My horse and I have several people who play very important roles in our lives. There is my veterinarian who provides preventative annual care, over the phone advice for non-emergency situations that occasionally arise, and farm visits when an over the phone consultation just won’t do. There is my farrier who faithfully visits every six weeks to handle my horse’s trimming and shoeing needs. There is my friend and riding instructor who is the best anyone could ask for. She gives over the phone advice, pays visits for at home instruction, and opens her farm to me for help when further education is needed. There is my trainer, who even though I cannot regularly afford her services, is always ready to help in any way that she can. Finally, you’ve probably read my piece on my friend who has become my trail riding and horse showing companion, another hugely important role in my life with my horse.
As an adult amateur with a full-time job and additional roles as farm wife, freelance writer, and mother, all of these people play critical roles in my tiny world with horses. But there are two people that I haven’t mentioned before. These are two people who are equally critical, if not more so, than all the others. Two people whom I simply could not make it without. These are my husband and my daughter. Stay with me here while I elaborate.
As long as I can remember, I have had an addiction to horses. I have a deep and inexplicable need to see them, touch them, and ride them. As I grew older I sometimes mistakenly tried, with little success, to break this addiction. I would soon grow unhappy. My world was a little darker. All would not be well with my soul.
Instead, as I grew wiser, I learned to embrace it. When I did, some essential part of me blossomed and grew. I was happy once again. If you’re a horse person you can probably relate. You can no more deny your need for a horse than you can your need for food and water.
In April of last year I wrote a short story about a horse show experience and submitted it to EQUUS magazine. A few weeks later I received an unexpected response. They would like to purchase my piece and publish it. Elated, I developed and submitted a lengthier piece. It was quickly snapped up and the question soon came, was there more of my work?
Over the course of several months and more than a few purchased stories later, I had enough money saved to send my horse to a trainer for a month. I had long wanted her to learn some new skills that I had neither the time nor the background to teach her. In addition, following a hiatus from serious riding, I wanted to get back into jumping. In May of this year, after spending thirty days with a trainer that included some riding lessons for me while she was there, my horse was ready to come home.
I’m a practical sort and I was simply not going to let that amount of time and money go to waste. It was then that I began riding six days a week. If you’ve been around horses at all you know that this is no small commitment of time. There is the pre-ride grooming and tacking up, the rides that last anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour, the cool down and post-ride grooming session. And if I was going to do all this work, I was certainly going to show which meant additional time to clip and bathe my horse, clean her tack, etc. It also meant time away from home.
Throughout the process, my husband never complained. Instead he pitched in and asked how he could help. Back before my hiatus when I was taking lessons, riding at home, and showing on a regular basis he was always willing hitch up my horse trailer and to make certain it was rode worthy completing any necessary repairs. My non-horse husband called dressage tests, held my horse, wiped my boots before I went in the show ring, and more. He calmed my show nerves and gave me pep talks. He helped me with the day to day care of this animal that ate so much of my time. No less important, he was part of a small group of people to whom I will remain forever grateful for getting me through the unimaginably terrible day that my old horse had to be put down. In short, through it all he has kept me going with nary a disparaging word to be said.
Today, though he has even more reason to complain, he continues to help me with many of these same tasks and more. I am still writing with the goal of one day repeating the process with our trainer with the goal of gaining even more new skills, a task that requires a bit of solitude and even more of my time. Though I sometimes feel guilty about being less of a caregiver for my family and devoting a fraction of more time to myself, he doesn’t mention the time that I spend focusing on horses. Long before he married me he knew that my cooking and house cleaning skills were marginal at best. He knew and he married me anyway somehow choosing to admire rather than resent my quirkiness. He doesn’t complain about the fact that I wash my horse blankets, saddle pads, and fly masks in the same machine that does our family’s laundry or when I am closed inside our office working on a manuscript. He is my hero because he understands that by nurturing this addiction of mine he is also nurturing me and by doing so is making me a better wife and mother.
My daughter, who is a tremendous help on any front when I get in a bind, is always willing to help. Sometimes just by being there and lending a supportive hand, filling in where there is a need, she has gotten me through any small crisis that is likely to arise when your world involves a horse. Despite her young age she also lends an appreciated critical eye to my writing, constructively telling me when I need to go back to our computer and try again. She doesn’t mention the times when we aren’t doing typical mother daughter things like shopping at the mall. I hope that I am being a good role model to her by showing her how important it is to have something to call her own one day too.
Last weekend, when I called to alert my family that I was at long last on my way home from a show, my husband told me that he and my daughter had cleaned the house, gone grocery shopping, and done the laundry. I was speechless. With these simple acts of kindness there was hope that, despite my level of exhaustion, I would survive my work week. They often don’t get the recognition they deserve but I am very thankful for them. They allow me to be live this life that I love with my horse and to be happy. These two, they are my unsung heroes.