Horse Boot Camp (or, the Muggle’s Guide to the Magic of Mucking)

New to dating the certifiably horse crazy? Veteran Byron LaFleur has got your back.

[Top image: Wikimedia Commons]

My fiancé kept threatening to write about all of the awful things he has to suffer as the non-horse-crazy half of our relationship. I gently reminded him that he has yet to muck a stall, catch a horse in the freezing cold, or wake up before 5 a.m. for well, pretty much anything. So he came up with a new topic.

Take it away, Byron.

From Byron LaFleur:

I assumed that I would eventually write about how crazy horse significant others (SOs) are. But I realized that was a rather bland topic since so many people had already written on that. I wanted to address an audience that hadn’t been focused on yet.

Then I realized who really needed my help: the newbie to dating horsey girls and guys. So I have created Horse Boot Camp.


So you think you’re tough to handle a horse girl eh? You’ve probably gotten a couple 25+ kill streaks on Call of Duty, can rattle off statistics of your favorite fantasy sport players for hours, are feared in Azeroth as Booboo the level 90 rogue gnome, and/or have dated countless women, so obviously you are ready for anything.

Wrong. Let me tell you the schedule of the enemy you are about to face in countless hand to hand combat situations. This is a person who likes to wake up at 4 a.m. to drive an hour to the barn. Once she arrives, she has to catch a one- to two-ton animal that can gallop up to 30 mph. Let me repeat that. You like to shoot people on your video game console in the balmy indoors after you wake up at around noon. She likes to catch animals that sprint away at 30 mph outdoors in sub zero temperatures at 5 in the morning.

Sounds like a rough schedule yet? Oh, we haven’t even begun. Next she has to groom and tack up the horse, getting it prepared. Then, she abandons all sense of self preservation to jump up on an animal (ten times her weight and twice her height that randomly flees away from shadows just…because). She then breaks this animal to her will making it ride in circles for an hour. To repeat again, ride in circles for an hour in the freezing cold. Supposedly, this is fun, though I haven’t exactly figured out why.

When she finishes, she is going to have to untack the horse, clean it, and set it free in whatever pasture so that she can catch him again tomorrow. And this is the schedule for a horsewoman who pays to have the horse boarded. She pays hundreds of dollars a month to do this. And do you know what she is going to do from the time that she leaves the barn to the time she gets back… which could be as early as a few hours from when she left? She is going to only think about her horse. Because why on Earth would should think about you?

Unless you grow four legs, starting tipping the scales at around 1,200 pounds, increase your size to about 15 hands tall (before you ask–just start Googling it now, and all the other horse vocab you’ll need to know to keep up in a conversation), and start bathing in Show Sheen, you are always going to be, at best, second in this girl’s mind. If you reach that lauded second spot, that means you probably beat out another horse, only coming in second to her favorite horse. That is a massive accomplishment that few of you will ever achieve.

And I am here to help you reach that cherished spot.

Step 1. Do your research. You better get a library card, because if you can’t tell a hoof pick from a sweat scraper (and refrain from busting out laughing at terms like “sweat scraper”), you’re going to be completely lost when you try to talk to the object of your affection. A few pointers to start: a pony is not a baby horse. Most people ride geldings or mares, not stallions. And dressage has been the national American summer pastime since 2012.

Don’t worry–most horse people are more than willing to tell you all about their preferred sport if you give them a chance. ALL about it.

One way to get fit is to work on your lateral movement.

Step 2. Get fit. If you can’t lift a saddle over your head and ease it down soft as a feather on her horse’s back, then you’re basically useless. And it’s about more than just physical fitness–you need to adjust your mindset too. Anyone can physically spend 40 minutes walking slowly to catch a horse who doesn’t want to be caught…the question is, do you have the mental stamina to outlast equine mind games?

Step 3. Get used to menial labor. Why does a horse’s mane have to be pulled out, strand by strand, until it is exactly three inches long and falls in a perfectly obsessive-compulsive straight line across the horse’s neck? Furthermore, why  would you even bother obsessively grooming an animal that lives outside and rolls in its own poop? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but your significant other is going to spend an awfully long time doing these things, so if you want any chance at spending time with them, you’d better be willing to help out once in a while.

Step 4. Keep yourself entertained. When your sweetie and her main man (the horse) are making their millionth lap around the arena, it’s OK to simply go to your happy place. You don’t want to seem like you’re not interested, so playing games on your phone is not advised. Concentrate on nothing but your breath going in and out of your lungs, and the barn will become a place of peace and solace, even as riders go flying left, right, through and sometimes over the jumps.

However, you might also find other ways to entertain yourself. She is going to be talking about a lot of horses and names, and you’ll quickly lose track of who is a human and who is a horse. Look out for subtle signs that will give a clue on who she is talking about. Here’s your first test:

“Joey started nipping Amanda today, so Amanda gave him a good kick. Then Carla went out to try and catch Joey.”

You’ll start to grow bored, so the best thing to do is imagine everyone in her story is a human. It makes it much more entertaining.

Step 5. Don’t ever step foot in a tack shop. Believe me on this one. Just. Say. No. For your bank account’s sake.

Go Riding. Or at least tolerate your significant others when they do.

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