#HorsesMadeMeDoIt is a new monthly column dedicated to the often insane lengths we’ll go for horses. Without judgment. Or justification. Because we’re all a little crazy here. But it’s the cool kind. Brought to you by Jumperfan. (Disclaimer: this post contains explicit language.)

I met my husband on the dating website LavaLife.

This is before all the dating apps and it wasn’t uncommon for a profile not to include photos because, let’s face it, we were all embarrassed to be there. He and I chatted for quite some time and when he finally sent me a photo, I realized why he never posted on his profile—he was legit too handsome for his own good.

After a few awkward drinks on a patio, we started dating.

I was about 35 and working at a national television station. At the time, I hadn’t ridden in well over a decade. So, in his defense, he had literally no clue there was a latent “horse girl” in me just dying to come out. 

Then it happened. I woke up one day at age 36 and was like, “I think I need to start riding again.” And I did.

I spent about a year and a half taking lessons and part boarding a horse. My husband was very supportive. Like, honeymoon in Germany so I could ride a Hanoverian-bred horse *in* Hanover supportive. My God, he was wonderful. How lucky was I?

Sure, I was getting screamed at by the instructor in German and riding in a dressage saddle with the stirrups banging off my feet while I feebly attempted to post. (I ride hunters). But this thatched roof barn? It was beyond anything I’d seen before. And these school horses? They had Lady Killer bloodlines. It was a magical experience.

After that, I knew I would be buying my own horse. I needed to buy a horse. I needed to buy a horse. I needed to buy a horse.

And not just any horse. A Hanoverian horse.

When I was a little girl, we lived just down the street from Barcrest Farms in Milton, Ontario—they were the first big purveyors of Hanoverians from Europe to Canada. My stepmother was an accomplished equestrian and used to take me to the stallion presentations there. They were these big theatrical affairs. My 10-year-old brain was blown.

And so I grew up with a lifelong love for those big old school g-line Hanoverians and Goldschläger was my absolute favorite. He was this big beautiful gray that I was fortunate enough to see in real life, and was, hands down, my fave fucking stallion of all time.

But I digress. 

Fast forward to a few years after I had begun riding again, and I pulled the trigger on an incredible horse that was being unloaded due to financial reasons. He was a big, beautiful son of a gun. Bred to the tits. Imported. *swoon* 

Four months later, I had to euthanize him. 

This is the first horse I owned as an adult and I was devastated. After that, I was like, Never again, ever, am I buying another horse.

Then a month later, my coach called… her farrier had a mare she was looking to sell: “Oh, a nice gray mare just showed up here. Not sure what her breeding is. Big warmblood. But you’d like her. Gray.”

My first thought was, “Hell NO. I am not setting myself up for that. I don’t want another horse and more importantly, I’m not buying a mare.”

“Just come up and have a look,” she said.

So I drive the hour and half from Toronto and when I get to the farm, standing at the end of the driveway is my friend and my coach jumping up and down saying, “She’s a Goldschläger baby! She’s a Goldschläger baby!”

And that was it. I was like, “I don’t even need to see her go. I’ll take the horse.” 

The owners were actually really cool, they allowed me to take her on trial. She wasn’t broke until she was seven, but she had a solid year of basic dressage training on her and she jumped like a mofo. Oh, those glorious knees. 

When the trial was up, I decided to buy her. I didn’t have any cash. I did have a ‘66 convertible that I had brought up with me when I moved from California. Naturally, I decided, “Oh, I’ll just sell my 40-year-old hot rod for nothing to purchase the horse and not tell my husband.”

It’s important to note that at this point in my life, we had just bought a house in Toronto. We were newly married and I was debt free.

So I sold my car. Paid for the horse in cash. And I changed her name to Gertrude.

You might think it’d be hard to hide a horse from your husband. But it was months before I finally told him. One day I came home from the barn and was like, “Well, she’s been around the farm for a really long time. I got a really good deal. She was like three grand…”

He was pissed that I hadn’t talked to him about it first. But he took it in stride. 

Meanwhile, I’m still living a lie, as most horse girls does, and cutting the ACTUAL cost of everything in half when questioned about board, vet, show fees, etc. I knew I’d be out on my ass if he knew how much I was spending, so I just didn’t tell him. I switched simply to “avoiding.”

The first year I showed “Gertie,” I opened a line of credit to cover the expenses. She didn’t really have any show experience, so my coach rode her while I’d fuck around in the crossrails division. I charged all of it to the line of credit.

And it spiraled from there. Antares saddle and bridle. Line of credit. Trailering. Line of credit. Hotel. Line of credit. Dress for end of year Trillium banquet. Line of credit. Massage at the spa across the street from the hotel? Line of credit. 

For a couple of years, all the blankets, all the vet bills, everything—just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom—on my line of credit. I paid down maybe 500 bucks a month and it was fluctuating. But it wasn’t ever to the point where I was even close to paying it off.

At first, my husband was like, “it’s so great that you’re so passionate about something.” He had no idea what I was spending.

The horse and showing started to become an issue when it started to impact his life. He loves to travel. He loves Europe. But in the summer I’m CLEARLY not leaving the province. I’m horse showing. 

We’d get invited to weddings, parties, barbecues, cottages—insert fun things couples do—but if it was a horse show weekend it would be a hard no for me. I had to go to the barn and ride, pack, braid, etc. And I couldn’t be expected to give up my weekend for someone’s freaking nuptials, could I? I mean, really. 

Shit came to a head the night of a launch party for a reality tv show I had the pleasure of working on. It had been months of insane hours and stress and that night the show finally went to air. It was a big deal for me. I was proud of what we’d made. I was proud of our amazing team and I was happy to be celebrating with them. 

And then I get a text: “Come home immediately.”

I’m like, huh? This is my big night. “I’ll be home when I get home.”

The next text I get from him is: “I’m downstairs. Get in the car.”

I’m thinking, What is happening? Did somebody die?!

So I get in the car and he’s holding my line of credit statement—and there’s $27,000 in debt on it.

We banked at the same bank, at the same branch, and have the same initials. He opened my mail on accident and saw my statement.

Immediately, I’m in a shame spiral. Guilt. Shame. Horror. And him? He lost his ever loving mind. He was so furious droplets of saliva were spewing from his mouth. Literally spitting mad. And this coming from a man who didn’t really have a temper. I just thought, I’m so fucking dead, so fucking dead, so fucking dead. 

After that, things were pretty tense at home. For weeks, I did everything I could do just to not have to slink around the house like a dog that shit in the living room. Because, I mean, what kind of asshole does that in a marriage, you know? Me, I’m that asshole.

Needless to say, if the horse was a point of contention before, it was a hemorrhaging raw spot after. He watched me like a hawk on spending, and really, who could blame him? This wonderful man lived a life where his wife was never home, he had to attend social events by himself, and I’d racked up enough debt to equal roughly the down payment on our home.

Nonetheless, I felt justified. The heart wants what the heart wants, after all. 

From time to time, my husband would suggest selling the horse, but that was never an option. My coach had ingrained in me, from a young age, that the best way to guarantee a horse’s quality of life, was to do right by it. And when you find that horse—the one that you know is your heart horse—you hang on for dear life. 

And my coach was right. I knew she was forever. As of this writing, Gertrude is the longest, and likely most successful, relationship I’ve ever had in my life. 

Gee, I wonder why?

Needless to say, the marriage ended when, several months later, I got a puppy. Without telling my husband. I just brought it home one day. Like an asshole. And that was the final straw. 

Marriage, it’s always complicated. For us, it really wasn’t. We wanted different things. We parted as friends and figured our divorce out on a cocktail napkin and then we both signed it.

Was it worth it? Yeah. 

Gertie, the barn, my friends, the camaraderie, the hard work and the tears of joy over a hard-earned ribbon were my raison d’etre. And I’m still convinced that you cannot put a dollar amount on what joy feels like. There is no cottage or vacation that could ever replicate the feeling of early mornings at the barn, the smell of hay breath and the companionship of a horse.

And it’s still priceless to me to this day.

Gertie is 24 now and I see her a couple of times a week. We hang out, go for walks and enjoy big belly wiggling rolls in the arena in the winter. I cannot even say her name without smiling. She comes when she’s called, chortling out a little nicker when she sees me. She’s my best friend and my partner in crime. 

Do I have regrets? No. Not one thing would I change. If anything, I would have spent more and showed on the A circuit.

And that’s my story.

Do you have a #HorsesMadeMeDoIt story? Send it to carley@horsenetwork.com and help us celebrate your unique brand of crazy.

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