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A Non-Horsey Significant Other’s Guide To Dating An Equestrian

One of the first times we held a conversation, I asked Lindsay what she liked to do. Her response was prompt and came with a smile, “I have a horse named Dexter.” At that very moment, I had no idea what this meant for my future. All I knew was that I liked the smiling girl with the horse named Dexter.

Before long, I found myself at the barn with Lindsay, sitting atop the infamous Paint Pony in a tiny French made saddle. For our first ride together, we slowly walked around the outdoor ring. Lindsay watched from the sidelines as Dexter and I haphazardly roamed the ring with the grace and beauty of a drunken sailor. Fortunately, I was able to grasp the basic concept of steering rather quickly and our path evened out a bit. My confidence was on the rise as we made several circles and turns. I eventually dismounted and handed the reins over to Lindsay. She trotted and cantered around the ring, changing directions and making circles as she went. It looked so easy. I foolishly imagined myself doing the same after a few more rides.

The horse obsession didn’t scare me off and we started dating a few weeks later. In fact, I was rather interested in improving my riding skills. On my second trip to the barn, I was ready to try trotting. Lindsay put Dexter and me on a lunge line and got us going for a few steps. It. was. bumpy. Dexter stopped and I laughed at my performance. Those few short steps really opened my eyes to the sport. Lindsay’s riding looked so effortless. Simply post with the movement of the horse, how hard can that be? I tried again with the same result, laughing and all.

I definitely needed a lot more practice before hitting the trails. We decided I should try using a western set up. Luckily, Dexter has a few quarter horse friends with a bit more experience in that discipline. I was offered the opportunity to ride Freckled Oak Time, or Okie as he’s known around the barn, a retired reining champion. His calm, patient demeanor and short stature were perfect for a beginner like me.

After getting outfitted and back in the ring, I could already feel an improvement. Having the horn as a handle gave me a confidence boost, allowing the improvements to begin. In time, I learned to trot, post, canter, and even spin. Once I had a good foundation we took to the trails, something new for Okie too.

Paperchasing Okie

Leaving the ring and heading out into the world opened my eyes even further. Trotting through the woods and cantering in an open field for the first time was an incredible experience, something I never imagined doing. I finally understood the allure of competing in a paperchase and was eager to ride with Lindsay in the next one. We’ve ridden in several paperchases since then and even won twice.

Matt Riding Okie

Throughout our relationship, Lindsay and I have spent a good deal of time together working around horses. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to date an equestrian. Here are a few tips if you’re also in a boat full of horses:

1. Learn to talk the talk
Don’t be surprised if horses seem to work their way into conversation more often than not. Trouble with her piaffe? Even if you don’t have the right advice or understand exactly what’s going on, she will appreciate a good listener. Note: I quickly discovered a halter and a bridle are NOT the same thing. Using the incorrect terminology will result in scoffing.

2. Understand horse time
From my observations, going to the barn always takes longer than expected. Meeting up for dinner? She’s stopping by the barn to quickly take care of something? Yup, it’s a guarantee that dinner isn’t starting on time. The Equestrian Time Warp is real and I’ve learned to plan accordingly.

3. Learn some basic horse care
Odds are good that you’ll end up at the barn from time to time. Knowing a little about how to groom a horse, properly clean tack, and handle the poop smell will help speed up the trip. She will appreciate the help and probably get you an awesome dessert or something in return.

4. Accept (un)necessary purchases
Horses are expensive, period. It may not seem like she needs more than one bridle, but there’s different tack for different circumstances. Ask her to tell you about the purchase. You might find it’s replacing something or has a unique function. Having an open conversation will help you find ways to make both her horse and your bank account happy.

5. Show your support for the lifestyle
You don’t have to ride. It’s as simple as giving your significant other the space to do their thing. She’ll always be riding and practicing and it takes up a good deal of her time and money. You can even take your support to the next level by going to some of her events! She’s worked hard and will appreciate the cheering section.

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  • Reply
    Judy Swansiger
    October 20, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Matt, you’re a true gem. And I applaud your prowess atop the horses. You’re a keeper! I notice you’re even sporting advertising on your clothing. Good for you! I, myself, have managed to reach the ripe not-so-old age of 65 with NEVER being on the back of any horse other than the colorful carousel type at the amusement parks!

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