Thursday, April 24, 2014

Family Values

I hate the holidays. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family.  For all of their quirks and arguments and obnoxious habits, they are a great group of people.  Unfortunately, none of them are horse-people.  This isn’t generally a problem, they have their lives, I have mine.  We live a pretty hefty distance apart, and that works quite well for me.  They are city folks, with block parties, dance clubs and bars.  I am not.  My neighbors have chickens and a donkey, and a date night for Pat and I usually consists of a trip to Tractor Supply or Home Depot.  Both if we’re feeling a little crazy that night.  They go on weekend sightseeing road trips, we go get hay and consider it a win if we make it back with as many bales as we left the hay guy’s place with.  They lease new cars every 24 months, I own a ¾ ton four-wheel-drive pickup with seat covers to try to slow the takeover of mud and dog hair.  Their dogs go to groomers, mine get a dunking when I’m scrubbing water troughs.  There is a blatant and significant difference in lifestyles.  And I am completely okay with this.

But then the winter holidays roll around.  During the summer, I can usually dodge those “family get-togethers” by whipping out the good old standby excuse of “I have a horse show that I’m hauling a few to.  Need to do it for marketing purposes so I can get these ponies sold!  Got a house to pay for, and you know how that goes!  Sorry!”.  That usually works fairly well, but come Thanksgiving and Christmas time, I’m out of options.  I have to go and make my annual appearance to quell the brewing rumors that I’m pregnant with an illegitimate child and trying to hide it from my relatives. 

During the holidays, I have to actually dig out something that somewhat resembles “dressy clothes”.  I have to find footwear that doesn’t have spur marks or the slight aroma of pine shavings and horse shit, and put makeup on.  Like eyeshadow and stuff.  My baseball cap has to stay home, and it is only this time of year that I become aware of the fact that it’s been a year since my last haircut and…oh god….when was the last time I actually colored my hair?!  THAT’S my natural color?!  Ugh. 

I can usually make it through dinner without too many stares or comments about how much I can eat (sorry, don’t believe in Jenny Craig.  Anyone that moves tack and hay and chases escaped horses doesn’t need that bitch anyway), and when one or more of my cousins brings their new baby (which is apparently the accessory to have), I can sit quietly in the corner and ponder what halter colors would look best on the new horse at home.  They leave me alone, babies are much more interesting anyway, I suppose.  To each their own.  Although I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m becoming the token “weird animal relative”.  The equine version of “Crazy Cousin So-and-So with all the cats” that every family seems to have. 

Inevitably during the course of the evening, I run out of places to hide and someone asks me what’s new.  I am Facebook friends with some of these relatives, and they pretty much always ask me about my newest shining star of a prospect that I enthusiastically post about.  “I saw that new horse you have!  The red one, she’s really pretty!”.  This is where things usually go south.  I try to be patient, I really appreciate their attempts to relate to me and try to seem interested in the happenings in my life.  I really do try to dumb down my language so that it’s comprehendible to the common non-horse person, but I can’t  I’m terrible at it.  Rare is the horse person that can simply shut down horse-speak, and if anyone knows someone that can teach that ability, I’d love their contact information.  Our conversations usually go something like this:

Me: “Oh, thank you!  She is actually a he, but that’s okay.  He’s such a doll!  Really a great mover too!  Did you see him jump in the videos?”

Them: “Um, I saw a video where he was running around hopping over things!  Did he really win those ribbons?”

Me: “Yep!  That was his first show actually.  He showed in the baby greens and did really well!  Got a little squirrely down the first outside line but the girl that I had riding him kept it together…”

Them: “What do you mean squirrely?  Do they have squirrels there?”

Me: “No, sorry.  I meant he’s kind of green, er…untrained, still, so he wasn’t very good at staying straight between the jumps.”

Them: “Ohhh!  So, is it like, hard for them to jump all of those jumps?  Don’t they get tired?  I mean, it didn’t look like he was going very fast, he looked like he was tired.”

Me: “Nah, he was jumping a hunter course.  They want those horses and ponies nice and slow and consistent.”

Them: “What do you mean ‘hunter’?  Do you hunt on them?”

It is usually at this point that I begin to appreciate why half of the horseshow world tends to go south for the winter.  It’s not because of the shows…it’s because of the forced family interaction if they stay here.  I get it now. 

Our conversations never seem to last long.  I suspect this is because you can only try to explain the difference between a pony and a horse or a hunter and a jumper to the layperson so many times before they give up trying to understand and go back to incoherently babbling at whichever diaper-clad shit-machine baby is in the room.  So I do what I assume every horse person does at a family function: I finish whatever big-kid beverage happens to be in my cup at the time, pour myself another a little stronger than the last, and wonder how I can possibly afford to spend next winter in Florida.