Long-suffering horse husband Garry Ashton-Coulton pens a warning to anyone who finds themselves in a three-way relationship with their loved one, plus an equine
Sir, you may have stumbled upon this page while searching the interweb for a likely winner of the 2:30 at Lingfield Park, or you may have been following a link in your browser history. If it is the latter, be warned — things may not be all they seem in your domestic idyll. It may be that your partner is ‘an equestrian’.
Should your partner demonstrate an unhealthy interest in all matters equine, you can be sure that somewhere within the walls of your castle you will find a copy of that subversive journal, Horse & Hound. It may be well hidden, but trust me, it will be there. It may be pristine and unblemished amid a stack of Country Life or Marie Claire, or more likely it will be a grubby well-thumbed edition passed hand-to-hand like a secret society’s badge of honour and carefully hidden underneath the cushion of your favourite armchair.
Should the matter have gone unnoticed for a while, the second thing you will undoubtedly notice is the smell. It is hard to describe, lying somewhere between a low-rent sawmill and a provincial zoological garden, possessing a base note redolent of agriculture with the high-lingering piquancy of an ill-tended colony of gerbils. Once experienced it is never forgotten. But take heart — like most heady perfumes, its power diminishes with exposure. Once it has seeped into your soft furnishings, and indeed the very fabric of your home, it will cease to make itself know to your olfactory organs. This eau de equine does have its advantages. You will find a seat is almost always available on all but the most crowded of commuter trains and that your personal space is always respected by even the most socially inept of fellows.
Former eventer Lottie Goldstone shares with H&H the benefits and drawbacks of dating a competitive equestrian
With the insidious equestrian meme firmly implanted within her cerebellum, you will notice your partner absents herself more often than is decent in a relationship. You may also notice a drastic falling away of standards in the catering department. At first you may suspect an affair of the heart, but fear not. Your love rival is more likely to be a malevolent 16hh wide nostrilled steaming warmblood than a shiny-suited Latin lounge lizard. Make hay while the sun shines my friend. You may relish your new found domination of the TV remote, and your ability to pop for a ‘swift half’ whenever you feel like it, because it won’t last. Oh dear me no, it won’t last.
If at all possible, when faced with this onslaught of equestrianism, a chap should hasten away to seek refuge in his shed to write a letter to The Times or an academic work on the history of tweed in the Western Isles, or partake of a particularly fine Amontillado sherry. Whatever he chooses, he should show resolve, cultivate an air of detached indifference and never, ever weaken! If a chap shows even the smallest glowing ember of interest, he will fan the flames of an all-consuming conflagration that would rival that of 1666 and he will be lost forever.
It starts slowly: “How is your riding thing going?” you may innocently venture. “Why don’t you come and see,” she will answer. “Well” you think. “It can’t hurt can it?”
The next thing you know you are knee deep in an enormous mountain of steaming excrement, shovelling away like an 18th century navvy. Your hand-made brogues will never be the same again. Months later you come to standing in a damp field with the knowledge of how you got there a distant hazy memory. In your hand is a rope at the business end of which is a huge aromatic animal whose natural state vacillates between the rock solid inertia of a small mountain range and rapid uncontrollable forward motion of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
If you are lucky inertia will rule and your equestrian charge will simply lower its head and stuff its enormous face with any available vegetation. If you are unlucky war will be declared, and you will lose; physically you will lose and mentally you will lose. Should you be as unwise to utter the ill-judged words, “it’s me or the horse“, you will find your pre-packed cases on the doorstep, vying for space with the tradesman who has just changed the locks. Then before you know it, a smooth-talking dressage instructor will be sitting on your Chesterfield sampling your sherry.
To avoid this nightmare scenario, it is far easier just to capitulate in the first place. When you discover a copy of Horse & Hound has passed over your threshold, just purchase a subscription and be done with it. It will be safer for all concerned, and you never know, you may even enjoy your new life. Take it from one who knows.
You can thank me later.