Married with Horses: Love and Sacrifice

A horsewoman's husband reflects on his life with horses and welcomes a new mare to the herd just in time for the holidays.

Continued from Married with Horses: Pollo Loco

I awoke with only a slight ache today. My right knee was still tender after my wild horseback ride in Costa Rica a few weeks earlier. At a healthy canter, my horse had run my knee into a spiky tree. (Any poets out there are welcome to take that rhyme.)

| © Andy Myer

I was improving, but my leg was a little stiff in the mornings. Additionally, I could run my fingers over my kneecap and feel three distinct, new knobby calcifications. It was actually rather gross. It still is.

It made me think about what it means to make sacrifices for our relationships. As with any intimate bond, our relationships with horses require sacrifices, too. It may be a sacrifice of time, money or a kneecap.

I sacrificed my kneecap for my relationship with horses.

I was proud of myself for remaining calm while my Costa Rican mount flipped his lid. It was definitely a learning experience, which I’m sure would have gone differently if I, too, had flipped my lid. Looking back on it now, I just shake my head with a slight smile and say, “Horses.” What are we “equine-struck” to do?

My plan was to continue limping a bit with my knobby knee and see where that took me. Right now, my limping was taking me to the barn.

The barn was a mess. In the past few days, only the essential cleaning had been done. Kimberly and I had been busy several days in a row with horse blanket photo shoots for a few catalogs and websites. Between the photography and a few thunderstorms, the horses had spent more time inside than usual. The lack of turnout always makes them restless. Even Vander, who usually kept a tidy room, had completely decimated his entire stall. There wasn’t a single clean shaving in the entire barn.

Additionally, when I entered the barn to turn the horses out, they all peed at the same time. All four of them. I hope it’s not a bad sign.

Yes, we have four horses now, and the women have officially ganged up on the men. Vander is now the lone male in a barn with three mares. He’s a gelding, but I think he likes the arrangement.

I suppose this is what we get for building four stalls: four horses. And we sacrificed our stall-turned-feed-room and a spacious tack room for the new mare.

We have our marketing work to credit with our family’s latest addition. We try to use our own horses for the blanket or tack photography we do for catalogs and websites. But sometimes we need other breeds and colors.

We visited our friend’s barn for some of the recent pictures. She was boarding a beautiful black mare who, like Vander, excelled at modeling turnout blankets for the action shots. We’d used her several times before, but didn’t know much about her other than she was very sweet and loved treats. (Poets, there’s another one for you.)

It turned out the black mare, Madison, was in a pinch. Her mom was “newly single” and was having trouble paying for feed and board. This barn was trying to downsize, and Madison was the last remaining boarder. I was watching Kimberly’s face as we talked to the barn owner. I had seen that look before and knew what we were in for.

After getting in touch with Madison’s mom, the barn manager called us and offered Madison to us for the cost of the overdue board. Even though Kimberly and I had experienced disappointment and a significant financial loss with our second horse, Skip, we felt good about this purchase. A little blind optimism never hurt anyone, right? Don’t answer that.

So we sacrificed several months of eating out to bring Madison home.

And to express her gratitude, she stood in our barn, peeing immediately before turnout just like the other three. I’m sure all four were whinnying because they were excited to go out, but it sure sounded like laughter to me. And it seemed Madison had fit in rather quickly. Heck, she’s smart. Madison might have even been the ringleader for their little stunt.

I led them out and dropped their buckets and hay. They laughed some more as I headed inside to muck the stalls. I was glad they were having such a good time.

Now I would be lying if I said I got excited about cleaning the barn every time. Occasionally, there’s an inverse proportionality between how messy the barn is and my excitement. On this morning the barn was destroyed, so my excite-o-meter was registering a zero.

Unfortunately, Kimberly wasn’t around to help me muck. She was off to see a client with our latest photographs and other work. I couldn’t complain. (Knock on my wooden head.) We’ve been very fortunate to have our clients and be able to continue working with horses. We are grateful for that.

And despite the small trades and changes we’ve made for our lifestyle, I have ultimately sacrificed nothing to be married with horses. Everything in this life makes me better: I’m happier and richer emotionally, even counting the few injuries and sore spots.

I was thinking about this after my bucket-scrubbing, aisle-sweeping, mucking marathon, as I hung fuzzy, red stockings on the front of each stall. I was hoping the horses would be more excited about the stockings than the cats were. It seems that Christmas stockings register a zero on the average feline excite-o-meter.

I hung Madison’s stocking and made sure it was straight. This year we had gone from 8 stockings to 11. Next year there’ll be 12 when Mandy foals. It just keeps getting better.

Whatever you celebrate and however you may–or may not–decorate, all 11 of us wish you a happy holiday season. Yes, even the cats.

Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina.

Read Jeremy’s other columns in’s Humor section, and share your comments in the forum.

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