Recognising the real thing

Valentine’s Day has been and gone –  but how do you know when love is for keeps? Carolyn Henderson has some suggestions.

Soppy cards no longer clog the supermarket shelves, chocolates are minus the little red hearts on their packaging, and cut flowers are back to their normal price. Valentine’s Day is over for another year.

You might, of course, have ignored the whole shebang and insisted that you shouldn’t need a commercially-led day to demonstrate your devotion. After all, actions speak louder than chocolates.

So how do you tell if the one you regard as the love of your life is a keeper, or might need re-homing at some stage? Horses are very useful at helping us work this out; I’ve been married long enough to know how to pick a stayer, so here’s my guide. To keep it simple, I’ve referred to the Beloved as he, but please amend as appropriate.

  • He doesn’t complain when you dash in, get changed into horsey gear and dash straight out to ride/do field and stable chores/both. Add a bonus point if he doesn’t ride, but offers to help with routine jobs.
  • He swears that he still finds you attractive even when you have hay in your hair, dirt in your fingernails and are wearing Eau de Stable instead of Eau de Toilette. Bonus point – when you scrub up, he doesn’t faint with shock, but simply tells you how nice you look.
  • He learns how to read a dressage test/tow a trailer/drive a horsebox so you can concentrate on your horse. Deduct a point if, even though he can’t ride, he tells you where he thinks you went wrong. Warning: he may get to the stage where he’s right, in which case you have to restore the point you knocked off.
  • He admits that he’s become quite attached to your horse. Add a bonus point if you catch him talking to your horse when he doesn’t know you’re watching, so isn’t out to impress.
  • You catch him in deep conversation with another owner on your livery yard. They blush when they realise you’ve spotted them and you can’t help having a nagging suspicion at the back of your mind. Then he admits that he was asking her for suggestions about what he could buy you for your birthday. Later, she tells you that she dropped the name of some expensive but covetable grooming kit. Add extra bonus points!
  • He announces that he wouldn’t mind having a go at riding and asks if he could learn on your horse. Add a bonus point if he isn’t offended when you shriek with horror/burst out laughing at the thought of your beloved but characterful horse patiently helping someone get to grips with rising trot.
  • He accepts that he needs a proper teacher and a suitable horse and doesn’t complain when the riding school you find is full of fearsomely competent ten-year-olds. Add a bonus point if he isn’t distracted by the Yummy Mummies accompanying said ten-year-olds.
  • And the final decider? He announces that he wants his own horse, so you can share romantic moments over the muckheap and ride off into the sunset together.

So, do you have the perfect horsey partner? If so, we’d love to know why he or she is so special, so do let us know!