Happiness is in the barn and saddle
Why do horse people spend so much time and money perfecting their different disciplines? The lucky horse owners make their living from their art; the trainers, breeders, farriers, tack and saddle makers. But the others, like me, spend their days in an office, classroom or any other occupation waiting for it to be 5 p.m. when they can leave and go ride.
Our houses don’t get cleaned but the horses stalls, tack rooms and trailer will be spotless. We spend thousands on our horses knowing full and well we will never make that money back. Vet bills, boarding costs, feed and hay, training fees and show entry fees add up quickly. We may not go to the doctor often but my mare gets injections to help her joints twice a year and wears $150 shoes. I have her podiatrist on speed dial.
Vacations consist of horse shows. We’ll sleep in horse trailers where the AC may be dubious but our horses will sleep in stalls thickly padded with shavings and a fan (or two) pointed right on them so they won’t get too hot.
For our birthdays and Christmas we ask for new boots or a saddle pad that we’ve been eyeing at the tack store.
Our friends at the barn become like a second family. We’ll tell our spouses, “Oh, I’ll only be gone for an hour.” Three hours later and we still haven’t ridden because we’ve spent that time talking with our barn friends about a recent show or a difficulties we are having with our horses.
Speaking of spouses. The long suffering “horse-husbands” help brush our steeds, carry tack, cheer us on from the stands at shows and video our runs. They sigh as we tell them how much a recent vet bill was but understand that horses are our passion and know how much happiness it brings us. They are there for the wins, the fails, the tears as we get bad news from the vet and though they may not quite understand, comfort us.
Trainers know what makes us anxious. They’ll praise us when we do something good but aren’t afraid to dish out criticism.
Sometimes I’ll go to ride and will spend an hour working on just a few maneuvers, trying to get them down perfectly. Other times I’ll go and sit in my mare’s stall and pet her and tell her about my day. After you’ve ridden a horse long enough it seems like they can almost read your mind. They’ll execute a maneuver before you even ask for it, gliding across the arena seamlessly, with their neck arched proudly.
Trust is important between a horse and rider. Trust on the rider’s side that their horse won’t do anything silly and buck them off and trust on the horse’s side that the rider won’t take them through anything they can’t handle.
So why do it? Why spend all the money and time? I honestly believe that horse people crave a different kind of relationship. One that isn’t based on words but on touch and feel. Have you ever tried to communicate with a 1,200 pound animal that doesn’t speak the same language as you? It’s a difficult but beautiful thing. And I’ll gladly keep throwing my money away until I’m old and tired and can no longer swing into the saddle. Then, I’ll hobble into my barn on arthritic knees and talk to my horses, just as I do now.
Bethann Coldiron is the editor of the Burleson Star. When she’s not writing news stories, she can be found reading about horses, riding her horse, watching videos about riding, and of course, shopping for her horse. She does occasionally spend time with her “horse-husband.”