Friday, October 21, 2011

My Horse Show Husband

I still have a long laundry list of things that have not been done in preparation for Sunday's horse show.  The things that I have done include:
  1. I re-memorized First Level tests 1 and 3.
  2. I gave Harley a pep talk.
  3. I gave myself a pep talk.
  4. I loaded Harley in the new trailer a few times.  
  5. I gave him a pep talk about the new trailer (Statistically, horses like the step-up better!).
  6. I practiced my warm up.
  7. I practiced each test.
  8. I trouble-shot a couple tricky parts of each test.
  9. I got some great advice from my fellow bloggers on how to prepare Harley's mane!
  10. And I watched some First Level videos and read a couple articles online.
Today, I was thinking that maybe I should go lunge Harley to keep him loose.  Then, I could trim his fetlocks, jaw, and ears, and clean his saddle.  I would save cleaning the boots and bridle for tomorrow, run through my checklist of items to bring (Do not forget a mounting block this time!), and possibly give him a bath.  There will be enough time to pack the trailer and braid on Sunday morning, because our classes are not until after 2 o'clock and the show grounds are very close by.

Then I realized something.  This entire weekend is about me and Harley.  Between getting ready and going to the show, there will not be much time for anything else.  This is where my non-horsey husband comes in to play.  I call him "non-horsey", because he did not grow up reading, dreaming, and chasing after horses like I did, but he is married to a horse girl, which makes him guilty by association.  If it were not for him and his support of my passion, Harley would not even be in my life.  When push came to shove, he was the one who said, "Val, you should buy this horse."

My husband has adopted his role as the husband of a horse-crazed woman extraordinarily well.  My parents kind of handed him the torch when we were married and I remember my Dad saying something like, "You know, she can spend A LOT of time at the barn."  He also separately said to me, "Do NOT spend so much time at the barn!  Mom and I are used to it, but your husband will not understand why you are gone for hours at a time."  Although I am not perfect, I have striven to clobber my tendency to chronically lose track of time in the name of horses.  My clobbering tools include a watch and a cell phone and the desire to be more efficient in all areas of horse care and riding.  My barn owner contributes a great adage:

"If you do not leave, then you cannot come back."

In the spirit of reciprocation for my efforts to divide my time, my husband has adopted the role of photographer, videographer, and assistant at horse shows.  Of course he helps me in so many less-tangible ways on a daily basis, not to mention that he is a great cook!  His career is based in computers and he is by far the best problem-solver I have ever met.  Just the other day, when I was explaining that Harley was scared in the new trailer, my hubby suggested that I might not be looking at things the right way.  Harley knows that he gets more attention from me if he looks upset or scared.  My husband suspected that Harley, although not scared, did not really like the new trailer arrangement and was playing on my emotions.  Can horses think that far ahead?  I think I have been bluffed.

My husband helps me by holding jackets, whips, water buckets, cameras, and sometimes Harley, as I frantically try to get everything done before my ride time.  He has learned how to give me a leg up and tells me when I am on deck.  He also shoots one mean video, which includes scoping out a good spot ringside and setting up the tripod.

The first show for our horse-human trio in October 2007: My parents are great, too.  On occasion, they have driven several hours just to attend a lo-key schooling show.  Here Mom is taking our picture.  She is our biggest cheerleader!

My husband's role as "Horse Show Husband" goes much deeper than carrying water buckets, holding items, and taking pictures.  He is my ultimate support system and I think, sometimes, that not being a horse person gives his words and insight more impact.  I remember one show in particular where the judge was rather harsh and I felt like a failure.  I was so distraught by the experience that I deleted all the videos and pictures so that I would not be reminded of the show.  I do not usually do things like that.  If you go to enough horse shows, eventually you run into that kind of judge.  The good news is that I was not the only one who felt that way leaving the schooling show and I overheard one competitor identifying the judge as biased.  I do not know if this was really true or if we just stunk that day, but I left the show feeling dejected.  That is not a good feeling on any day.  I felt so inadequate and ineffective, that I questioned my worthiness of riding Harley.  The judge's comments made me feel like I was wasting his abilities and wasting my time.  My husband listened patiently, while he made food for us (that usually makes me feel better, too) and then said the most comforting thing to me.

My husband told me that I should not feel ashamed if the judge thought Harley had potential and faulted my riding, because Harley only knew what he knew because of me.  Anything that he was able to do was my accomplishment, too.

This was so simple, but made so much sense.  His words mitigated my emotional pain and gave me the power to look at the situation dispassionately.  Eventually, I decided to start taking lessons again and that lead me to my most wonderful teacher.  I also embarked on a saddle journey, twice, and started to look at my riding, my horse, and my approach to training differently.  Although I was a little gun-shy, I did continue to enter the occasional schooling show.  Thankfully, the vast number of judges are not like the judge who upset me so badly, but that upset also led to so many wonderful things.  I credit my husband for giving me the strength to see the positive and turn a crushing situation into the potential for personal growth.

After all that my husband has done for me and all that he does for me, the least that I can do is make Friday a barn-free day.  Harley may miss me, but he has to share me, too.  He will not forget his training and he will be the same awesome horse on Sunday, whether I work with him today or not.  I will have to do my best to finish my checklist tomorrow and Sunday.  If something does not get polished to perfection, that will be okay, because I will have my wonderful Horse Show Husband with me and Harley, all three of us, sharing the day.


  1. Loved it, Val! What a nice tribute to a super husband. :0)

  2. awww... it's nice you have such a supportive husband. Good luck! I know you guys will do great.
    I'll be cheering you on from NZ!!:)

  3. Thanks, Karen!

    Thanks, Ruffles!

    Can we count you as our international fan base?
    I actually have an uncle in NZ, but he has never met Harley. NZ is a little far for barn visits. ;)

  4. That was such a nice post! Your hubby is one in a million. It is really wonderful how much he supports you. No matter how the show turns out, I believe you will have a really nice time. I'll be rooting for you from Washington State. (Don't forget to breathe) :-)


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