You spend every waking hour at the barn, and every weekend hauling to horse shows, trail rides and tack swaps.
Your life is great, but there is this quietly nagging voice in your head saying “You spend all your time with your horse, and you barely ever see your husband.” Maybe that’s actually your husband’s voice, out loud. Frequently.
Then, TADA! Light bulb moment. You could ride together!
Ideally while holding hands, bareback on beautiful 17 hand Warmbloods off into the sunset—preferably on a beach. You will, of course, have perfect beach hair (under your helmet), and your husband definitely doesn’t need a shirt for this fantasy.
Okay, back to reality. Maybe your husband doesn’t nag you about barn time. I’m lucky that my own is incredibly supportive of my dreams. However, the prospect of sharing your passion with your partner in real, every day life is far more enticing than riding off into the sunset together.
In any good relationship, taking interest in each other’s hobbies (okay, lifestyles) is key to success. But horses are NOT just any hobby. When trying to tactfully convince your significant other to climb aboard, consider these do’s and don’ts.
DON’T scare him
Horseback riding is indeed dangerous. This is probably the number one concern that impacts the decision of many to give our sport a try. Safe attire is essential for obvious reasons, but getting him to gear up properly requires some tact as well. Maybe don’t lead with comments about that last time you came off and broke your fall with your head, or with stories about your friend getting her foot stuck in the stirrup while wearing the wrong shoes and being dragged wildly around the arena by her bolting horse.
DO make sure he is wearing a helmet and proper footwear
Keep the scare tactics to a minimum. Unless, of course, he thinks he is too cool for a helmet. Then all bets are off.
DON’T put him on the wrong horse
Just as you wouldn’t put a strange beginner rider on your green project horse, please don’t put your husband on it. Certainly you are the master of your horse’s behavioral quirks and have riding him down to a fine art.
You could explain how to maneuver through your horse’s interesting habits in great detail. But that doesn’t mean your husband will be comfortable riding him through his typical spook at the pigeons in the rafters or that one really scary corner while you, in varying degrees of calmness shout, “sit back!” “Let go of your death grip on his face!” or “HALF HALT!”…
DO borrow a beginner safe horse from a friend
Old, lazy, dull mouth, “what leg aids?”…a solid type citizen who might actually be asleep for most of the ride. Give your significant other a non-eventful ride that will build his confidence and not shake it. When he’s ready to move up to a more challenging horse, do so. But don’t push it too soon.
DON’T over coach
The level of familiarity in a relationship sometimes leads to the unwanted phenomenon of bossiness and micromanaging.
DO consider your husband as you would a lesson student
Or as how you, in his situation, would like to be treated. Give him the tools he needs to experiment in the safety of the arena on his own and provide insight when needed, while avoiding a constant stream of commands and nitpicking. Figure out how he learns and thinks and guide in a way that is positive and confidence bolstering.
If you recognize that you aren’t a great teacher, find someone who is for his first few under saddle experiences.
DON’T forget that male anatomy is, well…a little different
Your 16” close contact saddle might be a great fit for your body, but probably won’t translate to a comfortable fit for him. If you wouldn’t want to cram yourself into a 14” seat, don’t do the same thing to him.
DO find a saddle that fits his body and make his comfortable
And maybe leave the magenta saddle pad in the tack room.
DO make riding fun!
We ride because it’s fun, after all. He probably doesn’t (yet) have dreams of Rolex or Grand Prix dressage so keep the riding sessions light and positive and save the competitive aspirations for your own training.
If you’re lucky, you might end up with a new riding buddy. Convincing him to buy those two 17 hand Warmbloods might be a little more difficult.
About the Author
Ashley Haglund is a horse professional living in Minnesota. She is proudly owned by a sassy sport pony mare, and together they enjoy competing in the hunter/jumper rings. Ashley enjoys instructing, training, and is currently completing her equine science degree through RCTC in Rochester, MN.