‘I’m sorry, my horse…’ 9 struggles of balancing horses with ‘normal’ life

  • You find yourself saying 'I'm sorry... my horse..." all too often when it comes to cancelling on your best friend for supper or bailing from a family gathering. Balancing horses and everyday life is not always as easy as you'd hoped, says Becky Murray

    We’ve all been there — you have to make the dreaded “I’m sorry I can’t make it” phone call again. You struggle to say yes to plans and appear to have the commitment issues that appear in rom-com films. Your family feel second rate to your horse. Your friends lose patience. You feel like your juggling skills would rival that of a circus performer…

    1. It’s your best friend’s birthday…

    You have a beautifully wrapped present and are heading out the door to the party that has been planned for four months. You suddenly get a call from the yard owner to say your boisterous gelding Rocky has sustained a nasty cut (you only saw him a few hours ago) and you are needed at the yard. You call your best friend and begin to explain, “I’m sorry, I’m going to be late…” you hear the sigh at the other end of the phone… they don’t hate your horse; they just wish you had bought a kitten.

    2. Cuts and scrapes are a nuisance, but sudden illness sends you into a frenzy

    You have tried to explain that a sore tummy and colic requires your urgent attendance… you’ve heard mutterings of “don’t they have Calpol for horses?” You’ve explained in great detail to non-horsey folk that a horribly snotty nose can be a sign of something more sinister and have been met with, “so your horse has a cold?” Sigh!

    3. A holiday is not a word you hear very often

    Your long-suffering partner has suggested a holiday abroad. You even had to ask them to repeat this mystical suggestion to be sure you heard correctly. The very thought of a week away from your four-legged friend sends shockwaves of “what-if’s” running through your head. Going away for a week is like organising a military operation — firstly you have to find someone you trust to look after your beloved steed. Never mind packing for yourself, you need to look out every horse rug you own for every possible weather outcome, but of course leave sun cream as Princess’ pink nose burns. You have to leave a telephone number for every equine body you can think of: vet; farrier; dentist; physio, along with hotel phone number; fax number; email address; appropriate foreign embassy contact details. Your partner sees the panic in your eyes… “It’s a weekend in the Lake District again this year isn’t it?”

    4. You have to take unplanned days off work

    You nervously call your boss, “I am very sorry I am not going to make it in to work today… my horse…” — just stop. Your boss would rather hear you are going through intensive root canal.

    5. You feel like the black sheep of the family

    Your horse has become attuned to knowing when there is a planned family gathering… birthdays, christenings, baby-showers, oh your horse knows. The morning of the big family ‘bash of the year’ your dear horse decides to test out the fencing in the field and before you know it you are spending the day making repairs while Rocky grazes merrily watching you. You make the call, “I’m sorry I’m not going to make it… my horse…” You don’t even need to finish the sentence before being met with an often snippy reply of, “your loss!”

    6. Your week ahead is scheduled to a T

    An invite to an unplanned dinner after work is out of the question. “I’m sorry, I’ll need to go and tend to my horse.” Now how many times have we heard, “will he not survive for one evening?” Internally you think “I wish he would muck out his stable and feed himself!” But instead you smile apologetically and mumble “maybe another time” (if you give me a month’s notice!).

    7. Unplanned dinners are impossible, but even planned ones prove to be tricky

    Your family have grown accepting to eating at 9pm. Dining out is saved for very special occasions only… like a double clear in the class of 30 at the weekend, and only after your clever Princess has had her massage and carrots.

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    8. Co-workers will never understand

    Lizzy, who has taken numerous days off to care for her poor son Tommy when he had chicken pox, tuts when you slope off early for the farrier appointment. You explain: “I’m sorr,y but my horse threw a shoe and this is the only time my farrier can fit me in.” You know they are looking at you thinking, “I wish I could leave early to get new shoes!”

    9. And finally when it’s not your horse, it’s you

    Enthusiastic Rocky tested your flying skills on the cross-country on Sunday leaving you with a trip to A&E and a ligament injury and all promises for the week ahead have gone out of the window. Along with your pride. “I’m sorry I won’t manage… I fell off my horse.” Now this really winds people up! They would rather hear you had fallen down a man-hole; went over your ankle training for a marathon; suffered a trampolining injury… anything but that darn horse!

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