When I had coffee with a coworker last week, I joked that my horse was the most stable relationship in my life right now.
“Yeah,” he said, ignoring my crazy. “I didn’t realize that horses’s had personality. They’re just like big dogs!”
“Well…” I started. “They do have personality, but I don’t think of them like dogs. A dog is always going to love you, but a horse is more like being married.”
He blinked at me. See? You can’t control my crazy! I’ve always thought this way about horses though, and here’s why.
You have to legitimately try to get a dog not to love you. Cats are on a whole different level with this… I just cast them aside as a sub-humanoid species destined to take over the internet and eventually all of humankind. But dogs? Dogs are built to love us. You can hit them, starve them and yell at them (though I don’t suggest doing any of these things) and a dog will still look at you with the same loving eyes that it did the first time it met you. Dogs are equipped with seemingly unlimited forgiveness and trust in their people. They are a special kind of amazing. When you take a dog into your home, you enter an unspoken contract. The dog knows that sometimes you’re going to accidentally step on its tail, forget to feed it dinner or take it in for
torture yearly vaccinations, but they agree to love you anyway. The dog knows you are flawed, but you know the dog is going to love you for those flaws.
A horse is not so easy.
Entering a new relationship with a horse is like dating. His picture looked really good online, and even though you say you care about more than just looks… you can’t help picturing him in your life to fulfill that bit of vanity you try to keep away. You’re nervous that he may be just a bit out of your league. When you meet, you’re careful to keep your true self toned down a little bit. Best hide the crazy today. On the first ride, you take things slow. You need to feel him out a little bit, and see how far you can push things. Do your faults aggravate him, or is he pretty tolerant? You know you want to go further, but it’s hard to know if you can trust him yet.
This inner dialogue isn’t just happening in your head – that horse is scoping you out too. Do you fit his idea of perfect human? You remind him of his trainer a little bit, which brings some comfort.. but he hopes your less strict. All of a sudden he has a whole new person to communicate with, and he’s trying to figure out the subtle nuances between what you really want and responding too emotionally.
My first date with Simon went horribly. I actually told my trainer that he “flipped me the bird” during our entire ride. I wasn’t able to let go, and he was scared of the things he didn’t know. It wasn’t until almost a year later when we had both matured a bit that we were emotionally ready for each other.
Three years later, there’s plenty of give and take in our relationship. If I let him down, I have to work harder over an extended period of time to make it up to him. He forgets nothing. He holds me accountable to my mistakes, but he also does his best to cover up my flaws. Each ride and interaction we have with each other builds on a foundation of trust and companionship.
I love my dogs wholly, and they depend on me for everything. I love my horse just as much, but it’s more than love. Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment, but when I look at a horse – I still see some wildness there. I feel like less like I own this animal, and more like he’s my partner. We choose each other, and both have to promises to keep.
Simon is my most stable relationship right now, but I don’t take it for granted.