Thursday, December 2, 2010

Horses: So much more than a hobby

Last Tuesday I got off work at 9pm, then went to see the horses, and got home at midnight. Bob, who works second shift, pulled in the drive right behind me. I got out of the car, lugging my saddle and clothes from work, and we entered the house together.

Me: Well, I'm officially exhausted.  [tosses the saddle over a chair, plops onto couch]

Bob: I'll make some decaf.  I see the dishwasher has not been unloaded. Did you clean the catbox today?

Me: No. I left the house at 7:30am, haven't been back.  I'll get it in the morning.

[Silence, except for the sound of coffee brewing and Bob unloading the dishwasher. Then...]

Bob: You need a hobby.

Me: What are you talking about? I have the horses!

Bob: No, the horses are a job.  You need a hobby.

My response?
What can I say? Bob is right. Horses are like a second job -- but it's a job I love to do, and I can't imagine doing anything else.  Bob, who's making the coffee and unloading the dishwasher at midnight, is asking me to start questioning. He's uncharacteristically subtle, which gets my attention more than an outright complaint.

One of the uncomfortable things about getting married late in life is that there is someone around to witness your quirky but well-established lifestyle. And sometimes they pass judgement on it. The horses, the eating habits, the blogging, Bob's got opinions on all of it. I'm listening, but I don't want to change.

What about you guys? Do you have a better work/life/horse balance?  How do you do it? How does your spouse respond?


  1. I'm not married, but have had the same boyfriend for 14 years. When we met, (out on the trail--I was riding and he was jogging) he was clueless about horses.

    He now owns his own horse and spends as much time out there as I do. On evenings that I feed at our stables, he is usually right there beside me watering the horses.

    He still doesn't understand why I don't want to travel, but he understands all the rest. I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

  2. Hi Judi, That's funny -- the one woman I know with a horsey husband (equally passionate about horses) is at least as stressed by her situation. For awhile they shared one horse (BAD IDEA) and even now there is conflict. My favorite quote from her is, "When this one goes, I'm not lookin' for another husband, I'm lookin' for another horse!"

  3. No spouse, probably because "the horses" have come up in almost every break-up talk I've ever had. I haven't found a man who gets it yet, though I haven't totally lost hope. Yet.

    As for work-life-horses balance, I have a pretty demanding job as a lawyer, but it allows me to support the horses financially, so I have to make it work. I just make time for the horses like other people make time for their families and their kids. It keeps me from staying at work til all hours of the night every night, and it gets me up early on the weekends. I have almost no free time, but I can't imagine my life any other way. As for the exhaustion level, all I can do is sympathize....

    And on that note, I better get back to work!

  4. My husband was the one who pushed me to buy my horse (after 24 years of dreaming!), but I do not think it would have been possible for him to imagine how much time I could spend at the barn. My parents knew better and warned me to keep my barn jaunts under four hours. I also work full-time as a teacher and teach therapeutic lessons. Teaching is a job that comes home with you, so I am always up to my ears in lesson preparation, parent contact, and grading. I love spending time with my husband and, thankfully, he has found ways to work around "Harley" time, but I have to be careful if he cooks dinner and I am not around or I show up late too many nights a week. I also try to only go the barn on one weekend day. Sigh. And no kids yet. I do not know how Dressage Mom does it!

    Maybe I have accomplished a balance, but, truth be told, I always feel that my barn time gets short-changed. I hate it when I have to watch the clock with my horse, although I can take my time in the summer. My horse notices when the school year begins, because the long hand-grazing sessions stop. I want to ride EVERYDAY or at least see my horse everyday. I do not think that this will happen unless I can afford my own farm. Some day...

  5. Boyfriend of two years. On the first date I told him that my horse would always come first. I would be going to the barn for however many hours after work and if I wasnt home to cook than that was that. He liked that about me. And he has his hunting season which takes him away from me too.

    He has also told me (through financial hardships) that he would never ever let me sell Milo. No matter what happened he would find a way to let me keep him, he knows how important he is to me. Thats when I knew he was a keeper ;) plus when my horse said he was OK cause he brings him cookies.

    The only thing he doesnt *get* yet, is spending 1600 for a custom saddle, which he also doesnt comprehend is not only necessary, but 1600 for a custom saddle is cheap!

  6. No hubby, no no conflict there. I'm not sure I could tolerate being married...might take time away from what I want to do.

    Now that I'm retired, I have all the time in the world. The horses are now at home which makes it so much easier. When I boarded them out, I was at the barn till all hours.

    No one who does not have a horse of his own could ever comprehend the obsession.

  7. This is why I'm single.

    I am very willing to fit a man into my life in the small amounts of free time I have. But so far, I haven't found a man I get along with who gets that horses are the driving passion which make me get up every day and my work (engineering) is simply part of who I am. Men think if I don't want to spend 40 hours/week with them (or can't fit that much time around the horses/work) that it means I somehow don't mean it when I tell them I care about them. I do. I will give up sleep, cut short social time at the barn significantly, etc. But I won't give up horses, or stop riding my "I want to be ridden daily" horse 6 days a week.

    Right now I know of 1 (one!) man who gets the passion I have for horses. He's as busy as I am with his passion, and cites it as the reason he's single. I figure we'd work out well as a couple if we ever got around to it outside of living our current lives. (But really, I DO hope to eventually find the man who can accept the part horses have in my life and not take it as an insult, and be ok with that. I don't mind paying for housecleaning services and other drudgery I don't have time for, and I do love cooking, so I would at least be good for making healthy and good tasting food for us!)

  8. Long time reader - first time posting!

    I am VERY lucky to have a husband who lets me have my horses. Right now that life is on a mild back burner between winter and a toddler, but I'm hoping that soon I will be able to ride more! Thankfully both my horses are young and no real reason to rush them into anything!

    But back to the husband - I have my horses (rideable, fun, snuggly, sociable!) and he has his alpaca's (eat, poop, freak if you want to touch them... oh and provide fiber that he can neither spin nor knit with...) so since I allow him his silly hobby, he allows me my passion!

  9. Bob is into contra dancing and politics, two things I'm completely indifferent about. He does love the horses and interacting with them. He's helped me when I needed it, so I can't complain. I guess the point is, he has some grounds for his grievances about me!

  10. I have a non-horsey husband who didn't really "get it" at first. I kept encouraging him to find a hobby he really enjoyed though, and he finally decide to engage his childhood interest in a different type of fuzzy animal. Now our dates involve fun things like going to the feed store together, but I love it.

  11. I also love the horses and the riding and the barn, but my spouse is even MORE into barn life than I am -- he's got a hundred things on the go. Its nice that we can sit down to dinner and brainstorm to troubleshoot his hunter's lead changes, but sometimes I wish he was a little LESS involved. His bustlingness at the barn detracts from the peace I seek there, and I'd rather he was home more, to help the dishwasher unload and the back gate swing properly. Then maybe we'd both enjoy the horses and the barn, equally.

  12. My non-horsey husband indulges my need and lets me spend his money on it without complaint. He built me a barn and fenced in the pasture all by himself so I could have my thing. I try very hard never to complain about having to go out to barn in winter, dark, storms. I try to ask often, "what can I do to help you?" and "Why don't you go ride that bike you really enjoy?" and I remember that I really do love him the most...since the horses don't keep my feet warm at night. :)

  13. No husband for me. It wouldn't be fair on them. Not many people are happy to be horse obsessed, have it consume massive amounts of their time and all their money. If I did find a man like that, he would also have to share my horse ideals. No, I am not a trail rider, yes the horses have a home for life, no they are not equine motor bikes, horses have feelings and are not things to make money from or solely as a means to perpetuate a sport career. Each horse matters. Their feelings and their needs. So all that being the case, I think I'll stay single.

  14. My SO knows I am the way I am, LOL. He learned very quickly that horse time makes me happy, and if I'm happy, then HE'S happy. So in short order, he bought me a horse and insured that he could stay happy for a long time, ROFL.

  15. I knew that Jim was a keeper after riding two seasons of fifty-mile rides with him, and we still wanted to talk to each other after the finish line. (that's what my mom calls a "clue."

    I don't think he's as nuts as I am, but he understands. He's also the one to waggle the truck keys under my nose when I'm making him nuts to indicate that I need to load my horse up and ride her for many hours, ASAP.

    That's love, that's what that is.

  16. When we decided to buy our farm and bring the horses (two at that time) "home" we had been doing self-care board for about 9 months, so my non-horsey husband did have a good idea what we were getting into. However, I don't know if he realized we would have 3 horses within 3 months of moving here, 4 within the next year, and two miniature donkeys the next!

    Half the time I have no clue how in the world we manage to get everything done. He works full-time, we have two homeschooled teenagers, I have a part-time private practice and write novels, and at this point my daughter and I are the only riders in the family.

    We're lucky that my son (who rode from age 6-13) is still happy and quite competent in managing the equines, and my husband, although he does not ride, is very very good with them too and cheerfully carries out my most intensive instructions in the care and feeding of this bunch.

    It's pretty clear to me that living with horses has a lot of benefits aside from time in the saddle - and now that my therapy office is here at home, those benefits are extending to clients via equine-assisted therapy as well as coaching. Had a session this week in the tack room, joined a few minutes in by one of the donkeys, who loves to "work." :)

    Although we haven't taken a vacation as a family since we moved six years ago, we've gotten something different but imo just as valuable. It's a lifestyle, I think - and if you're drawn to it, somehow you make it work.

  17. I think this topic has struck a chord :) I'm lucky in that my husband is equally into horses and dressage. I can't imagine how hard it would be to be married to someone who resented the money and time.
    Speaking of time, it's always a crunch. I posted about it recently too. Basically, I just do very little else besides work and ride. And I'm happy with that (but more down time would be nice...)

  18. no poster has mentioned compromise. i found a wonderful rider to ride and love my horse 2-3 times a week so i have horse free days without guilt to spend with my husband. we also travel since his passion is hiking/camping, and i put my horse in daily training with my trainer while i'm gone, so it's a win-win. i love my horse, but marraige vows were "foresaking all others", so i think ya gotta keep a perspective on what's the most important partnership in your life. doesn't mean house is always clean or meals are always ready.

  19. Im FREEEE from all that stuff
    i go to skool and come hme bundle up in all my snow gear and hop on any horse of my choice
    and i absolutly love it!

  20. What is this "balance" you mention? I leave the house at 7, at school 8-2, work 3-11, then homework. Days off and weekends I try to sneak out to the barn if I don't have homework. Housework? Well, enough to keep the board of health at bay. 7yo son and I do homework together. Husband?... is THAT who that vaguely familiar man in my bed is...??

  21. I am one of the fortunate few whose horses ARE my work! If there is one saying I live by, it's this: "Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life." I won't get rich doing it... but I don't care! I slaved away eight hours a day for The Man long enough to know what's good for me...
    However.... between training horses, teaching students, trimming hooves, and staying up late every night on the computer writing, blogging, and promoting the breed... my boyfriend thinks I'm OBSESSED and doesn't understand how I can continuously work 14 hour days, 7 days a week throughout the year and still make less than he does at his 9 to 5....
    He doesn't get it because he's not a horse person... and horses are NOT my hobby. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Most of the couples I've met who are both into horses do nothing but argue... about the horses! At least I can be thankful the arguments I have with my boyfriend never travel to the barn!

  22. My husband has a demanding job and works long hours, including many weekends and doesn't usually get home until after 10pm. I work full-time and spend 3-4 hours at the barn most evenings. If I didn't have a passion to fill my time, I'm afraid I would demand more time and attention than my husband could offer. Riding and barn chores keep me in good shape and is such an immediate stress reliever, so good my mental health, for my soul! I do something I love everyday, who could ask for better worklife balance?!

  23. I'm with Net - As an engineer with a really great and thriving career, I'm super busy, so any of my free time goes to the pony and then the puppy. I pay for a housekeeper, and I eat out, alot.

    For me, there's always been the "aw hell no" personality type that has kept me from finding too many candidates who could put up with me, much less my Horse-Priority. This dominant, take no crap personality is fairly common in the horse women I meet - and if they are attached, most of them found the man before the pony.

    I will tell the teenagers I ride with, "You don't want a boy into horses - you want a boy who likes golf - something he can go do for 4 hours or so while you're at the barn."

    See, us horse people - we are opinionated about our horse theory. I figure its hard enough to find someone who meshes with me - what are the chances he agrees with my horse training/care/riding philosophy??

    Single. Still looking for a good man, preferably with enough income to buy me ANOTHER pony!

    Great post!

  24. I just got married for the first time (I'm 46) in September. I'll keep you posted on how we do in the horse category. Even though my husband is a self proclaimed "ground squirrel" he IS a professional equine photographer. As long as I let him do some experimental photography with me and my horses in preparation for a workshop we're conducting he doesn't complain.

  25. I am blessed with a wonderful horsey husband. Years ago, before we married, he farmed with horses. He was the one responsible for getting me back into horses. My children, his step children, were raised w/ horses because of him. He is now 73 and I am 58, 25 years of marriage. He has had a horse from time to time. I am thankful for him, and I can tell you as passionate as I am about horses, I would take him or my kids any day to a horse, which could never fulfill my life as they have.

  26. Yes, horses take all my money and most of my time. I sold my horse when I was 20 so that I could have a life. Since then, marriage, jobs,and kids have kept me extremely busy but I when an opportunity came available for a horse I jumped at it. Had that horse two years and my husband caught the horse fever. We moved out to the country a few years later and have had horses ever since. I've owned the same ones for the last 16 years even though my husband passed away a few years ago and the kids are grown and transitioning now. I don't have time for any additional relationships now, I've got my horses.

  27. I solved the dilemma by giving eldest daughter the riding time and budget line in our family life. I take her out to the barn. I hang out with the horses and horsey people as much as I can, but I can also just leave her there if I'm needed to work or mind autistic youngest.

    If I had a million dollars, we'd both have horses and the time to enjoy them. And two cars so my husband wouldn't be stuck at home or at work if we're heading out to the farm.

  28. Luckily, my husband is just as passionate about hunting as I am about the horses, so even though he's not a horse guy, he gets the passion part of it. We just make sure that we have at least one night a week together. No kids yet, so we'll see how that goes. I just have to be careful to let him think that he is #1, since he suspects that he is third in line for my affection, behind my horse and cat. LOL

  29. I don't think you need to be married later in life to have your husband comment on the disarray that comes from being a horse person. I got married in my early 20s to a person that proposed to me on horseback (I thought that I would get him riding but he still prefers machines) and he is constantly pointing out the corners of the house that are getting left behind while I'm cleaning stalls. It is a constant struggle to find the balance between getting things done at home and at the barn (my family owns a boarding barn so there is always something to do). I actually don't ride as much as I used to, but I do get to be around horses pretty much every day. Sometimes I wonder if its worth it (I really hate contention and sometimes it gets that way when I'm a couple of hours later than I had planned...oops) but then I have a great day at the barn and I can't see myself giving it up. Plus, I have a one year old that I'm pretty sure inherited the horse bug- we went to the barn yesterday and I couldn't get her off, so the saga continues. I teach a few riding lessons and I can always tell the kids that will always be horse crazy- the ones that canter to the barn, stay as long as they can even when its freezing outside and I just shake my head, knowing what their parents and future spouses are in for :)

  30. I think this is why I am single. I have a very demanding job working for and traveling with the Federal Govt. But like Marissa says, it allows me to financially be able to keep these horses. When I come home on the weekend all I want to do is play with my horses. It leaves little time to meet anyone. And when I do, things go well until I bring them out to the barn. I keep saying I will keep them seperate, but when you meet someone, and you care about them then you want them to meet and *hopefully* love your horses too since they are a huge part of your life. Well the last two men I've brought out tried to be macho with my horses...didn't follow my directions...and ultimately pissed me off. Those relationships are clearly over now. But it's a very good question.. HOW do you balance them?? I don't need a guy that LOVES them, just respects them AND my love for them!~ Thanks for bringing this topic up...loved reading everyone's responses so I don't feel so alone in this! ha!

  31. It goes like this. My spouse encourages and supports my love of my horse. I, in turn, do the same for his love of Basketball and coaching. We support it. Passions are SO important in life and in marriage and NO they don't have to be the same passion, in fact, I think better to be different. You dont lose your independence that way.
    I know I'm lucky to have a husband who NEVER complains when I go the barn, or spend too much of our money on horse/vet/tack/etc. I make sure he knows how I know how lucky I am/his is, etc.
    With work, it's a tough balance no doubt. Most of my free time goes to my horse. Of course, there is balance and some days I have to be ok with knowing he's ok not seeing me that day-and I'd better be w/ Hubbie ;)

  32. My wife turned 50 shortly after our wedding, I had just become 54. Is that late in life? We decided together that we wanted to use our blessings by providing a therapeutic riding center to the community. Yes, we have more than one horse. Oddly though, we don't have a saddle big enough for my butt. I spend a good 6 hours a day with the horses, the dogs, and barn management with a rake and shovel. Denise goes to a job to pay our bills. When she gets home she crams a day full of lovin with all the animals, including me and the kids, missing nobody. Denise goes to work outside the house, to support our life and dreams. My job? The only bad part about it is that sometimes I would like to eat breakfast before going outside to take care of the horses. When you have a job you love, you never work. I couldn't be happier!

  33. A lot of family friends, parent's friends and whomever always ask me why am I single? I spend time at work and at the barn. Barn has married men or boys who are way too young.

    Seeing so many unhappy friends who's husbands tell them me or the horse I've decided to be frank with any suitors. If you say me or the horses, you're out the door before you can say pony.

    The day I give up horses is the day they put me 6' under the ground.

    I've had so many married friends tell me find a man who's into horses already. Which is hard to find. If they're available then is it which side are they batting for, if he's not gay, then is he single? Darn he's got a trophy wife girlfriend who rides better than you do! There needs to be more heterosexual men riding.

  34. Compromise! I have a horse, kids, business and husband.

    It does take some finesse to keep everything running smoothly. My horse lives out 24/7 so days I don't make it to the barn, he chills in the field.

    I took up foxhunting rather than eventing, partially because it fits my schedule better and gives me the adrenalin high without spending the whole weekend at an event.

    My family tolerates my riding because they know it makes me happier and easier to live with, but I try to make sure they know they are important too!

  35. Groan. I am in love with a complete NON HORSE person. I thought it was benign "don't like 'em". It was: Horses Are Evil Monsters.

    I've had to learn to translate what she says into what she really means. I got tossed. Not hurt. "I forbid you to ride again! We have kids, and family obligations!"

    Forbid? Red flag. Forbid isn't a working word in our relationship. Totally not her MO.

    She's really saying: "I'm terrified something will happen to you."

    We addressed that instead of going into the self-righteous weeds of "you can't forbid me!" and the enormous nuclear war that would come of THAT.

    We compromised: no super green horses, helmet always, cell always, no riding if no one else there, weekends no riding. I have to go on vacations. (The agony) LOL.

  36. My husband likes horses, and shortly after we met we got one for him. We now trail ride and foxhunt together, and he jousts on his horse, while I event.

    We both have demanding full-time jobs, a fixer-upper house, not to mention two teenagers about to head off to college. Family comes first, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. We both pull equal weight around the house (with the kiddos helping) and we spend time together at the dinner table, on the morning commute, or just taking a walk together. We are very close and frankly, I'm OK with giving up some of my horse time to have it that way.

    A decade ago, I was single and heavily competitive in eventing. I thought I wanted to get back into it - but then I realized that I don't want to HAVE to ride an hour or two per day, 6 days a week, to stay at the top of the competition. I still show occasionally, but now I have a heck of a lot of fun foxhunting or packing a picnic lunch and going for a ride with my husband. He doesn't get the competitive side of things, and isn't the type to spend an hour grooming his horse, but horses are a way we get to share time together, which is wonderful.

    I know he cringed when I told him how much my new jumping saddle cost, but he just purchased a saddle used in the Prince Caspian movie (he'll use it for jousting), so I guess it all works out. :)


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.