Ok, we’ve all heard the term… So, what is the perfect husband horse?
For my money, the perfect husband horse knocks on the door with my husband’s riding clothes in his hoof, he then wrestles my husband from whatever he is doing, throws Hubby on his already tacked back, jogs up to the ring and does all of his exercises, with a few misses thrown in just to make sure Hubby is awake. Then for the final act, the perfect husband horse would collect into his thrilling canter and masterfully rock the “jump over the water barrel” trick — which always makes my husband giggle like a toddler — and jump a few more times before settling to a comfortable walk. “More! More!”, Hubby chants with glee while clapping his hands and wiping away cracker.
While I know this is only a dream, you can get kinda close. Well, sort-of close. But, it takes a lot of real soul searching and tire kicking to find your match. What I’ve learned after my quest for a Husband Horse, is that you have to find the horse that will light Hubby’s fire, not yours. So, no matter if horsey had one slightly clubbed foot, a tendency to flap his lower lip when thinking or has a twinkle in his eye that isn’t exactly honorable, you have to overlook what YOU don’t want in deference to what kind of horse will inspire him to ride — but still be safe. And remember, no horse is always safe. Not one. So, you have to train your hubby, too, if possible. (I find training the horse to be much easier.)
This is the tough part. While YOU may know everything that he should have in a horse, it may not actually be what what floats his boat, so to speak. From my experience, my hubby was color conscious and related to the horse like a dude. Typical. He was picking his horse like most guys pick a girl or a beer buddy… My husband wanted a horse that was pretty, that he could do the male dominance dance with and then take out for a beer afterward. He wanted what he wanted and that was that. So, I had to work within those parameters but also slip in some qualities he didn’t even know he should want like: honesty, smooth gaits, lack of crazy and level of training. I had to compromise. He wanted a certain color horse with a brawny “little buddy” character and I wanted to get him a horse that would grow with him before they killed each other.
What everyone says to get is a “husband horse”, whatever that means. During my search, many advertised “husband horses” were broken down and so sad they had no soul. Or, they were aged, which is fine but not for my needs. Generally, these were “been there, done that” horses who had given up. Or, so it appeared to me. It actually made me sad. In my opinion, “husband horse” infers that the horse doesn’t care anymore. Now, for the kind-of-heart, there were plenty of advertised husband horses that I felt could come around with some love and attention. But, since the very nature of husband horse kinda indicates that they’d only be used on the weekends, if that, I would be the one doing the rehab on these guys. So, that wouldn’t be optimum. The other category of husband horse was the lame horse. Don’t get me started on people selling horses… just suffice it to say that some horses don’t work hard because they hurt. (Pictured above is the sales photo of Bodhi, then “Diego”, from his previous owner.)
After several attempts at the advertised husband horse, I decided to really think about this and get the right horse for my husband. Besides, it was totally depressing going to look at the above equines, needing new homes and being misunderstood. I just wanted to take them all home.
*I’m going to add here that there is one category of horse that is generally overlooked due to price : The Incredibly Trained and Honest Horse. To truly get a push-buttoned trained, healthy, sound, wonderful horse that is generally safe for hubby or kids, you have to look long and hard and most likely pay dearly. These horses are precious and rightly so… Yet, many buyers think a good Kid’s Horse is just a kids horse and should be cheap. Au contraire, mon amie. It is not easy to find a patient and safe horse. For all the chaff of misused and improperly trained horses out there, if you find the rare diamond, buy it! (The next pic is of Bodhi tied to a trailer, pre-purchase.)
WHAT WAS RIGHT FOR HUBBY
Hubby is very athletic. And, although he isn’t a trained horseman, yet, he has shown that he has a natural balance and a lack of fear. Physically, this horse needed to be a big horse to fit my very tall husband, he had to be willing and forgiving to fit my husband’s riding level, and he had to be slower on the reaction scale but also spunky when needed to address my husband’s rather maverick (read “noisy”) hands but athletic ability. They had to grow together. To me, that meant a young and somewhat insensitive draft cross. I started there.
DON’T PUT A GREEN HORSE WITH A GREEN RIDER
To explain this we need to explore the term “green”. The term “green” is many things to many people. I would rarely put a novice rider with a non-gentled horse. But, “green” can mean many things… Not trained, not many miles on the trail, not many wins… You really have to find out what green means to the seller of each green horse.
For me, green could be OK, if the horse had the basics of riding, but just hadn’t had that much time in the saddle. Hubby is very quick to learn and very balanced. This type of green horse might work for him. I felt a push-buttoned trained horse would be frustrated with Hubby. “C’mon Buddy, I don’t have all day here… what do you want and tell me clearly because you just asked me to do an upper level dressage move…” And Hubby would outgrow a push-buttoned trained horse because he likes the cause and effect of animal and human interaction. He likes to know that what he asked for is what happened, right or wrong. He likes to accomplish something. I felt that a well trained, older horse might not keep him interested for a long time. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with an older, trained horse. I’m just saying that in this situation, I felt the right green horse would be a better fit. You know, the climbing buddy, the biking buddy or the Oktoberfest buddy… not the sophisticate. (A pic taken today of a much larger Bodhi and Hubby.)
BRING HIM BACK TO SEE WHAT HE THINKS OF YOUR CHOICES
This was invaluable. I would find a horse that I thought was perfect and then come to find that Hubby didn’t like him at all. Or, I would bring him to a horse I thought he might like but I didn’t — and he didn’t either. This process really honed my skill. I was getting it… I was figuring out what he wanted. Truly, he wanted a kinship, a bond and a type of body that suited his eye. Really, he wanted what we all want. That certain “something” that strikes your fancy. And, after he realized that I wasn’t going to MAKE him get a horse that I thought was right for him (and I wanted to…), then he relaxed. He started to hear me a bit more. For example, if we went to see Tazmania, let’s say, and he fell in love with her… and I pulled him aside and said that she seemed to have a problem standing still and the owner had a devil of a time getting her haltered after she raced through the gate while giving a little sidekick, he would listen. Sigh. This was going to be a long process… (I also started to wonder how he picked me.)
We ended up with Bodhi. Bodhi was a 3 year-old draft cross. Now, I bet anyone out there would think a three year old anything was a bad choice. And, I would probably agree, if I hadn’t done my due diligence.
Bodhi was green broke. He knew his cues basically, but he didn’t have much riding time. He was very forgiving in the bridle and kind of unresponsive to gentle cues (perfect). He was honest, sweet and willing. And, oh joy of joys, he had a balanced trot and canter. So, it was true, this horse was not going to know what my husband wanted, he was not going to be perfect on the trails and he was not going to win any ribbons right away. What he was going to do was teach my husband to cue correctly without a huge fight, he was going to try hard to understand Hubby and he was going to learn to ride the way Hubby wanted him to learn, not the way I would teach him or the way another handler would teach him. And, Bodhi would be OK to sit around for a while when Hubby was too busy.
I’m not a ring type of rider. In fact, all of my show horses were ridden by other riders. Although I totally appreciate the skill of ring riding and really valued the riders who rode my show horses, it just isn’t for me. And, if I had picked a perfect horse for my husband, I would have picked a great trail horse. But, lo and behold, I let the cooperative voice choose Bodhi and guess what…? I would have picked wrong. Both Bodhi and Hubby like arena work! OMG. I feel like my kid ran off and joined the circus! It happened by chance. Hubby took a lesson that involved cantering and cavaletti jumps. They both were HOOKED! Bodhi was grinning and my Hubby had that toddler giggle. Whoda thunk that? A few months ago, Hubby went online and ordered proper riding jods. Wow.
And, as I sit here writing this, my Hubby is unpacking his new Eventing boots and figuring out his lesson schedule.
So, you ask, what is the perfect Husband Horse? Well, I say it is the one that inspires Hubby to forget he’s an engineer, wear English pants with pride, go buy some newfangled boots and march his now coming 5 year-old, still “green” horse up to the arena to tackle those poles. Perfect.