The Woman Who Cheated with Horses.

WMhorseriderI like to hear Horse Husbands whine as much as the next person.

Sometimes it’s almost amusing. He complains about all the time his wife is gone and the fortune she spends. We’ve all heard it before. It’s the flip side of the football widow story. He doesn’t know enough to complain about saddle pads in the washer, but again, that’s the kind of guy he is.

Anyone who rides well has developed a sense of humor to get along with horses and in a social situation, most of us are good sports as the husband tries to win the crowd over by making fun of her passion. Think about it. Ouch.

This happened twenty years ago and I still think about this woman at least every month.

He was the worst kind of Horse Husband, he was loud. He thought he was funny, but the jokes cut to the quick. He made fun of a trip to the vet; he said his wife acted silly. He did an impression of her using a high-pitched baby voice. He ranted that it cost way too much, and in the end, it was a big fat waste of time. He thought he was a laugh riot. Do you know a Horse Husband like this?

All of us listening who had horses knew the truth. The horse was in danger and she did the right thing. Because she was smart about getting her horse in, the vet bill, not to mention damage to the horse, was a fraction of what it would have been.

He made fun of her passion. It happened more than once and I honestly don’t think he was aware of the pain it caused her.  But she sold her horse. She got rid of all her riding tack and barn clothes. She told him she was done with horses. She joined a health club instead. Sometimes she stayed for two or three classes and then soaked in the hot tub afterwards.

It was a lie. She moved her good horse to another barn, one with a shower. She left her riding clothes and boots there and changed before and after her ride. She opened a secret bank account. That’s a lot of deception for a marriage to survive, but she was in a stressful three-way and she didn’t want to give either of them up.

This Horse Husband was over-the-top obvious, some are more subtle. Maybe he asks how you are, and you answer that you fell on ice by the barn or that your shoulders hurt from stacking hay.  Then he responds by suggesting you get rid of the horses. He doesn’t really mean it, probably, but he does say it and then it hangs in the air like the smell of a dead fish. We smile and let the sentiment bead up and roll off, but it leaves a stain. And we share a little less in the future, we begin to shut down.

Or maybe your Horse Husband disapproves by omission. He just never asks about your barn life ever. No harm, no foul. Your horse becomes the ugly step-child.

It isn’t my intention to pick on Horse Husbands. Most of them are supportive, or at least not UN-supportive. They know that a relationship that is all correction and no reward doesn’t work any better on women than it does horses. They know that if their partner is happy, the trickle down will benefit them much more than the resistance is worth. They see it as simple math.

But in my extended circle of clients, there is usually one or two of these conflicts going on; she is reluctant to be honest about something in the barn because she fears a negative response. Maybe he is envious of her passion, but most likely he’s frustrated at work or just lonely, and he vents with bad jokes. Each side gets defensive.

If you were having that sort of passive aggressive conversation with a horse under saddle, it would look like resistance and poor communication. You could even get launched off.  There has to be a cleaner way to communicate, less defensive and more honest. But what do I know; I’m not a therapist, only a horse trainer.

If I was giving advice to Horse Husbands, and no one is asking, I would ask them if their approach was working. Loved ones have criticized my choices for as long as I can remember. It hurt my feelings some but it never changed my mind.

The smart Horse Husbands I know are happy to see their spouse off to the barn. You don’t have to love horses to know that the payback for accepting and supporting someone is much more pleasant.

And I keep thinking about the woman who cheated with horses. I wonder how it worked out. When people are different than we are, we always have a choice. I aspire to the level of zen-like acceptance I see in horses and dogs, but sometimes my humanity gets in the way.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

49 thoughts on “The Woman Who Cheated with Horses.

  1. irisvillagegirl

    Sorta there myself! Can only tell you my horses have kept my sanity for me and I’m not getting rid of them! When all else falls apart–they are there for me!

  2. This subject makes me think a lot. Until recently I’ve never kept a horse anywhere but in my own back yard. One of the first things I noticed when I decided to board my horse was how many of the women (in my age group) had horse husbands/partners who didn’t “approve” or support their equine activities. I couldn’t fathom this! I introduced my husband to horses and he’s been like a horse-sick eight year-old girl ever since! In fact, he’s so into his horse that more often than not I’m the horse widow who watches him go off to ride with his buddies! My heart goes out to these women. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you’ve hitched your wagon to an asshat.

  3. A post on this subject is both brave and militant. I’ve never heard it addressed better, or with more perspective and compassion. It sure woke me up! I’ve been aware of the pain around me for years, a low level undercurrent beneath the joy at the barn. I want to send this post to every horse spouse I know. Good job, Anna!

      1. Whoops, it did sound like I was talking about me. I was thinking of bits and pieces of overheard conversations around me. (Not that I don’t also have my squirmy areas….)

  4. Too many spouses or life partners or however they portray themselves think they are ever so amusing when they pick pick pick at the beloved activities of the person they are supposed to support ‘no matter what.’ Every now and then I run into these people and once was foolish enough to let one have a puppy. Fortunately the puppy came back when the partner made that ugly pronouncement “It’s me or the dog.”
    I was lucky beyond description with my late husband in so many ways. He supported everything we did, and even tried to support my writing. I don’t know that I’d want to try out another one.
    For Better or Worse means just that, and it’s ridiculous to think someone who was deeply involved in an activity before marriage is going to give it up. Sounds like that husband was about as dense as they come.

  5. I feel so sad, reading this, that people experience this. I have a horse husband, too, and he has claimed to not care about them. His response to “You have horses?” has always been “In the sense that California is a community property state, I have horses.” Now, after 25 years together, 22 of them with my horses, as he prepares to retire, he came to me a month ago and said “I think we should start looking for a horse for me.” So now, the man who has claimed indifference toward my horses, but wanted to drive our 36 year old pony to the emergency vet when it truly was time for her to go, who built me a barn, who encouraged me to get a younger horse now that mine are all older, now he has succumbed to the draw of the horse. I find it amusing and endearing. I love this man. 🙂

  6. I have been very lucky to marry a man who rode horses to elementary school as a kid. He has always loved animals, and especially horses. We share the love, and the chores. We hated boarding, celebrated the day we got to finally bring them home, and have never once regretted that decision. I remember listening to many women talk about their less than supportive Husbands when we boarded our gang, and I have always felt very blessed.

  7. Shevayrocks

    My husband met me when I had horses. Gave them up as the family came along, now over 50 and I am back into horses. He bought my horse for me, and takes me to tack shops whenever we are on vacation in a new place, and is often heard asking “do you have this, it’s purple”. The key is also keeping time for him. 35 years and counting.

  8. I gave up horses once to keep someone else happy, guess who didn’t last – now I have a man who will try joke indifference, but will often find an excuse to accompany when I have a run to a stable where I am seeing a few horses. The horses just melt into him when he has a quiet moment with them and he thinks no one is looking…. I agree – make sure he feels like he gets enough attention … then I can ask him to drive me anywhere !!

  9. Neglected

    Maybe when they got together and decided to have kids she did not have a horse and he did not expect to put the kids to bed by himself most of the time , spend his evenings alone at home while kids are asleep and have to explain to the kids that mommy doesn’t prefer her horse to them she just gets carried away and loses track of time when she goes to the barn… Hey, but good thing old reliable shoe is at home and not at a football game

  10. Just our observations, maybe they will help someone. A lot of women with horses have far more riding experience than their husbands. I always think of a woman whose husband would ride with her occassionally. When we saw them together, she was always using the opportunity to show how much better she could ride than he could. Sad really, but we have seen this type of attitude play out more than once. The second thought is finding a really well-broke horse for him to ride AND riding with him in a setting he can enjoy. There are lots of guys who enjoy the outdoors and would trail ride with their wives if they had a horse they could safely handle. Sharing a common interest even though it may not be identical if she likes eventing, showing, etc. brings understanding and patience. Take it for what it is worth, we just saw a couple married for nearly 50 years who got himself a horse to ride. Never ridden in his life and she had ridden the entire marriage. He’s having a blast!

    1. I agree, no one likes a show-off at anything. I see another weird twist sometimes: The woman in lessons and trying, TRYING, to improve and having her relaxed husband out ride her every time, just because he doesn’t try too hard. It is a mixed bag of everything up there in the saddle.

  11. Thank you Anna for this thought-provoking, beautifully written post.

    I see both sides. Little biting jokes about her when he is asked “Do you have horses?” and the answer from him is “SHE has horses, that’s why I WORK.” On the other hand, could she stomach it if he had a hugely emotional, time-consuming, and beyond financially expensive partnership with someone else who is extremely attractive, attentive, and fulfilling?

    I’m not sure I could, and I salute those spouses who can and do. Hobbies like golf or classic car collecting are one thing, but horses– let’s face it– they’re a different animal altogether. I’m blessed to have a husband who not only purchases me things like saddles, trailers, and FEI horses to put with them, but is also my biggest champion. Like most things worth doing, it is not always easy. This is a valuable discussion.

    1. I have loved the varied responses to this post, I do think there is an undercurrent always there. This woman I wrote about was tired of the fight, and took a different direction. Finding a balance between passion and the rest of life is an individual art form. and I agree, a valuable and interesting discussion. Thanks.

  12. designerchick2

    Makes me all the more grateful for my non-horsey significant other. He doesn’t share my passion, but he does love my mare. Why? Because he knows I come home relaxed, happy and content. He never complains about lost hours at the barn. He also makes a point to spoil my mare with peppermints to the point of me scolding him, “not now, she has not worked”

    But I too have watched women give in and abandon their true passion. I’ve never been able to figure that one out. But it still makes me sad for them. All the more reason to be grateful for my good fortune in the hubby department. Thank you for this post. Gratitude is always a good thing for me.

  13. So grateful and thankful for my supportive husband. The one who told me to stop worrying about the college money and retirement money and buy the horse before I got too old. The one who drove from Anchorage to Alberta with truck and trailer, got a kidney stone attack halfway and still brought me and our new Dutch warmblood back to Alaska. The one who now wants his own horse so we can go riding together.

  14. Tyger

    I have been with my partner for more than 30 years and do love him. We’ve had a good life together – as long as it hasn’t involved my horses. That part of my life he wants nothing to do with. I have had a horse of one kind or another for nearly 50 years and am not ready to give up. I want one last fling with my other true love before I’m too old! I have just sold my horse, my young and talented warmblood who was going to be my forever horse, because my partner has been giving me so much strife about her – and gave the money to him – and have become a horse cheat with another, much cheaper horse who I can keep cheaply and not let it show in the bank balance. The trouble is it doesn’t sit easy with me. I don’t understand why I have to cheat to make him happy. I realise that it’s partly my fault – I haven’t insisted that he understand, I’ve made him the – other – centre of my life, and now it’s all gone bad. The other problem is that he is quite a bit older than me and has entered the last stage of his life – so how do I leave him? But how do I stay with him? I understand where he’s at, but he needs me for all the wrong reasons and I no longer ‘need’ him, really, not at this cost. And because we’ve neither of us been good money people, money is tight, but I’d rather not eat than not have a horse. This is a fantastic article … but there are no easy answers.

    1. Thank you for sharing your bittersweet story, and you are so very right. The answers aren’t easy. Horses have (no doubt) gotten you through hard times in the past, and I am going to trust that will continue, even if not in the ways they have in the past. When I needed the cure and couldn’t have a horse of my own, I volunteered at a therapeutic riding center. But I was always clear who was getting the therapy. At our ages, much of life gets more complicated, best wishes to you as you navigate your way.

  15. 4ponyfarm

    Just read this and glad to know others have been in my situation. My husband always claimed to be supportive but it all fell apart this summer when he blew up at me when I said I didn’t have money to do x with him because I had to put shoes on the pony. A few weeks after that he blew up because I took time off work to go to a huge riding competition but not to leave a few days early for his friends wedding. A few weeks later he said “I just thought you would choose me over riding”. Nope, never. I was always clear with him that the horses were #1. I’ve dedicated my life to this and I’m not ever going to choose a man over riding. If that makes me crazy, obsessed and unbalanced that is fine. Separated 7 months now and I am happier than I have been in a long time. I love not having to worry about getting home late from the barn or skipping things he wants to do because I have a show.

  16. Lyn Chambers

    Wow! Yes! I have been horse crazy since I met my husband. He knows they come first…..all the time. He’s pretty wonderful about it, really never gives me grief, I do that all by myself. I only ride twice during the week before or after work and one day on the weekend, weather permitting, so my husband does get plenty of time with me, but I somehow always feel guilty if I am out longer than usual or whatever. I can’t help it. Sigh…………

  17. Judy Shaub

    Excellent story Anna. I’m afraid I see myself in some of it. Much opportunity for personal growth on my part, to woman up. And I can apply it to other parts of my life as well.

    Thank you!!!

  18. Maggie Frazier

    I dont think I had read this one before – it sure does hit home tho. I gave up my horse & colt when I got married (actually we couldnt have afforded to keep them). But also gave up my horse magazines – horse friends & any conversation about them for 12 years – after the divorce I took a few lesson – leased a horse for a year then bought him. He was with me for 12 years – frankly – THOSE 12 years were the best ever! Couldnt afford to get another one after I had him put down – not just financially – but he was my buddy forever! Sorry to run on – but boy, do these comments sound familiar! Thanks for letting me vent, Anna!
    Honestly – if you find someone who cares enough for you to want you to be happy? Hes a keeper!

  19. Susie Morgan

    I have been married for 40 years and reared 4 daughters with my husband. I’ve had my own horses for the past 15 years. It hasn’t been easy, I promise. There has been enough jealousy, resentment and guilt to make it difficult, but there’s been enough honesty and effort to make progress. I’ve had to watch my timing in sharing, and be careful to balance things between horse life and family life. I’ve seen so much growth in both of us because of it. The change started with him asking me at night if I needed to go add a blanket to keep a horse warm or if I remembered to go give a horse his medicine. No, he hasn’t embraced them and started riding, but he gives compliments instead of making fun of me, he tells me I need to go ride, he says I know it will make me feel better. Last year he suggested I add a younger horse, but conveniently doesn’t remember it that way. He’s delighted that I can share the joy of my older horse with grand kids and other kids. It is night and day compared to 10 years ago. So there’s hope out there girls.

  20. Terrific discussion and comments from all — heartfelt thanks to all who have written so beautifully on this site and in this specific blog.

    There is also regret. In youth I wished to be a professional groom and my mother said, “There is no way a daughter of mine is going to be a groom.” That was the end of the discussion. I was 15 and had been riding since age 5. I considered that my mother knew best and followed her request to go into business studies. My friend’s sister had just received her BHS (British Horse Society) professional certificate. I tried to explain to my mother that it was a professional path, but my mother was the first ‘Horse Husband of sorts’ and I lost the fight.

    Later, my husband of over 25 years spent his time, money and passion on airplanes. I supported him during all that time, keeping my desire for a horse secret. Finally, now with another partner who did some riding occasionally, I was able to purchase my first horse, an OTTB, at age 58.
    My current partner does not have much desire to ride. The other side of the coin is that he is an emergency physician who constantly sends out warnings about the dangers. His conversations have taken some of the joy away, but I carry on, at 63, riding lighting now, with ground assistance.
    My thoroughbred puts up with it; he knows I am an old moggie and that I want to ride slowly; he understands. How many friends understand you in that way? I know what you want, I will give it to you. In return, you give me good care; we understand one another.

    A Horse Husband may be someone who just helps around the barn, hand-walks, but doesn’t ride.
    He may complain often that he ‘needs to get home and work in the office’, that time is short.
    A horse doesn’t care about time, only your presence. I have seen that look in the thoroughbred’s eyes — this is too rushed, too short, where are you going? You just arrived. It’s a painful look that all of us who board out, have to deal with daily. For those who are fortunate to have their own farms, even with all challenges, please awaken each morning with thankful hearts.

    The time away, traveling, working, just not being with one’s horses, is painful. Each day you know you can never revisit that time.

    Even a small contribution from a ‘Horse Husband’ is worthy of praise. I fully admit I have not always balanced my time between the two loves. I need to work on that. We should all ask ourselves if our giving is 90% horse and 10% husband/partner. Maybe a small adjustment is needed? Maybe?

    Nuala Galbari

    1. Ginny Paschke

      FINALLY, someone who recognizes the need to spend equal? time with a husband who supports her passion -whether emotionally or financially, or both, like mine. It’s a challenge to remember he wants love and attention, too – and to find time for it! It’s like having two kids and both need to know you love them equally. Much of the problem with a “nasty” husband is simply resentment and jealousy. Can’t blame him; you just have to show him you appreciate him.

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