A kind of Horse Husband Manifesto

In Opinion

As some of this site’s long-time readers may have noticed, I have not been very active recently. There are several reasons for this. A change in job means shifting priorities in response to a different set of pressures and constraints. But if I am being completely honest, the biggest reason for my neglect of this website comes down to one word: boredom.

There is only so much that a ‘horse husband’ can say about what their life is like before they run out of things to say. There is only so much shit you can shovel before the novelty runs out, and it simply becomes a fact of life. more than this, I am increasingly dissatisfied with how ‘the horse husband’ is constructed within the equestrian community. How satisfying can it be to self-identify with a role that is nothing except its relationship to someone else?

At the same time as I have neglected this site, I have been struggling. Should I shut it down? Should I keep it up, but otherwise basically forget about it? Should I hand it off to another horse husband to manage?

My thinking about the future of horsehubby.com came to a head recently while at the USEA Convention in Ft. Lauderdale. A major theme of the annual meeting was the importance of growing the sport the Eventing (and equestrian sport in general) by opening it up to a larger fan base. The future of equestrian sport in the United States depends on overcoming the widespread misconception that equestrianism is elitist. In response to what is felt as a very urgent need, leadership within the USEF and USEA talked about things like increased transparency, and rule simplification. They talked about more inclusive membership models, and educational initiatives. But the biggest problem that equestrian sport in the US faces is ‘the curse of knowledge.’ In nations like Great Britain and Germany, longstanding equestrian traditions have become a the national and cultural vocabularies. But in the US, equestrian knowledge resides almost entirely within the equestrian world.

How can a group of specialists share their excitement in a world that doesn’t understand what they do?

The curse of knowledge refers to how difficult it can be to remember not having specialized knowledge once you have acquired it, and so how difficult it can be to share your knowledge once you have it. The curse of knowledge is the biggest obstacle to the development of a non-rider equestrian fan community in the US. And it is here where the horse husband has the greatest opportunity to contribute.

We as horse husbands are in the equestrian world, but not of it. We are an army at the periphery of the sport capable of making equestrianism intelligible to non-specialists (largely since we are generally in the perpetual process of trying to figure it out for ourselves). And we are a community of people who are excited by equestrianism in ways that extend beyond our personal relationships. We come to these sports with knowledge and expertise that make them intelligible in new and wonderful ways. These new ways might make absolutely no sense to equestrians themselves, but they inspire our interest and may motivate the interest of others. My various lives as a sociologist, a philosopher, a data scientist, and a marketer provide me with special lenses through which to understand the activities of my wife, and that make her activities intelligible to the non-equestrian communities to which I belong.

Our liminal status relative to the equestrian sport makes us messengers. Just as the Greek messenger god Hermes was able to deliver messages between worlds (the world of mortals and the world of the dead), horse husbands are able able to deliver messages between the horse world and the non-. We can serve as evangelists and advocates on behalf of the equestrian world. But we also have the tremendous ability to make use of our non-equestrian skills to enrich the equestrian community.

We thrive in areas where many equestrians struggle (accounting, technology, marketing). These are also areas in which many equestrians (especially professionals) are also often taken advantage. We as horse husbands have a huge opportunity to make the equestrian community better and more effective, not only because of what we know, but also because we can be altruistic. We have ‘day jobs.’ We don’t need to profit from our involvement, and so can give freely of our time in support of a community that we would like to see flourish.

That is what being a horse husband is all about. It’s not a role. It’s a perspective. It’s about embracing equestrianism in our own ways. It’s not about sitting on the sidelines. It’s about appreciating our power as intermediaries, and our responsibility to use our position to enrich the lives of equestrians and non-equestrians alike.

What does this mean for the future of horsehubby.com? You will see some changes in the coming months. The site will receive a new look and feel, but the most dramatic change will be a shift in perspective. Although we will continue to reflect upon the unique (and often very funny) personal and relational challenge that face horse husbands, the primary focus of articles on the site will be on the equestrian world itself, as seen through our eyes. From me personally, you are likely to read articles on a variety of topics based on what is exciting me at the moment. This might range from equestrian marketing to equestrian data science. I may write about cooking, and I may write about how I have configured my wifi network so that my wife has better connectivity at the arena. I also look forward to sharing contributions from a cadre of other husbands willing to share their wisdom and perspectives in the service of the equestrian community at large.

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