Hands up if you spend half your time enjoying your horse and the other half feeling guilty, writes Carolyn Henderson.
Maybe it’s because you seem to only see your other half/family in the gaps between getting home and rushing off to ride. As for non-horsey friends – well, you might see them on social media, but as for conversations in real life, forget it.
And how about the guilty certainty that you’re a second-rate owner? You don’t have time to take your tack apart and clean it every day and sometimes – shock, horror – you ride without brushing all the shavings out of your horse’s tail. Even worse, some days you can’t find time to ride at all.
If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Here are some suggestions that I hope will make you feel better:
1.The fact that you feel guilty means you want the best for your horse/other half/family. If your life is so perfectly organised that you don’t suffer occasional twinges, you must be either Superwoman or Superman. Have you seen any riders wearing underwear over their breeches? Me neither.
2.Having a passion might make you a more interesting person, or easier to live with. In the interests of research, I asked my husband what he thought I’d be like to live with if I gave up horses.
He turned pale and said, “It would be awful.” Before I had time to feel hurt and even more guilty, he added that the fact that we had different interests meant we had plenty to talk about. (We have been married for a very long time and you have to work at these things.)
He also highlighted our unspoken deal that we do things together that take these interests into account. That means I’m due for another trek around an RSPB reserve; I suppose you can’t have everything.
3.More seriously, riding and looking after horses helps keep you sane, fit and active. The older you get, the more you appreciate that. If it wasn’t for a combination of pushing wheelbarrows and Pilates, I reckon I’d be living at half the pace.
4.There are people who dismantle and clean their tack every day and whose horses are always impeccably turned out, with never a hair out of place. The first ones are called grooms and the second are professional riders, owners with grooms or owners who keep their horses on full livery.
I’ll stick to making sure bits are rinsed off and there is nothing on my tack that could irritate a horse before I ride, and cleaning it thoroughly once a week. If I occasionally leave an odd shavings flake in a tail, I can’t see when I’m in the saddle, so who cares?
5.Above all, remember that no one’s perfect. If you do your best, your family and friends still recognise you and your significant other still loves you, you’re doing well.