What To Expect When You're Dating An Equestrian
by Nancy Smythe
So you've met someone you'd like to date and they are into equestrian sports. Here's a bit of what to expect and a few hints to help you as you start off the relationship.
When a person owns a horse or rides regularly then horses are more than just a hobby..they are a lifestyle. Horses require a lot of exercise and are an investment not only in money but time regardless of whether the person competes or not. Being an equestrian is in the blood, it is part of who we are. As with any passion, it is an important part of that person's identity and a great deal of time will be devoted to horsey activities.
Equestrian sports are the only sports where men and women compete against each other on equal footing. That said, the majority of participants are women and most barns are strongly women majority so guys, take note! There are many single women who you haven't met yet because they are at the barn instead of the bar.
One way to gain an idea of what you are getting into is to take a few riding lessons yourself (preferably at a recognized riding school listed with your provincial or state equestrian association). Most riding schools offer package deals for a series of lessons where you will learn to safely handle a horse, put the equipment on, basic riding skills as well as the basic terms. Even if you have no intention of continuing to ride, this will come in handy when you go to the barn with your new partner. You'll be able to participate instead of being a passive bystander.
Be fully prepared to expect the following:
-The average time spent at a barn per visit is 2-3 hours. Many horse owners go to the barn at least 4-6 days per week. Asking a rider to limit their time at the barn is unrealistic. Never, ever issue an ultimatum to choose you or the horse. You will lose (see the part above where I refer to lifestyle, passion and part of our identity). Asking an equestrian to choose is basically asking them to suppress part of who they are..in other words you'd be rejecting a part of them.
-Riders will frequently be late. Horses are living animals and as such are a bit unpredictable. Even a quick stop at the barn can easily turn into a several hour affair if something has gone awry. This is normal and will happen. Dinner plans may frequently be altered at the last minute.
-An equestrian has no problem going to do the groceries or other errands on the way back from the barn, covered in dust, hair and a fair amount of horse slobber. Their car probably is full of the same as well. If dirt and odours offend you then you're totally out of luck.
-If your new partner competes, then expect that they will be spending some weekends (or weeks if they compete at higher levels) out of town. Again, if you have taken the time to get familiar with handling horses this may give you an opportunity to participate instead of feeling like you're in the way.
-You don't have to spend every moment at the barn with your new partner (in fact trying to do so probably isn't a good idea) but if you are able to go when invited and be comfortable in the environment then you definitely have an advantage over the guy who isn't.
The upside of all this is that equestrians generally understand long term commitment. Spending a lot of time with horses teaches us empathy, dedication and perseverance. All good qualities to have in a potential partner. And who knows? You may just discover a new passion as well.
Check Out Nancy's previous article on Horse Back Riding For a First Date
Nancy Smythe has been certified by the Canadian Equestrian Federation (now Equestrian Canada) and the Federation Èquestre du Quebec (now Cheval Quebec) as a Level 1 Trainer since 1991. She has supported numerous riders and their horses in achieving their personal goals, whether those goals are to win a Championship, overcome a particular fear or simply improve communication between horse and rider to instill safe riding skills.
To contact Nancy you can reach her through her Facebook