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Friday, September 2, 2011

What Makes a Horse Person?

A blog post over at Equestrian Ink has inspired me to explore this question. What makes a "horse person" a Horse Person? Here's what I think...

First of all, it is emphatically NOT owning your own horse. I could not feel more strongly about this. There are an awful lot of people, myself included, who have dreamed of and would like nothing more than to own a horse, but are not able to for a variety of reasons. I'm sure lack of money is probably the biggest, but lack of time, physical problems or no suitable facility in the area would be other common factors. My own reason is definitely a lack of money, with a side of a dearth of time (two jobs and two kids in high school, with a myriad of activities going on in which I'm heavily involved). Not having my own horse is rough, but it's never stopped me from finding a way to be around them and if I'm lucky, to actually ride. It's never changed how I feel about them.

Being a Horse Person means there isn't a day that goes by where you don't want to see, touch, read about or just think about horses.

~ It means you would rather do something, anything, horsey than about 90% of other activities (sorry, Honey!).

~ It means you try to incorporate horses into your life whenever possible: the house you buy (!), decorating said house, the clothing you wear, jewelry, vacations, you name it.

~ It means if there's a horse within a mile of you, you will probably hear or smell it and instantly wonder what it's doing, how it's feeling and if the owner is taking care of it properly.

~ It means that if anything else even remotely horsey catches your eye, you will look for them. "A white fence and a pasture? Where's the horse(s)? What, it's a trash-processing plant?... Oh, well."

~ It means you don't care what discipline, what breed, what kind of horse might be available for viewing, you will watch it and absorb every detail of its appearance.

~ It means that even if you're not riding, every single page of the new Dover catalog or Practical Horseman must be perused at leisure, and surveyed for a possible iota of new or fascinating information.

~ It means that people must be carefully exposed to your horse obsession lest they think you're a weirdo, or if they haven't seen you in a long time, aren't too shocked that you still have it at the advanced age of 40-something. (The latter happened to me last year. I got comments like, "Gosh, I'm surprised you still have horse models in your bedroom. I know you did when you were 10, but, uh...")

~ It means that when word gets around, other people will actually respect you for your horse knowledge and seek you out for answers to burning questions such as, "Who do you like for the Derby?"

~ It means that you will give up many, many things that other people consider essential to existence in order to pay for riding or even just seeing a horse. "Let's see: one copy of People magazine, or one gallon of gas to run to the horse show and back. Duh."

~ It means that you have at least two categories of friends, "horsey friends" and "non-horsey friends." They view each other with suspicion if intermingled, and the latter group tends to recoil in disgust when the former try to impress them with sheath-cleaning stories and insider lingo. "So then he let out a double-barrel just as we were swapping to make the rollback since he landed wrong. I nearly went off onto my GPA, but the Sadl-Tite held out, the Pelham I was trying got his head back up and we made the next oxer although he left from Timbuktu!" (I dare you to try that sentence out on your non-horsey friends next time you see them!)

~ It means that even though you don't have your own, there have been/are horses in your life who have meant the world to you. Doesn't matter if they're famous (Secretariat, Zenyatta) or not (Grey-Baby, Mare, Marbles, LiRoi); the mere fact of their existence brings joy to your heart and a light to your soul. You will love them forever and ever.

I spent about 10 years almost completely away from horses, busy raising human children and living life as a stay-at-home mom. I would not trade those years for a million bucks and I know how I lucky I was to be able to do that. However, the trade-off was putting aside a vital part of my being. In case I ever wondered if this was true, during those years I occasionally experienced torturous dreams that caused me to wake up crying. They all followed the same theme: I was with a horse, I was grooming it, I was tacking it up, I would be at the point of putting my foot in the stirrup and then... it would be gone. Someone else would ride off on it or it would just vanish. I never stopped thinking about horses, but the part of me that longed to be back in the saddle never went away. I don't think I've ever smiled harder in my life than the day (okay, maybe at my wedding :-) that I came home having found a great barn with an adult lesson program, picked up my saddle, and announced to the family, "I'll be needing this soon."

Did I remember how to ride? Hell, yeah. Was I sorer than you-know-what for a week afterwards? OH, yes. But did my heart feel like it was finally back in the right place? Yup, it sure did.

I, for one, have never, ever doubted that I will go to my grave a HORSE PERSON (and hopefully with a photo of my very own tucked to my chest along with one of my family).

“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. I agree with everything, especially that first part. It's worth noting, too, that not all horse owners are in fact horse people.


  2. Sadly, far too true! It never fails to boggle my mind that people will be lucky enough to have them and then treat them like yard ornaments, grass-eating 4-wheelers, accessories to a "lifestyle"/status symbols, money-making machines to be used up and tossed away or what have you. Too sad.

  3. I know so many horse owners that could live a hundred years and still never be horse people. What you wrote is very true.


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