On Being from a Horse Crazy Family

Photo courtesy of Laura Harris.

I come from a Horse Crazy family. Three out of six of us are afflicted, two out of the remaining three tried ‘the horse thing’ only to quickly discard it, and we don’t know what is wrong with the final one … she became a lawyer. My mother is first generation horse crazy. She once told me that when she was a little girl, she dreamed about marrying a farmer just so she could be near a horse. My oldest sister simultaneously helps me with my dressage whilst firmly keeping me in my youngest sibling caste. She informs me that I am only a DPiT (Dressage Princess in Training) as my brown jump leathers do not match my black dressage saddle, and my reins still have my martingale stops on them. Even my husband is Horse Crazy. I always knew if I were to get married, he’d have to be as all in as me. I knew he was a good guy with how animals treat him. You can always trust animals about people, they are the best judges of character. Suffice to say, everyone thinks it sounds so wonderful to have a horsey family. But let me educate you.

First, let’s talk about ‘Expectations.’ Don’t get me wrong, my family is very supportive. But we also come from good peasant stock where you are expected to carry your weight, do your job, and not complain. Or, at least, wait to complain until the wine is uncorked. On the farm, there is always a job that needs to be done, an animal that needs to be feed, an item that should be cleaned. And by god you will hear about it if you didn’t do it, or do it right. This strong work ethic translates to riding pretty easily: sit up, ride right, use your brain. Ride as exactly capable as you are able. No excuses. Learn more, do better. I say my sister refers to me only as a DPiT, she heckles from a place of love. Or so I tell myself. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t bother to correct me. Marrying this with my former military spouse makes for an interesting personal accountability. Work hard, two is one one is none, slow is fast and fast is slow.

Next, imagine the boarder a few stalls down. You know, the one who knows everything, has been to the moon twice, and loves telling you about it? The one who has an opinion on every trainer, discipline, brand, and breed. Take that and multiply by 10, and that is living with ONE horsey family member. Each has their experience, knowledge, ideas, etc. While mostly valuable, can be at times … unrequested. But, again, it comes from a place of love and caring. Remember that. Remember that when said family member is telling you again how if you only would do what is suggested, your problems would poof away. You want to up the ante — make them all trainers. Yes, family loves to tell you exactly what you are doing wrong and what you should be doing. Opinions flying around like barn flies. That is family’s purpose right?

No, the real reason to have family is to hold your beer when you are about to do something stupid. Or to make sure to get it on camera. Or at very least, have the phone handy to call the appropriate emergency aid. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was … at least Angel Muffin will be bequeathed to someone who will keep her in her accustomed finery and lavish lifestyle.

But then there is that barn family you choose. The ones that come and cheer you on even in the rain, celebrate with every success, and hold your horse while you run to the loo. The ones who loan you their lucky jumping boots, or teach you how they do their hair in their helmet. The barnrats that remind you of yourself when you were young, and love to hear about all your silly horse adventures at their age, and the adults that smile because they look at their own horses with the same look of love that you cast upon your own. The friends online that like every word your write and every picture you share of your beloved herd, four-legged or two-. You have never talked in person, but you share the same highs and lows, struggles and breakthroughs. Family may disagree or fight, but true family finds its way back to each other and reconnects. A community that is pulled together by one single thread that is so strong and bright it shines light on the rest of our similarities.

And every member of that family is with you in your darkest and saddest moments when you need them. They cry with you in person, through text, online, when you have to send someone across the rainbow bridge. When you find yourself in the hospital after a fall. Or at the vet in the middle of the night. Every heart pangs with you, because that is what family is: a heartbeat. When one hurts, all feel it. It doesn’t matter if you share blood, sweat, tears, or beers together, family is family in one way or another.