Caring for your horse is a voyage of discovery, in more ways than you might expect. Here are some pearls of wisdom you’ve probably gained along the way
Spending any amount of time with horses is highly educational, not just for improving your riding and management skills, but in other areas, too. As it turns out, your horse is an excellent teacher in the skills you need to conquer all aspects of daily life and luckily, unlike most life coaches, he accepts payment in carrots rather than cash.
1. Remain calm in the face of adversity
Your horse always seems to get wind of big plans, meaning you’ve become familiar with the smug look on his face as he comes in from the field on the special day, proudly sporting only three shoes. Once you might have reacted by stamping your foot and sulking, but now you’re able to adopt a zen-like feeling of calm as you speed-dial your farrier’s number yet again.
2. Perseverance does (occasionally) pay off
Speaking of missing shoes, few tasks are more menial than having to tramp up and down his field, desperately straining your eyes in an attempt to spy a silver gleam buried in the grass and mud. A needle in a haystack’s got nothing on this job, but the feeling of sweet success when you finally find that errant shoe makes it worth it. Almost!
3. You’re not the centre of the universe
Your horse is, and he’d appreciate it if you could remember that at all times, please. Caring for him is so much more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle choice that seems to fill every moment of your spare time. But for every social gathering left early because you’ve got to turn him out at the crack of dawn or day of annual leave sacrificed for a vet appointment, there’s the feeling of contentment as you leave him happily munching his haynet, tucked up for the night in a clean stable. Being his personal slave isn’t so bad after all.
4. Pride comes before a fall
Literally, in most cases where horses are concerned, and there’s nowhere more public to have that fall than at a competition. You might have been feeling confident about your dressage test, but that was before your horse saw the monsters hidden behind the judge’s car and unceremoniously dumped you on the centre line. ‘Still’, you muse to yourself as you lead your snorting beast back to the lorry park and subtly try to brush the arena surface from your breeches, ‘at least it wasn’t in the water complex this time…’.
5. Perfection is overrated
When you fantasised about your dream horse as a child, he was probably drop-dead gorgeous, impeccably behaved and fantastically well-bred. Somehow what you’ve ended up with is a spooky, space-invading creature with steering issues and questionable bloodlines – his temperament says mule, yet his head carriage suggests giraffe. Despite all this, you wouldn’t change him for the world.
6. Accept defeat with grace
Horses are fantastic levellers – anybody who saw Michael Jung’s run-out at Burghley last year knows that even the best in the world can have an off day in the saddle. This makes it slightly easier to swallow when, after a fantastic run of competition form, everything falls apart and you find yourself at the bottom of the placings. Besides, you’ve learnt by now that it’s only temporary – you’ll be back next weekend ready to give it your best.
7. Money doesn’t make you happy
Because, let’s face it, you don’t have any! Your horse has about as much respect for your bank balance as he does for electric fencing or freshly washed competition breeches, so if you aren’t shelling out for saddle fittings, competition entries or expensive supplements, he’s found a new way to land you with the sort of vet bill that requires a small mortgage to pay off. He might be a money pit, but you can’t deny he makes you happy.
8. Life’s too short for vanity
By the time you’ve fed your horse, mucked out, fitted in a speedy schooling session and been towed down to the field to turn him out, you really haven’t got the energy or inclination to make an effort with your appearance in the morning. Not to worry, though, by now your work colleagues have become accustomed to hat hair and the faint aroma of horse that lingers around your desk.
9. True love has four hooves and a tail
Ultimately, no matter what character-building antics your horse puts you through, it’s all worth it when he comes trotting across the field to greet you or does something to make you laugh. No matter what life throws at you, he’s always there for a cuddle, a cry or to listen to you moan about your horrible day. Unconditional love is rare, but your horse has it in abundance (as long as you don’t forget to put the carrots in his dinner, of course).