As anyone who has survived a failed, long-term relationship knows, there are so many reasons why a couple eventually decides to call it quits. However, if you ask my ex-husband why we got divorced, horses would be at the top of that list.
No, our break up was not a direct result of horses, but it has a lot to do with everything that comes with loving and owning one of those majestic, and insanely expensive, creatures.
I’m an adult amateur who didn’t start riding until later in life. I had my first lead line lesson when I was 21. I’ve always loved horses and other animals, but I never had the means to pursue riding as a pastime until I started working and making my own money.
Once I started, I was hooked.
As a young adult right of college, I didn’t have very many financial responsibilities. I made enough to pay rent on my studio apartment, buy groceries, pay for utilities and take riding lessons. Eventually, I saved enough money to buy my own horse, a young grey (and very green!) spitfire of a mare who became the love of my life.
She was my best friend, the one thing in the whole world who didn’t judge me about anything. She took me on gallops when I needed to clear my mind and let me cry on her neck when I had a bad day at work.
I rode every chance I got. Most evenings I could be found riding by myself at the barn. The time I spent at the barn didn’t affect my relationship much since my then-boyfriend worked the graveyard shift for a small community newspaper. He didn’t make very much but he loved his job and it freed up my evenings to be at the barn.
It was a win-win for everyone.
Everything changed once we got married. We bought a house and, as happens with adult life, our bills started to grow. The amount of disposable income I had was dwindling month after month. I worked longer and longer hours (and fought for more promotions and bonuses), but still our budget deficit grew.
I had been the primary breadwinner for our household for a long time. I felt like it was my responsibility to find a way to keep everything afloat.
Eventually, I came to the realization that I needed help and something needed to change. I felt awful asking my husband to find a job that would pay him a higher salary (trust me when I say most journalists make very little money). But I did.
He had a different solution: get rid of the horse. He argued that we would have so much more money if I didn’t have to pay for board or farrier fees. Imagine the trips we could take! We wouldn’t have to coupon anymore, we wouldn’t have a reason to fight anymore. All of our disposable income was being tied up in this one “asset.”
To me, my mare was not an asset. She was family.
He refused to get another job until we exhausted all our other options, selling my horse being the final one. I felt betrayed and exhausted. I gave everything I had to try and sustain the life that we had built together but I couldn’t sell my mare.
My husband (and many friends and family) took it to mean that I chose my horse over my spouse. Perhaps I did. But my mare never stopped being my riding partner. I felt like my husband stopped being my life partner long ago.
After three years of fighting, trying to sync our priorities and working on our communication, I finally filed for divorce. Eventually, I sold my house and downsized my entire life. I even lived in my horse trailer for a few months while I picked up the pieces after my divorce.
Through it all though, I still had my mare.
I’m now with someone who understands that we are a package deal. I hope every horse person finds that kind of partner in their life.
Therese Nery is an amateur equestrian and blogger. Visit her blog, rightfulself.com, to follow her journey from the corporate world to a small horse farm and learn what life in Kentucky is like for a California girl horsin’ around on a budget.
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