AJ Dyer recently wrote an article for Eventing Connect called Horse-breaking your husband – Bringing your significant other to horse shows. In her article, AJ offers a great list of ways that a newbie horse hubby can help at a horse show. This is indeed an excellent list. In my personal experience, however, many of these hints are way more easier said than done.
- Park truck and trailer – After many years, my wife still doesn’t trust me to drive her truck with the trailer attached, let alone park it. While there are a great many men who are most certainly competent trailer-movers, I am sorely inexperienced in this regard. I’m sure I’ll get around to acquiring this handy skill at some point in time but, until then, my wife’s hesitation is probably well-founded.
- Unload heavy items (hay, trunks, etc) – lifting heavy things is manly. I consider it a helpful and productive workout, and an opportunity to show off my manly man muscles. Of course, my hay allergies are a problem and, in most cases, given the choice of a little barn help and a sniffly, hivey, horse hubby, my wife will insist that I set up the water and take care of the dogs while she hefts the bales herself.
- Get water set up – setting out the water seems like a simple task, and it is. After years of helping out, though, I am still learning that there are better and worse ways of getting the job done. Most barn tasks are like this.
- Take horse for walk to eat grass (assuming horse is safe for this) – In my experience, horses are really good at stepping on or getting variously tangled in lead ropes, which can have unpredictable results. Horses are basically toddlers: the minute you turn your head, they’ll find some way of getting into trouble. Horse people have an uncanny way of noticing everything about their horse, even when they look like they’re not paying attention. I don’t have this ability.
- Take photos/video of you riding – When I first started taking photographs at horse shows, I thought my pictures were AWESOME!…they weren’t. My wife has always appreciated my effort, and every form of documentation is helpful, but the eye of an equestrian photographer takes a while to develop, and truly requires the eye of an equestrian. I’m still working on it.
- Check scores – Checking scores is easy, but communicating scores requires some skill. It has been a difficult lesson for me to learn that placing poorly doesn’t always mean that my wife had a terrible ride. Likewise, placing well isn’t always cause for celebration, depending on her goals for the event and for that particular horse. When you first start looking at scores, then, make sure that you communicate them in a way that is neutral, wait to see her reaction, and only then provide appropriate emotional support.
- Get food and drinks – This is a very important job. My wife (like many horse women) is very good at taking care of her horses, but not always great at taking care of herself. I’m very good at snacks, and more than happy to help in this way…especially since it means that I get to eat snacks too 😉
Being a horse hubby is a lifelong learning process, but the more you learn about the subtlety involved in successfully completing even the simplest tasks, the more you come to realize the complexity of the work and the level of expertise required by anyone working with horses. When horsewomen talk about ‘husband breaking’ and ‘husband training,’ they are not really being patronizing (although it can often sound that way). They are not primarily interested in making you a ‘stable boy’ (although expert barn help is always welcome…and, let’s face it, what woman doesn’t want their partner to be a sexy stable boy, once in a while?). No, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal of ‘husband training’ is simply to cultivate an appreciation of horsemanship though an understanding that can only be achieved through hands-on experience.