A couple years ago I wrote a poem called Ode To The Horse Widower, to honor those amazing partners who respect our passion, however frustrating it might be for them at times. (I have no idea how hay got in the bed!) I love sharing that poem around Valentines day but I started thinking, what if they don’t they’re a horse widower? What if they have no idea there’s thousands of other horse husbands out there, just like them?
So I created the below reference guide for those who are trying to decide if they’re a horse husband or not. Are you a horse husband? Do you know one?
If there’s a horse in the barn referred to as the “husband horse” that you only ride once a year, you might be a horse husband.
If you ever thought she was talking about you when she told her friends, “He’s an easy keeper,” you might be a horse husband.
If you trip over her shoes inside the house, and trip over her boots outside the house, you might be a horse husband.
If she rakes the barn aisles every day, but only vacuums the house every couple of months, you might be a horse husband.
If you’ve ever missed a football game to watch your wife in a horse show, you might be a horse husband.
If you’re not exactly sure how much money she spends on horses every month, you might be a horse husband.
If your wife cries a lot and is cheating on you with a guy named Buck, you might be a horse husband.
If you suddenly find yourself having time for long naps on the weekends, you might be a new horse husband.
If you’ve ever had to fix the washing machine because a round of filthy blankets jammed it up, you might be a horse husband.
If you’ve ever faked a back injury to get out of stacking hay, you might be a horse husband.
If you’re annoyed your wife spends money on new shoes every 6-8 weeks, you might be a horse husband.
If you’ve ever been late for dinner reservations because your wife had to swing by the barn for “just a minute,” you might be a horse husband.
If you’ve ever lingered at the edge of the arena, resetting jumps, you might be a horse husband
If she spends $200 on a vet bill for a cough, but tells you to quit being a baby when you have the flu, you might be a horse husband.
If you’ve ever said “Take your time at the barn,” so you could finish a football game, you might be a horse husband.
If you’ve ever had to do barn chores because your wife was sick, you might be a horse husband.
And finally, if you think your wife likes her horse more than you, you might be a horse EX-husband!
What’s missing from the list? What needs to be added?
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I like looking at horses for sale, I like to see what’s out there and I like to see the differences in prices and breeds by the different regions. After a while of looking at so many ads, I have to tell you, I feel like someone should write a Horse Buying For Dummies book, because you almost need an advanced degree in wading through horse shit to correctly interpret the advertisements. This is not to say that everyone lies when selling a horse, or that every ad is a misrepresentation. However, people with a horse for sale have a singular goal: selling the horse*. For that reason, the horses are represented in the shiniest and most perfect light possible, no matter that the photo may be 2 years old. Allow me to put a little more realistic spin on some of the things you might see in horse ads, saving you some time, and saving you some heartache from falling for the “perfect” horse, only to discover in person he’s a total train wreck.
First off, every horse, in practically every single ad is a bomb proof/kid safe/husband horse. How dead-broke a horse is lies on a spectrum and relies heavily on a person’s experience and perception. Some hell-bent-for-leather cow hand may consider a horse bomb-proof and husband safe because the horse will go all day and only gives the occasional crow-up to let you know he’s tired of working. But unless your husband has the same level of grit and laissez-faire attitude, a horse with an occasional crow hop during every ride is not going to work for him. And that kid safe horse? Take a long hard look at the photos, is the kid just sitting there? Is an adult leading the horse around? Is the child a passive passenger as the adult commands the horse? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, that’s not really a kids horse. That’s a horse that doesn’t mind kids. A horse that packs around a 40 pound passenger without complaint while an adult leads, does not a kids horse make. You need to see photos and videos of an actual tiny human directing the horse’s actions, walking, trotting, turning, with zero assistance from a regular sized human. That’s a kids horse.
Oh yes, and there is the occasional ad in which the owner admits that the horse does have a little spook, a little trouble with running (but of course he can be stopped really quickly and comes right back to you). Please interpret those admissions as a downplaying of the full-on one mile bolt the that rivaled Exaggerator’s win at the Preakness. I hope if you’re exploring such a horse you have your jockey skills polished up and have a big saddle horn to hold on to. And wear a helmet. And an eventing vest. And have good health insurance. Or just keep looking.
Some ads boast about how the horse bathes/Loads/Clips and has no bite/buck/bolt. Unless they are talking about a green horse, or an un-broke horse, these things should be a given on a broke horse. And if the ad really only lists those things and not much else, just. Keep. Scrolling. It likely means the horse doesn’t have much else going for it. Okay, let me say that with a caveat. If you are looking for a project horse, a horse to train yourself, a horse that hasn’t had the miles and time put into it, then definitely look for the well-priced sweet horse that has these basic tenants of respect down. But if you actually are looking for the bomb proof/kid safe/husband horse, this is not that horse. It’s just not. The ad would be telling you all about the rodeos the horse has been to, the mountains they’ve camped, and a moose the horse fended off. Not just that it can be bathed and clipped and won’t immediately toss your ass off.
If there are all kinds of stipulations on the ad, if it says just putting feelers out there, not sure… steer clear. Buying a horse can be a long drawn out exercise in patience. Don’t make it harder on yourself by engaging with sellers who may not be ready to sell. These people can be identified by their high priced but average horse. They can also be sussed out by the stipulations they put on getting to see the horse, how to manage its care, what you can do with it. If I sold my horse tomorrow, I sure as heck wouldn’t want him to be barrel raced on, I think it would fry his little anxious mind. But the fact is, I would have zero control over what the would-be next owners, or the owners after that, choose to do with him after the check has cleared.
But owners who request the first option to buy back should be regarded with respect. This is a sign that the owners know the horse has value and want to make sure he or she has a safe retirement and doesn’t make a mysterious descent into the auction world and head south on a meat truck for a Mexican slaughterhouse. Sorry, that got dark quick. But it is a real possibility.
Like I said, the horses in the ads always sound like a dream but are a little less sparkly in person. If you’re new to horses, I highly suggest you work with someone who isn’t. Work with someone who doesn’t benefit by you purchasing a horse. The same way a saleswoman is going to tell you every single piece of clothing you put on in the store looks “Amazing, brilliant, simply ravishing” because she wants to make a sale, anyone who is benefitting from you buying a horse can’t be trusted. This includes any horse-crazy children you may have who might tug on your sleeve while looking at said dream-horse and whisper sweet nothings in your ear about how he or she will clean the stall and groom the horse and make sure it’s always cared for. Every. Single. Day. Let me give you a spoiler alert that you probably should have seen coming, at some point you’re going to clean that stall, have to call the vet, or arrange other types of care.
If you really are looking for a non-fancy, unflappable trail friend, a good horse for your kids to play on and build their confidence, I think you should look for an ugly old plug that’s been with its people for a while. People will keep a pretty looking palomino that’s a jerk to ride whereas they won’t hold onto a jug-headed long-back that’s ugly as sin and is hell to ride. Well how the hell do you know if you’re getting the sweet jug-head or the jerk? That’s where you find out how long the owners have had the horse. If they’ve had it for several years (longer than three) that’s a good sign. Look for people who are selling because of a change in lifestyle (divorce, selling property, kid went off to college) instead of just because they need to focus on their other horses. If they’re focusing on their other horses, it means the one they have up for sale is the least talented and shows the least potential of the pack. That’s not a good sign for you. Again, unless you’re looking for a project horse, otherwise, keep moving.
Oh, and one last thing, a mare is a mare is a mare. At some point, she’s going to have an off day. Maybe several off-days in a row. She’s a mare. She’s going to act mare-ish at some point. It’s statistically improbable that the number of ads that claim a horse is non-mare-ish are actually accurate. They’re biologically engineered to have an attitude. It’s just gives them personality!
*Except for those people I mentioned who aren’t ready to sell yet and have all sorts of requirements for the sale of their horse and ongoing care.
Good luck horse hunting! Please share your horror stories, and follow me on Facebook so you never miss a mediocre post or the occasional gem!