How-To Get Your Spouse Crazy About Horses!

How-To Get Your Spouse Crazy About Horses!

By Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

In this month’s column, I want to talk about what you do when one spouse is horse crazy and the other one thinks they are just plain crazy!

We’ve all met those couples. The wife is horse crazy and the husband thinks the whole sport is nutty or it is the husband who spends all his free time in the barn and the wife doesn’t understand the attraction to smelly animals that slobber on you every chance they get!

When I first met my husband, I knew that he had no experience around horses and didn’t have any particular feelings about them, one way or the other. I saw that as an advantage because he didn’t hate them yet. In order to encourage his interest, I invested in a secret weapon (mint flavored Tic Tacs). I had little boxes of those things all over my house so that when he came for a visit, I was ready. I would invite him down to the fence line and ask him to shake the plastic box that the tic tacs come in. Since all the horses knew what that was, he could stand safely outside the field fence, shake the little plastic container and a whole herd of horses would come charging to see him and they would happily stay at that fence line as long as he was willing to provide the little mint treats. Of course, I taught him first how to feed with a flat hand (last thing you want to do is have him lose some fingers!)

Doing this allowed him to stay out of harm’s way, he loved it, the horses loved it and it lit the fire in him. While he is not an avid rider (only because we travel all the time and there is rarely enough time to really focus on getting him up to speed as a rider), he could happily spend all day just hanging out with these wonderful, large buddies.

If there were one piece of advice I could give to anyone who has a spouse that hates horses, I would say this: Remember that we tend to hate most, that which scares us the most (terrorists, spiders, IRS agents!). The trick is to eliminate the fear factor first and that is done by making certain that you bend over backwards to never allow that person to feel the need to be afraid. For example, if you are 10 years old and trying to teach your little sister to love horses, you don’t put her on the back of a hot headed Polo Pony and go for a hand gallop across an open field (been there, done that and she now hates horses). If I had kept her in a riding arena, selected an older, quiet, kind hearted horse and kept her at a walk for an hour, she probably would be an avid horseman today. As it is, at almost 50 years of age, she still wants nothing to do with them. That is why I know so much about how to do it right – because I saw what the price was when you do it wrong and I have spent the last 20 years focused on getting it right.

If you are trying to introduce your spouse to riding for the first time, spending the weekend in a State Park camping out is not the place to go. Not only will your spouse be head-bobbing-lame by the end of a few days of hard riding, but you can’t control the environment in the woods and that means just about anything bad could happen.

When I was teaching full time for a million years, I consciously built a rider’s confidence level by holding them back. If you have a rider walk their horse long enough, no mater how many fun exercises they do while walking, they will ultimately beg you to let them trot. Remember that you can always move forward with a rider’s confidence level, but trying to undo a fearful experience is all but impossible. Slow is better. Whether you knew this or not, many of the readers of the Hot club are well over 60 years of age. That means if you are 40 and your spouse isn’t YET into horses, you still have at least 20 or 30 years to get there. When you understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint race, it is easier to take your time, invest in some riding lessons for the two of you (while you may not think you need lessons, it will help to keep your spouse company and we can all continue to learn if we give it half a chance).

The other advantage of investing in a year of riding lessons for both of you is the bonus that comes from riding at a local stable, meeting other horsemen and getting involved in the social side of the barn. I am a big advocate in recommending that people invest in a year of riding lessons at a local stable and during that year, volunteer your time at the barn to muck stalls, clean tack, exercise horses, or whatever else you can do to help out. This is actually something I recommend people do for purely selfish reasons because the person who benefits the most is YOU. When I was a kid taking lessons, I volunteered at the barn and frankly, even though I was paying for one weekly lesson, I learned far more while volunteering than I ever could have learned in the lessons. The combination of a formal weekly lesson and many hours spent volunteering in the barn made for a perfect marriage in my learning curve.

So, your spouse is not into horses (yet). Here are some simple tips to help get them started:

1. Never put them in a position where they could be frightened or injured – slow is best.

2. Look for ways to introduce them to your own horse(s) in a non-threatening, fun way. (tic tacs or carrots over the fence, tack cleaning in the barn while watching the horses in the field, etc)

3. The holidays are just around the corner and buying them a package of beginner, semi-private lessons (for both of you to do together) is a safe way to get him a basic education (from someone other than you), it is also a great way for a couple to spend time together and the only trick is that YOU have to decide to NEVER look like a know-it-all before, during or after the lessons. This is their time to learn and the last thing they need is you rolling your eyes and pointing out inadvertently how little they know – by pointing out how much more you do know.

4. After you finish the package of semi-private lessons, if your spouse is still interested you could purchase a package of beginner adult group lessons for both of you and that would not only continue their education, but it adds the social element into the mix as you will be meeting other beginner adult riders in your classes.

Before I bought a barn of my own and long before I met my husband, I used to date a fellow who was open to learning more about my passion for horses. I signed him up for a few private lessons at the barn where I taught (with a different instructor because it is not wise to do it yourself). When he and his instructor were sure he was capable and enjoying himself, he started taking some jumping lessons and eventually advanced to an adult group lesson of intermediate jumping students. I signed up for the group jumping lessons as well both because it was fun and for the social side of things. The group started to volunteer at the barn and would often stay for several hours after the lesson was over. Soon, people started to bring goodies to the barn so that after our class, they could hang out in the club house and watch the next lesson (I’m a big believer in the concept that you can learn a lot by observation) or work in the barn volunteering and then have something to eat.

Interestingly enough, it started out with a dozen donuts, however, within a few weeks, this group became friends and started to invite each other over to their homes for dinner parties and the dozen donuts transformed into huge spreads of fresh vegetable trays, sandwiches, hot dishes, etc., etc. The group celebrated birthdays, holidays and anything else we could come up with and everyone had a great time both under saddle and socially. This is just one of the extra bonuses that come from focusing on introducing your spouse to horses in a safe, responsible way. Among the many other benefits is a healthier lifestyle, quality time spent as a couple, and best of all, someone to help you clean stalls, and feed when winter hits and you don’t want to leave the warmth of your bed!

About the Author:

Bonnie Marlewski-Probert
P.O. Box 548
Yellville, AR 72687

Bonnie Marlewski-Probert is an internationally respected writer and speaker. In addition to her work in the horse industry, Bonnie has also written for some of the top magazines in the world including Good Housekeeping, Science Journals, RV and Travel publications and a variety of Animal-related publications. She taught college courses on the art of writing and getting published and wrote a teaching guide called, “If I Can Do It, So Can You!” Bonnie has published more than 1000 magazine articles, ten books, two how-to videos and two syndicated columns. She is an internationally respected speaker for her content and for her humorous presentations.

For more information on any of Bonnie’s books: A Parent’s Guide to Buying That First Horse, Debugging Your Horse, The Animal Lover’s Guide to the Internet, Horse Tales for the Soul, Volumes 1 – 5, Dog Tales for the Soul, Volume 1 OR for her videos: Debugging Your Horse and Trail Riding, Rules of the road, please visit ==>

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