I Found a Unicorn

Dressage at Lexington has come and gone, and Cardoon and I are still plugging away at the last bits of the PSG. It might happen this year, or it might not, but at the very least, we’ve figured out just what a pirouette IS, even if we still can’t do it well enough or small enough to take it to a show.

Kevin and I took a long planned vacation (and I actually drafted this in a campground in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota) and Cardoon and Healey are both at Sprieser Sporthorse for a midsummer refresher and tune-up. No rest for the wicked…that’s my motto.

At any rate, I have been thinking about how rare it is to find a unicorn. And in this case, I’m not actually talking about Cardoon, although he is, in his own way, a rare and special unicorn. What I mean is the Perfect Horse Husband, aka a Unicorn.

If I had dollar for every time someone – at a show, at the barn, at the vet, at the tack shop – asked me where I found Kevin and whether he had a brother, I’d be able to take that extravagant shopping trip to Europe for my next Grand Prix partner. Of course with my best friends, I can roll my eyes and tell them that everything isn’t all sunshine and puppy dogs in our marriage all the time, but in reality, I know I have it pretty damn good.

When Kevin and I met, I wasn’t riding and had no horses in my life. I’ve done a little bit of a bait and switch in the past 19 years, but he’s come along for the ride not just willingly, but eagerly. In fact, it was Kevin who got me back into riding through a friend at work, Kevin who urged me to find a job at a barn so I could ride when I was in graduate school (when I really should have been working to help pay the bills), and Kevin who swore we’d find a way to make it work when I was just finishing grad school and was offered a “free” horse to take to Virginia with me. Even then, he knew there was no such thing as a free horse!

I read a blog recently on the Chronicle of the Horse about an amateur who had a somewhat similar story, but it focused (humorously) on the fact that her new husband never seemed to complain when she “needed” new breeches, a new saddle, etc., etc., etc. Kevin’s support goes deeper than that, although he’s always there to tell me to buy the saddle, get the injections or other supportive vet care, or go ahead and spend those 4 days in Wellington. He’s never once, in all our years together, complained openly (to me at least!) about the cost of the horses. All of this is wonderful, but it does not, in and of itself, convey true Unicorn status.

The real sign of the Unicorn is that they willingly play in the horsewoman’s native habitat – the barn, tack shop and horse show.

We were lucky enough to buy a small farm about six years ago and have the horses at home now. Kevin was a big part of the reason for this and it was his dream, even more than mine at the time, to wake up every morning to see the ponies in our front yard. Now that we have the responsibility of all these animals at home, Kevin of course is familiar with our daily routine and how to handle the horses. Since we have to deal with these animals on a more than daily basis, I’ve tried to be sure we don’t have any really hard to handle animals on the farm, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of challenges.

Horses on stall rest, for example, suck. Kevin has dealt with those stall-resters like a pro, and frankly, with fewer complaint than I’ve voiced. He learned about sedation, and can manage the stall resting, hand grazing horse like a pro.

Beyond that, he’s an avid learner about horse care, and actually likes being around when the vet comes so he can learn more about horse care, anatomy, and the cool vet technology. (OK, maybe he’s a little geeked out about the technology.) He’s also become pretty darn good at tending wounds, changing pressure bandages (thanks Healey!) and giving medications. Having a paramedic on the property is pretty handy when it comes to shots.

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You see that guy in the blue shirt?  That’s Kevin, diligently videotaping my ride, wearing a Team Sprieser t-shirt.

Where he really shines though is his dedication to coming with me to horse shows and being a critical emotional support as I navigate this new world of upper level dressage. This year is the first time in four years that he’s missed a Dressage at Lexington, and I know it actually made him sad. I’m really pretty certain that he wasn’t sitting at home thinking, “Woohoo! No spending 4 days with my wife and her 15 crazy horse lady friends!” Kevin gets into the spirit of showing with Team Sprieser Sporthorse and at the big shows, like DAL, even cooks dinner for the whole team on the nights we’re there. He knows how to get me ready like a pro groom, and always brings exactly the right equipment to the ring – towel, water, video camera, brush – and never lets me go down centerline without shiny boots and a polished bit.

More than anything though, he’s the most supportive husband a woman could ask for. At the end of the day, this is a crazy expensive sport that eats away at time you could be using to do other things – like vacations, house cleaning, cooking, even sleeping. “Whatever you need” is Kevin’s mantra when it comes to the horses, and that goes far deeper than just paying for it. When I told him four years ago that I wanted to someday make a real run at riding the FEI levels, he was all in with both feet, even before I was.

Its been a long, tough road since Kevin helped get me back into riding before we were married, and I do ponder at times if he’s ever wondered what he got himself into with the vet bills, the heartache, the seemingly constant need for emotional support, and the occasional vicious swearing that comes from my arena when the riding gets tough.

Then I remember – I found a Unicorn, and even if he shakes his head at the fact that me and all other horse people are crazy, he’ll still be there to support this wild sport of mine and he’ll love the horses, just like they’re our kids (because they are).

 

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