Meagan DeLisle follows up her basic “How to Train Your Horse Show Spouse” (or significant other) with a more advanced guide for the developing equestrian relationship. Tongue in cheek, but firmly rooted in the truth!
Did you miss our introductory How to Train Your Horse Show Spouse? Click here to catch up!
Training your Horse Show Spouse is a lot like working with a young horse. They are super fun to have around, but they all have quirks. After putting in six months of training Wayne to be the fantastic horse show husband he is, I have adjusted to working around his oddities so that we are both happy when the horse is around. It’s all about good groundwork early on and developing the personality that you are given. Wayne has been a willing student, but we have ran into our fair share of road blocks in his training time. Once you have established the basics, it is time to move your spouse or significant other further in their education.
Step One: Distract your spouse from what scares them.
Wayne is terrified of the SmartPak catalogue. He knows they mean that lots of boxes are going to mysteriously wind up at our door as I pretend to be surprised at their existence. The day I called SmartPak to speak with a specialist about setting up my OTTB Joey for a supplement plan was tricky. Wayne saw me pick up the catalogue to get the number off the back and his eyes pinpointed on me like lasers. I tried explaining that, like humans, horses sometimes need “vitamins” to help them be successful and happy, but Wayne was having trouble grasping why we would by the horse who needs monthly supplements (“Why not buy the healthy horse?” he asked as I tried to explain that all of the supplements were a preventative.)
I have now learned that, like with young horses, when Wayne becomes easily spooked by the dreaded catalogue it is best to distract him from its presence. I don’t hide it from him — he needs to know it’s there — but I just make its presence less scary. Keep in mind, each horse — I mean, spouse — is going to react positively or negatively to different plans. I have found that while working with Wayne, the best thing to distract him with is farm talk. So as I flip through the catalogue casually on the couch, I start talking about tractors, soybeans, things that make Wayne happy. Eventually he is babbling on and on about fertilizer and I am happily circling the newest colors of Piper breeches that I want to add to my collection.
Step Two: Find your spouse’s niche
Not every horse is suitable for certain disciplines — you don’t see many halter-bred Quarter Horses doing dressage. The same is true with your Horse Show Spouse; they aren’t going to be good at everything. I had high hopes that Wayne would be the type to ride alongside me on a cool fall day, but I quickly realized that Wayne’s heart was more in the technical side of my sport and not so much into actual in-the-saddle skills.
So while I skip around happily at horse shows and chatter on about the classes I am in and the horses I find handsome, Wayne is eyeballing the jumps and trying to develop new ideas that will bring simplicity to our complex world. As we drive home from horse shows and I am trying to take a nap in the passenger seat, he rattles on about his new inventions that will be ground-breaking in the equestrian industry and make us millionaires. I’m not going to take a Tennessee Walker and turn him into an eventer (although I’m some people have), so I will just let my husband happily plod along as the smarty-pants of the relationship and I will do all the in the saddle work for the two of us.
Step Three: Practice makes perfect
I am beyond lucky to be able to say that my husband supports this expensive, time consuming, and sometimes dangerous passion of mine, so I can’t complain when he just doesn’t get it. After all, I have been around horses my whole life and when we first started dating his only exposure to horses was on guided trail rides on family vacations. As easy as it is for me to get frustrated when I ask him to grab the martingale for me and he comes back with everything BUT the martingale, I have to step back and remember that he is doing this for me. He tries really hard to be the best Horse Show Husband he can be, despite his fussings about my horse needing a blanket even though they survived in the wild for years without one.
I couldn’t help but laugh when while at a horse show one morning, Wayne and I were mucking stalls he and heard a little child barking orders to her mother and he paused and said, “Wait a minute — am I like the equivalent of a pony mom?” Sure, they may not get it right every time but we reward them with praise and treats (in Wayne’s case, a cold beer) and thank them for trying at all. Because they don’t have to do this for us. It would be much easier for them if they opted to stay at home and watch Netflix rather than hold a spooky horse as it drags them around during a Christmas photo shoot (oh wait…is that just my experience?)
Step Four: Never take a day for granted and be sure to pack beer in the cooler — they deserve it! Go horse show spouses, and go riding.