“How do you make your parents understand your obsession with horses when they don’t ride?” A friend of mine recently posed this question. It’s a valid one, and a question with no easy answer. I’m not even sure you really can make a non-horseperson understand this crazy, smelly, dangerous, expensive, four-legged-centered world in which we lunatic eventers reside. It just might be one of the great mysteries of the universe, or at least one of the great chasms dividing the world as we know it into those that love the smell of horse poop and those that do not.
And don’t even get me started trying to distinguish between the two very confusing categories of true horse people versus people who just have horses. And have you ever tried to explain your sport versus barrel racing or breed shows or the Clydesdales? Sigh. It’s a twisty, turny, convoluted road with no easy answers. Trying to decipher the code clearly to those you love who think you are speaking some crazy combination of Swahili and Chinese can drive you straight to the loony bin.
I understand my friend’s frustration. She’s a twenty-something, determined to make it in the eventing world professionally, horse crazy entrepreneur who is giving it everything she’s got. Her parents are dubious. I get it. They have reason to be. Blood, sweat and tears don’t even begin to cover the expense or the hardship or the darned reality of trying to make it in the horse world. And let’s be real, those of us who live the life, whether we are professional horse folks or not, do tend to be a bit round the bend. But we can’t help it. It’s what makes us tick. What makes us who we are. It isn’t just a hobby or a diversion; it’s a lifestyle, an addiction. We couldn’t change it even if we wanted to, and Lord knows there are times I’ve wanted to!
My mom swears my first word was “horse.” I’m sure she’s exaggerating (we are Southern and do have a knack for that). But she’s making a very important point. That point is that I was born with my obsession for all things equine. (I still have the very first Breyer horse I received as a gift at the ripe old age of two. I’m now FIFTY!) And not a single other person on either side of my extended family was born with this same “gift.” Not even remotely.
My mom also has a theory about my love for horses. Whenever she is asked where I get “it” from, she replies, “There are three kinds of people in the world. 1) There are those of us who are indifferent to horses. We either don’t like them or are scared of them or simply don’t care about them at all. 2) Then there are all those little girls out there who had a ‘horse’ phase at some point in their life. They loved horses as a child, but eventually grew out of that phase. These little girls will always like horses and may ride on occasion or have horse art work in their homes, but they still don’t have ‘it.’ (My mom will always pause and take a breath before launching into this last category.) 3) Then there’s my daughter. It’s just in her blood. She loves the smell of horse poop and everything that has anything even remotely to do with a horse. God help anyone who has a child that falls into this category.”
It’s impossible to comprehend or to make sense of if “it” if you happen to have a loved one who has “it,” and you do not. The love of the horse and all the the things we do to honor that love and pursue that love can seem completely foreign to those outside of the fold. It’s a mystery to my non-horsey friends why I would rather spend my vacation days getting soaked at a cold Kentucky event rather than the beach or why a new saddle is preferable to a new car or my horse gets new shoes but I do not. Ah, the unexplainable ….
In the end what I think the situation all comes down to is love. And not just love of the horse, but of each other. I have a five-year-old son. Because of my horse saturated life, I am constantly being asked if I want him to ride, if he wants to ride, what will I do if he doesn’t ride, and so forth and so on. It has given me new perspective on what my parents must have gone through (and still do go through). My answer is this: I simply want my son to follow his heart in whatever direction his passion leads him, even if it ISN’T horses and even if it IS something I don’t like or understand (like golf or baseball. LOL!) I want him to follow his dreams just like I have followed mine.
I’m sure there will be times when I’m frustrated just like my parents were when trying to buy me a piece of tack for Christmas (Thank God for gift cards!) However, as a parent I also now understand that the frustration comes mostly from wanting your child to be happy and wanting to share in something that is completely foreign to you. That feeling is love, pure and simple.
So, to all you non-horsey moms, dads, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and so forth. Hang in there! We love our horses, but we love and appreciate you putting up with that love even more!