Sunday, December 15, 2013

Horse Show Boyfriends

      As I wrapped up my first year as head-coach for an local high school equestrian team (a tale in itself that I might tell later on), I came upon the startling realization that these young horsewomen had absolutely no knowledge of an invaluable asset that was plentiful and right under their noses.  So, doing my coach-ly duty as both a fellow female and a horsewoman, I let them all in on this secret source of manual labor:

      The “Horse Show Boyfriend”.

      Now the Horse Show Boyfriend need not be an actual boyfriend (for all of you parents whose hearts just momentarily stopped beating).  Any male friend will suffice for this particular purpose.  He must simply be physically strong, weak-willed, and ideally in love with your daughter (or you, if you happen to be single, this also applies to grown women and men their age).  His purpose is only to make your life as a horse show parent or competitor easier for the several hours that you are on the grounds.  Odds are, at the high school level, your daughter will be completely exhausted by the end of the show, so there’s minimal chance that they’ll end up spending unsupervised time together after.  There’s really no downside. 

      Since local horse shows are almost always on weekends, this frees up most potential HSB availability.  In the case of high school equestrian team, the majority of boys in that age group have unlimited availability on weekends, and will certainly clear their schedule when they receive the text from your daughter that reads “I’m at a horse show, you should come up and see me!  You can meet my horse!”.  Amazingly, these boys will ignore the last sentence of that text and ditch their friends and prior commitments to hop in the car and come to your daughter’s side.  Well, more like your daughter’s horse’s side.  This is where you come in.

      Once the HSB arrives, it is your job to make sure your daughter does not forget that she’s there to ride and compete despite the unplanned testosterone presence.  You can make sure this does not happen by quickly putting the HSB to work.  No teenage boy wants to stand around at a show full of girls and VERY LARGE horses who have VERY LARGE hooves and VERY LARGE teeth and conspicuously stand out.  Give him something to do so he looks like he fits in.  Need water buckets filled from a quarter mile away?  His legs probably aren’t broken, he can carry them.  She needs her saddle pulled out of the trailer?  Send him after it.  Let him show off his pubescent muscles for her by verbally instructing him in proper saddling technique while she gets dressed in the privacy of the truck (this also insures no accidental peep show while your back is turned).  Can’t get the girth tight?  Have the HSB do it!  Be sure to warn him that the horse might reach around and try to bite if he pulls to quickly, (this is a great opportunity to instill a healthy fear of the horses in the HSB).  Once the horse is tacked , the HSB makes an excellent horse-holder for the bridled horse that can’t be tied to the trailer any longer while you do important things like drink your coffee and chat with other parents. 

      While your daughter is heading to the warm-up pen, allow the HSB to accompany her.  They will get a bit of one-on-one chat time, and you can rest assured that no physical contact of questionable nature will take place because she will be mounted on top of 1,200 pounds of escort while he walks alongside.  Bet you’re glad you bought her that horse now, aren’t you?  The HSB won’t enter the warm-up pen, he’ll loiter outside in case she wants to chat on her way by, so you can keep a close eye on them both and potentially get some private-conversation time with the HSB.  Save the death threats for later, you may never actually need to use them.  Use this opportunity to explain what the judge will be looking for when your daughter goes in to show, and teach him a few horse-savvy terms so he can understand the mysterious language everyone around him is speaking.  Perhaps offer him something to drink or a few bucks for the concession stand.  Then leave him alone to nervously wonder why you didn’t tell him about your gun collection at home. 

      The trick to perfecting the usage of the HSB is to make sure your daughter is aware of his presence at all times.  No self-respecting teen is going to throw a tantrum in front of this guy.  This will be the most peaceful horse show you’ll ever attend, relish it.  If the HSB hints that he might be leaving soon, invite him to a post-show dinner!  If he accepts, he’s in it for the long haul, he might be able to tolerate your daughter’s hobby, and you’ll have someone to unload the trailer tonight when you get home.  If not, and he doesn’t have a good excuse like “I have to go to work”, “I have a lot of studying for the SAT to do”, or “It’s my turn to dish meals at the soup kitchen”, he’s not a keeper anyway and you’re better off letting him prove that to your daughter right now.  Explain to her beforehand that if he can put up with her showing and get along with her horse, he’s worth keeping around.  No man is worth the headache if he can’t help out at a horse show from time to time.  The best part of the HSB is that there’s no commitment on anyone’s end.  If this one doesn’t work out, invite a different one next time. 

      Now if you’re an older horsewoman and thinking this whole HSB thing doesn’t apply to you, think again.  Use the man in your life to your advantage.  Compliment him on how great his pickup would look…definitely better hooked to your trailer than any of the other guys’ trucks at the horse show.  Get him a comfortable lawn chair to set up in the shade and make sure there’s cold beer in the cooler, and then let him be. 

      They’ll get up and help when you need them, but by the fourth or fifth horse show, they’ve pretty much figured out the gimmick and it’s going to take more than a smile and batting your eyelashes to get them to come along.  To make things more interesting, show with a few girlfriends, and invite their men to bring grills, alcoholic beverages and tailgate the show.  It won’t take long before word travels to their single buddies that horse shows are the holy grail of women, and much more plentiful hunting grounds than a football game. 

      If you’re like me, and you’ve got a man who has figured out the Horse Show Boyfriend scam, yet still enjoys tailgaiting the shows with his friends, just go with it.  They might get a little carried away, but as long as they’re not disturbing anyone else or spooking horses, who cares?  Horse shows are painfully boring to non-equestrians, and unless you’re at a show with a lot of beginners, making a drinking game out of rider falls will lead to a group of very sober, bored men.  That’s never a good thing.  It is also very important to stress to the men BEFORE they become intoxicated that, under no circumstances, are they permitted to do any “improvements” to your horse trailer without your prior consent.  Horse shows spark competition not just amongst the riders, unfortunately.

      The most important thing to showing with an HSB as an adult is the bartender feature.  A little Southern Comfort in your coffee before your class helps to calm nerves, and if nothing else, you quickly become semi-famous on the local show circuit for being the traveling mini bar.  Plus, after three or four modified coffees, you don’t even care how catastrophic of a train wreck your ride was, AND you have a designated driver to drive the rig home!  Perfect horse showing, every time!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Well boys and girls, we did it.  After fourteen months of appointments with no less than four different realtors, hours of painstaking searches on the internet, hundreds of “Hey!  Have you looked at (insert address here)?  It has a sign out front!” phone calls from well-meaning friends and family, dead-end offers, back-and-forth negotiations with listing banks, and many realtor-less visits to properties that I’m fairly certain was legally considered breaking and entering, we bought a place.  Bye bye, Landlord.  Helloooooo home-ownership!  Woohoo!

Now this news in itself warrants extensive celebration, but as any horse-owner knows, the absolute best part of this whole event is one simple fact: I am no longer a boarder.  My kids get to come home!  As a complete control-freak (some would call it bordering on OCD) when it comes to the care that my animals receive, this news could have not come soon enough.  I’m not cut out for boarding barns, I have a true inability to play nice with others, and I believe that there are very few people in this world that can care for my horses properly.  Simply put, I am a pain in the ass.  And now, that is no longer a problem for anyone other than Patrick.

When it comes to the perfect man for a girl like me, I could not have asked for a better guy than Pat.  Since closing, he has worked tirelessly for weeks to design, plan and construct Tyler-proof fencing that proves effective at containing the Ungrateful Bastard, yet doesn’t give the appearance that we’re operating a prison on the property.  This is not an easy task to accomplish, and not to say that I have not helped during the process, but I learned early on that the best way to get something of this magnitude accomplished is to give Pat a general idea of what I’m looking for (a fence that will effectively contain a small horse with the willpower of an angry buffalo), and pay for whatever he decides he needs.  I make sure he is never hungry or without a beer nearby, and let him do his thing.  He will ask questions, I am to provide simple, concise answers, and I should ask only what I can do to help beyond providing food and drink.  It may sound slightly chauvinistic, but there’s a perfectly practical reasoning behind this:  I couldn’t keep Tyler in my own fencing, and I’d prefer to not have him end up in traffic and hit by a car.  Pat is a brilliant man, and has had over a year to come up with a plan.  I trust him.  And I know how infuriating I can be by asking a million questions. 

When the final pasture gate was hung the Saturday before Labor Day, it was like Christmas Eve for me.  It was better than Christmas, really.  Sure, I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on supplies, and probably even more on beer, but who cares?  Now, I have the joy every morning of looking out the kitchen window to see my ungrateful, overweight heathens demanding that I get out there and feed them before they waste away to nothing.  Also, I now get to buy and transport my own hay and grain again, wrestle blankets onto uncooperative horses, hunt down destroyed halters in the field, and try and explain to Pat’s adopted American Bulldog that yes, the fence WILL bite you, and no, the pony is not your friend and is not playing tag when he chases you.  All of which I get to do in rain, sleet, snow, hail, sub-zero temperatures and the occasional sunny day….while Pat laughs at me from the comfort of the couch…until he has to put out a new round bale. 

I know I’m a lucky girl.  Not only because at 26 years old, I seemingly have my shit together and am working on this whole adulthood thing quite efficiently.  But because I’m also very aware that not too many of my friends can say that they’ve got a man who, while he barely understands the concepts of cribbing, colic or why in the hell someone would voluntarily own a horse when man invented the four-wheeler, he supports me.  If I need something, he’s got it taken care of, and for that, I will always be appreciative and grateful.  I know I could never replace him.  In turn, I try my best to do the things that most pseudo-housewives do to make things easier for him.  This recent domesticity has not come without a significant amount of trial-and-error though, especially with Pat working second shift and not being home during the majority of the time that I am in a week.  I really think I’ve learned more in the last four months than I did during my entire college career.  For example:

-       It took me 45 minutes of sitting in the dark to come to terms with the fact that that the circuit breaker wasn’t going to reset itself, and that the fuse I blew was going to stay blown (and consequently disable 75% of the house in the process) until I marched my happy ass down to the basement to figure out which one it was. 

-       The basement is scary.  It is even scarier when you are home alone (except for the dogs).  But taking the dumb rescue dog with you for protection is a really bad idea.  Despite his size, it is still very possible to trip over a 100+ lb Bulldog while rushing up a flight of stairs to try and escape the basement-monsters that reside in every home and try to grab you by the ankles as you’re climbing basement stairs (let’s be honest, that’s just one of those things you never really outgrow). 

-       God made men taller than women so that they could hang curtain rods.  This is also apparently because I should never ever do anything that involves power tools and a step ladder and a straight line.

-       Furthermore, if you want anything done in the house and are not going to be present to whine and nag, make sure there is ready-to-eat food in the refridgerator at all times.  Guilt and a full stomach will get your list accomplished.

-       Always throw the receipts for any horse-related purchases in the trash immediately.  If he asks if that blanket on So-And-So is new, it isn’t.  And you traded some other “horse junk” with a friend for it.

-       When you are strictly forbidden from using the gigantic pole barn for your horses, slowly allow your tack and equipment to bleed out of your designated 10x10 space over the rest of the barn.  Getting a “horse barn” will work its way closer to the top of the priority list.

-       A penny saved is a penny earned.  A pocket full of pennies saved also makes a hell of a lot of noise in the dryer at midnight.  Which sounds nothing like what someone trying to break in sounds like, so the dogs won’t give a damn while you’re in bed with the covers yanked over your head, having a heart attack and wondering where he put the shotgun when you moved in.

-       Don’t ever lie on the couch and look at the walls.  You’ll just end up disappointed with every minute imperfection in your paint job and it’ll piss you off until you repaint the entire room. 

-       If he wants to spend eight hours in his barn over a weekend playing with his man-toys, let him, and don’t even think about bitching.  It’s a very small price to pay considering the amount of hours in a weekend that you’re off doing horse-stuff.

-       When you get the text at work reading “When did we get seven horses?  My last count was six…”  there is a very simple response:  

-       It is always better to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Also, it is better to show him the cash from a recent horse sale than the pile of bills accumulated by said horse. 

-       Men are visual creatures.  If you did something bad, wear something revealing when you tell him. 

-       Any tools not locked away from your reach are fair game for quick repairs of tack, fencing, or other random horse-related usages.  Putting his tools back within a 5’ radius of where you found them is generally sufficient.  Just don’t leave them outside. 

And finally….

-       When in doubt, blame the dog.