Disclaimer: I may be a YA author but I do tend to cuss from time to time (I would blame my day job of being a journalist but I’ve long had a potty mouth). This blog post has some bad words in it, so please don’t read if “colorful” language offends you.
Yep, that’s me. I was so adorable back then. Just look at me: My eyes are glistening with happiness! It was my lifelong dream realized: having coffee with my horses right outside on MY property. This all happened six months ago. I don’t think I’ve “had coffee” with my horses since, and I’ll tell you why.
It’s because my equines are assholes. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they are total jerks. It’s just like finally rooming with your best friend and realizing she’s a total asswipe.
She doesn’t do her dishes. She tosses her clothes all over the living room. And she has impromptu parties the night before a big test.
I digress, because this isn’t about her. It’s about them.
For those of you thinking and wishing and hoping to bring your horses home: do it, but do it knowing these things first. No one told me these things and, even if they did, I wouldn’t have listened anyway.
First, here are all the things people hear about keeping horses at home: you never have time to ride, you stop seeing your horse friends and feel lonely, and it’s a lot more expensive than you were expecting.
I’ve heard them all my life and always rolled my eyes. I had horses in my backyard when I was in elementary school, I know what it’s like. I have kept my horses at self-care facilities and I have worked at barns, I know what that’s like. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.
Experience and knowledge are two different things, however. Now that I have six months of experience, I am going to share what I’ve learned:
1. Your horse is an asshole. Oh sure, he loves you when you come visit him at the barn right now. You bring him cookies and give him a good grooming session. He canters over to see you (if you have a mare that cantering may look more like casual walking). When you leave, he whickers and you kiss his muzzle and think: “If only this could be every moment of every day!”
Now, flash forward to having your horses at home. Your horse doesn’t give a shit about you unless you’re bringing the feed buckets out. He sees you every single moment of the day and you don’t have cookies 99 percent of the time, which means he doesn’t care. About the only time he does care is when you are about 5 minutes late feeding.
2. Your horse is an asshole. That’s not a typo. I’m talking about more assholery here (no autocorrect, I do not mean “gasholder,” though that might apply too). Your horse breaks shit constantly. Those reasonably priced $10 feed pans? Gone within weeks. That beautiful fence you spent three weeks building? Gone in a day. And he gives zero shits that you have an 8 a.m. meeting and don’t have time to rebuild an entire fenceline and then stepped in manure and mud in your brand-new work shoes.
3. SPEAKING OF FENCES. I don’t care how good your fence is: your horses will get out. And when they do, you will be overcome with embarrassment because, for years, you have lauded your expertise in fence building and made claims like “People obviously don’t care enough about their animals if they escape the fence.”
Let me tell you how fun it is to get the knock on the door at 5 a.m. from someone yelling that your horses are out on a busy road in the dim morning light. My advice: don’t sleep naked for the first three months of bringing your horses home. Those assholes will figure out a weakness.
That said, you will not need coffee the morning that happens. In fact, you won’t sleep for about a month straight. And then after that month, you will set an alarm for every three hours to check on the horses just so you can sleep for an hour or two in between alarms.
I cried recounting the tale to a fellow equestrian about my animals getting loose. Her response: “Oh yeah, they always get out the first few months of a new place.” News to me. I’ve taken these horses to numerous barns and they’ve never left the property, even with shoddy fencing. Again: they’re assholes.
4. You actually won’t get any work done. Let’s take this day-in-the-life-of moment:
I wake up, feed the assholes, feed more assholes (chickens and turkeys, don’t get me started), check water for all the assholes, try to guzzle coffee and eat breakfast quickly, get ready for work, try to leave for work but then there’s my adorable donkey wuffling at me. She obviously needs kisses. So I go to the fence and give her kisses, then the two mares saunter up demanding they have itchy spots that only I can help them with. By the time that’s all done, my hands are black and I have snot marks on my clothes. Back inside to change. This time, on the way to the car, I don’t look over at them. Now that I’m in the car, I’m flooded with the horrible sensation that I didn’t check every single gate and latch. Sure nothing looks open, but I better go check. So I get out of the car and walk over and then the equines are there again begging for scritches and kisses. Then I get back to the car. Did I check the latch? Maybe? I don’t remember. Get back out of the car and go check, making sure to ignore the needy looks. Turns out, the gate is unlocked. I breathe a sigh of relief, latch it, and get on my way. On the way to work I am panicked that the gate was unlocked to begin with. When was the last time I walked through that gate? Two days ago? I don’t remember. That’s really scary. So when I get to work, I pull up on Google self-latching gates with spring loads. Wow, those are expensive. Maybe I just need some memory-helping herbs. Then somehow I end up researching what herbs horses like to eat, which leads me to researching diet and mega-calories and, for some reason, a new saddle even though my current saddles work perfectly fine and I rarely ride in them anyway (who has time?). Before I know it, eight hours has passed and it’s time for me to go home. But I can’t just go home, I have to pick up feed or something else (I forget …). I stop at the feed and seed, can’t find my list, so pick up some feed and some minerals and head home. At home, I have to feed the needy horses again and realize that I have actually forgotten feed for the chickens. Unable to reach my husband, I try to remember to go get feed after I’m done with chores. While doing chores, I find the horses have destroyed something, so I fix that. Then I run to the store and grab the chicken feed and run back. Now the sun has set, which means I can’t ride. But that’s OK because I didn’t pick the sacrifice paddock and have my trusty headlamp. So then I spend about 30 minutes spotlighting poop in the pasture while my donkey tries to knock over the wheel barrow and my horses follow me around putting itchy body parts in my face (especially fun since Buttercup has a very itchy butt). Then my husband comes home and it’s time to try to finish building the barn, in the dark with headlamps. The barn is slow going, but that’s probably because you have to keep fixing something the horses have destroyed.
5. You actually won’t get any work done. This bears repeating because it will get so bad you can’t complete sentences and sometimes it’s for non-asshole reasons. You’ll be having a serious conversation with your husband about where the wood stove should go in the barn, when you will exclaim: “Look how cute that horse is!” and he will look at you and say “Yes, very cute.” And you will look back at him and realize he totally did not look at how cute the horse is and tell him so, and he will admit he didn’t but the horse is just doing what the horse does. You disagree and tell him so. He looks out the window and sees the horse grazing and shrugs. “Isn’t she cute?!” you will exclaim and he will look at you like a crazy person. And you still won’t know where to put the wood stove in the barn.
6. You will need to increase the memory on your phone, and you will lose friends on social media. Like a new mom with a new smartphone, you will take a million videos and pictures of your horses. And they don’t look all that interesting or different from the videos and pictures you took yesterday or the day before. Your friends will no longer “like” your constant glut of photos on Facebook. So you start tagging them in photos, and then they start unfriending and unfollowing you. I literally have about 20 photos of one of my horses taken in a five minute time frame, from the same angle, with her standing in the same spot. They are special to me, but no one else cares. I’ve learned to keep my sharing on social media to a minimum.
7. You don’t ever doubt your decision. Sure you still don’t have lights or an arena or someone to watch your horses while you visit family, but those little money-sucking jerks are worth it.