Diamonds are not a horse girl’s best friend

In Stories

Chase McVeigh-Walker helps operate Highland Browbands, a custom browband company with his eventer girlfriend, Jo Niehaus. He likes doing agility with his dog and drinking IPAs. Other hobbies include: gardening, running half marathons, and watching the Oregon Ducks.
Chase McVeigh-Walker helps operate Highland Browbands, a custom browband company with his eventer girlfriend, Jo Niehaus. He likes doing agility with his dog and drinking IPAs. Other hobbies include: gardening, running half marathons, and watching the Oregon Ducks.
You know when something is going to be a disaster but you do it anyway? You end up feeling embarrassed and guilty because you knew the outcome. That’s how I felt when I gave my girlfriend her birthday present. She tried to be polite but I can read her face like a book and that half a second of disappointed look in her eyes didn’t escape me. I promptly told her that we could return it and get her what she wanted. While she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, she was quick to take me up on the offer. The earrings didn’t suit her and her pragmatic side took over. What she really wanted were the wide blade Andis clippers to shave her horse for the winter. Was I surprised? Not in the least.

From the get-go I knew I was getting into a relationship with a horse-crazy woman. That being said, no one told me what that entailed.

In the beginning, it seemed like a healthy obsession that was satiated only through lessons a couple times a month. My girlfriend, Jo, had loved horses all her life but it took until grad school to have regular lessons. However, it didn’t stay a quiet weekend hobby for long and things started to snowball from there.

She became a working student and while I wouldn’t say I was “neglected,” I definitely saw her less. Her free time was consumed by watching horse videos, scanning the Dover catalog, and horse-shopping for her very own first horse. I was fascinated by her ability to drink in so much information, learn, and unapologetically follow her passion. While I had no experience in this world, I wanted to be supportive and included.

This past year has been a hurricane of horse ownership milestones for both of us. Jo bought her first horse, a handsome dappled grey gelding who, I am pretty sure, outranks me on her list. Then, she bought a truck and trailer and it’s a rare weekend I can have time with her at home. The majority of her vacation days are dominated by horse shows and clinics. Between her non–equine day job and activities at the barn (i.e. feeding, riding, cleaning, practicing parking her new trailer, etc.) there would appear to be no time to add starting a new business venture to her schedule. But she took her equine passion to the next level and started her own custom horse browband company, Highland Browbands. She doesn’t cease to surprise me with her ability to do the things she puts her mind to do.

www.highlandbrowbands.com
www.highlandbrowbands.com
With her new crafting-turned-business, there is no escaping the horse community for us. My involvement with the horses has evolved from lending a helping hand here and there into much something much more. Like many other horse-hubbies and boyfriends, I wear the hat of the “Unofficial-Official” photographer at every event. I make it to many of her shows, where I also get to wear the “Head Groom” hat. But my most recent new set of responsibilities has really deepened my understanding of her passion.

It’s not easy starting a small e-commerce shop on your own. While Jo loves to create and design the browbands, I’ve been helping her with the more logistical side of things. I’m updating the website, talking to suppliers, making daily runs to the post office, and taking lots of photos. The best part about this process is, we’re learning how to navigate a small business together. Like everything else related to horses, it takes patience, time, and partnership.

Behind this particular horsewoman is a supportive horse-boyfriend/photographer/groom/business partner. In front of her is her horse in a sparkly, classy browband. As we like to say here at Highland Browbands, “Look good. Feel good. Ride great!”

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