hates tiny jumps, wishing I could always be in the “exciting” classes. He still wants to ride anything I’m serious about, and when my mare was acting off one year, he helped me send her back to the ranch for boot camp with his family.

We butt heads about many things equestrian, but what we both know and understand is that it is part of who we are. He was raised on endless acres of land and his own horses. I grew up with manicured rings, colorful jumps and boot polish. But when it comes down to it, he is still the best horseman I know. Happily ever after seems too cheesy, but happy 10 years to the man who did sweep me off my feet and straight onto a horses back.