Buying a new horse isn’t always the answer….

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For the past several months (years), I’ve been a quintessential Horse Hubby, listening to my wife’s trials and tribulations with her 17 year old thoroughbred, Charm. Charm is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB), turned dressage and beginner-level eventer, purchased by my wife Michelle nine years ago. Shortly after purchase, about 3 months in, Charm developed a fungal infection (Whiteline?) that required heroic measures (shy of surgery) to bring her back to good health.

My wife Michelle has been training with Charm 3-4 times a week: flat work, as well some crossrails and low level standards. As our daughters have advanced from “pony rides” at the local carnival to local hunter/jumper shows and XC Schooling, my wife envisioned a time when the girls could ride Charm or Riley (our 14.3 Welsh cross gelding) so that each essentially had their own horse to event. An issue is that is Charm is older, and not responding well beyond training level. This, in addition to moments when her thoroughbred neuroses take over (SCARY!!), has led us down this also scary path of…. “looking for another horse.”

The internet is great place normally (Hell, it’s how I found my beloved Horse Hubby group)… but it can also be the Devil’s pit itself. Michelle has been searching ads for the past several months for a second horse, one that she and the girls will ride, and that both girls can event. Ultimately, Charm may end up retired.

Michelle McKinney and Charm
Michelle McKinney and Charm

Thanksgiving weekend we decided to drive to Durham, NC (about 300 miles) to meet with a prospect on a BEAUTIFUL 700 acre plantation. Everything we read about this guy was exactly what we were looking for, and further talks with the current owner calmed any nerves I had. Michelle “test drove” a thoroughbred-cross for over an hour. Doing my “Horse Hubby” duties, I filmed video for us to review back a the hotel, but as beautiful as he was, I could tell horse and rider were not connecting (this was not going to be “the one”).

But it actually did end up being “the one”, only in a way I did not expect. It was “the one” that opened the doors of communication between “wife and husband,” “rider and Horse Hubby.” On our long ride north up 95 this past Sunday (7 hours to cover 300 miles… and they say us Horse Hubbies don’t work!), we talked horse. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) horse. For seven hours. I listened, and she asked my opinion about Charm, and about how things are going at our current barn…. and SHE LISTENED too.

The ride home, which I feared would be full of frustration, tears, and the worst part… the dreaded “silence” was anything but that. We went to buy a horse, and came out wiser together. I found out today how much I really do pay attention, and how much she appreciates my input into OUR activity. Though we did not actually leave Durham with a new horse, we did leave with a renewed perspective, a new attitude, goals for Michelle and our daughters, and maybe… just maybe, it’s not time to retire Charm… at least not yet! (That’s not to say another horse isn’t in our future… I would NEVER be so bold as to predict).

Rider and Horse Hubby really are a team… and that’s pretty cool!

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