This is my first horse Poncho. There’s something special between a woman and a horse. Connecting the two is an indescribable draw to their power, beauty and, yes, even their smell. I am getting what I call a therapeutic whiff in this photo. As a result of this bond, more and more women are getting into horses. Some statistics show as many as 90 percent of current horse owners are women. Yet, for many first-time horse owners their dreams turn to nightmares. The fun turns to fear, and the link to these magnificent animals is forever broken. Much the same is true for women and men. But more on men in a minute, horses first, after all, a horse should always precede a man. Warning: this order of priorities may last a lifetime and can be not only dangerous but expensive.
To increase your chances of surviving your first horse follow these tips:
1. Forget about how beautiful he is. Learn some good unbiased observation skills. Keyword, unbiased. Do your best to put aside the “Oh, he is so amazing” and the “Oh my! He smells incredible” and observe humans and their horses interact without bias.
Are they having fun? Or are they frustrated? Horses and humans have the most amazing abilities to frustrate each other. Are they calm and kind? Or are they both wound up so tight you are afraid they might break a spring and both of them fly to the moon? Is the horse responsive or reactionary to its human’s requests? Does the horse have soft eyes? Is he cooperative?
Observe what horses eat, and how much they eat. Take note of the equipment needed to care for a horse; the grooming tools, the tack, the farm. Get a good handle on the true cost of horse ownership. Having enough money to buy a horse does not mean you have enough money to own a horse.
2. Gravitate toward happy horse people. Form a small group of these people with whom you feel comfortable asking questions. Having experienced people who share your approach to horsemanship will prove invaluable. Make sure they are positive and enjoy being with their equine partners.
3. Lease a horse first. Notice this did not say take riding lessons. Riding lessons have their place. Lessons are not the same as owning your own horse. Horses used for riding lessons are so seasoned they often need their vital signs taken. A new horse will challenge your horsemanship skills more than the horse at the lesson barn. Not to mention if 20 percent of what you do with your horse is ride, you are doing great. There’s feeding, grooming, stall cleaning, and a host of other time demanding activities. Leasing a horse provides more responsibility, without all the risk of owning a horse.
4. Seek a relationship with your new horse first. Why? It takes time, humility, and the willingness to slow down to develop a relationship. The relationship with your horse is the altar on which you will lay your life each time you ride. Lay a good solid foundation first and the days ahead will be far more pleasant. Do you have ideas about cantering over the rolling hills on your first ride, or even your 10th ride? If so, it may be you have been watching too many Hollywood movies and not enough horsemanship videos. It is everyone’s dream to canter off over the hills. This is a great dream to have. Try to realize this dream before both you and your horse are ready and it will become a nightmare. You will replay this nightmare over and over again from your hospital bed. The best two words of advice for horse owners are, “Slow down.”
Now, let’s get onto the secondary matter of finding a great man and staying with him.
My man and our horses.
1. Forget about how hot he is. Yes, believe it or not we need to dismiss the same notions of “Oh, he is so pretty.” And “Oh my! He smells so good,” as we did with the horse. Basic observation skills need to subvert our innate senses with some common sense. Observe him as he interacts with others. How does he treat his mother, for example? Does he get frustrated? Is he calm, kind, patient and respectful? These clues are far more valuable than beauty and smell for sure. How hot he is should only come into play if he is stacking hay for your horse.
2. Gravitate toward happy couples. Like attracts like and this is likely the type of people you need to be with to find your man, and hey, even if you don’t you will have learned a lot about relationships and had some fun. These are the people you can come to with relationship issues. Ask them the deep hard questions. Let them form a stronghold for you.
3. Lease a man first. Actually I am not sure leasing men is legal; think of this as establishing a friendship first. In other words, “Slow down.” Don’t be quick to get serious and make a long-term commitment. As with riding your horse, in real life most time spent with your man will not be watching movies and snuggling. Most of your time together will be working at some task. You could say most dates today are like riding lessons, a great time but hardly reflective of reality.
4. Seek a relationship first. Why? The relationship with your man is the altar on which you will lay the rest of your life. Lay a rock-solid foundation first and the days ahead will be far more gratifying. Like cantering over the hills too soon, princes and knights in shining armor are dreams. Get hoodwinked on this one and you are in for a real nightmare.
There’s another fascinating parallel between horses and men. Both have the potential to become your worst nightmare or your most intimate friend. Do what is within your power to make it the later. You will never regret the sacrifice.
Me and my man.
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