It Could Be Worse. You Could Be Married to Me.

“Honey, when you’re in town will you pick something up for me?” I don’t quite wait for the answer. “Great, three bags of quikrete, please. The eighty-pounders.”

I was asked to write something for the men who read my blog. Grab your caps, boys, this might get bumpy. For the rest of you, dear readers, the rumors are true; men walk amongst us. But what would I write about them?

I am no expert on men. Most of my adult years I’ve been single. Don’t get me wrong; I love men. I might also have a slight allergy that flares up from time to time. Frankly, I think most women do, but mine makes me a bit cantankerous. It doesn’t help that friends have always used me on their husbands as a sort of aversion therapy. When I lived in Denver, if a friend wanted a puppy, she’d bring her husband over. We didn’t have a sit-com plot to trick him planned ahead of time. It was more of a natural response. I always had two or three big dogs, a handful of cats, and a few birds, crammed into a house with too much controversial art. I probably had a few opinions, too. The idea just appeared in the air. It was obvious to him that it could be worse, he could be married to me. She got a puppy and he might have even thought it was his idea.

Even easier after I moved to the farm, friends would arrive and we’d walk the pens. That’s what I do with guests. I don’t like people in my house. I usually had a couple of rescue horses I was rehabbing, wild-eyed or shut down. Then my family herd, including a donkey or two. A couple of boarded horses. The llamas have been here since the start and it’s only common sense to have goats. For a few years, a dozen ducks quacked about, a gift from a friend. On a farm, you don’t really count the dogs and cats. I’d stand on the front porch, waving goodbye and I could see the negotiation starting before they got to the end of the driveway. She got that second horse. Because it could be worse.

I became a cautionary tale in other people’s marriages, but that was just a part-time job. In my day job, I have been self-employed in male-dominated fields since I was twenty. I still am now. Being a minority is a tricky thing. I had to speak up for myself.

So that’s me. What about you men?

Here is the math: Over ninety percent (90%!) of horses in the U.S. are owned by women. Women hire me, women pay my bills. Men make up between three and four percent of my clients. When I started writing, I didn’t use the default pronoun he. I have felt left out by that default choice in literature my whole life. So, in my writing, when referring to a rider, my default pronoun is she. It seems fair in this crowd. The default pronoun for animals has historically been it. I don’t like that choice either, so my default pronoun for horses is he. I use these pronouns with forethought, to make my prose more understandable. Even though half the women reading this ride mares. Even though I think men are lurking. Please don’t take my pronouns personally.

I do see you men at my clinics. Usually a singleton. You stick out not because you’re a man so much as how enthusiastic you are. Your eyes are keen, you might even lean forward in your chair for the lecture parts. I see how intense your interest is. You always ask the best questions. You might walk with me, maybe a quiet question on the way to lunch. Sometimes you tell me you don’t like the way your male friends train or care for their horses, so you have no one to ride with. Or you say aren’t comfortable hanging with so many women because you’re married. It’s a socially awkward thing to be an extreme minority, as I well know. But you lead with your love for horses and you might as well be wearing a horse-crazy girl costume. You fit right in. That’s the best compliment I know.

Do men read this blog? I hope you’d feel welcome with us. We have a diverse following. Dog trainers and yoga teachers. City folks and writers. Horse people who say these methods work with their kids. A surprising number of people who don’t have horses at all. So, I’ll guess you men are out there reading the blog, too. Fred comments every year or two, and I’m delighted each time. Joe will chime in with an interesting perspective now and then and I thank him. There are others, very rarely. Of the thousands of readers here, most don’t comment, so you’re in the majority there.

I’m married now. Does the husband read the blog? Not if it’s too “horsey.” That’s a hard bar for me to reach. I don’t write about him often for fear he’ll develop a twitch and I wouldn’t call him Mr. Blake, either. He goes by his self-gifted job title: Dude Rancher. Not an animal person, not his dream to live here. The prairie wind has had her way with him, it’s been slow. He can finally tell the gray horses apart but still confuses the llama names. There’s a word for it. Erosion.

Every now and then, someone flirts with me at an airport or the trash dump. After all, I’m not dead yet. The Dude Rancher isn’t worried. He knows I keep my promises. Then he might have a chuckle thinking the poor guy doesn’t know what he’s asking for. Being married to me isn’t for sissies or blowhards.

In the beginning, the indoor dog and cat population here was a little overwhelming for him. His velvet couch developed shredded armrests. A lint roller became as essential as his toothbrush. He was always surreptitiously sniffing rooms that had kitty litter boxes. When he furrowed his prodigious eyebrows,  I would tell the story. That when the season turns cold, all the mice in the barn move in a wave toward the crawlspace below the house. Hordes of rodents, so thick that they look like wiggly shag carpet, coming up through the kitchen plumbing, crawling over the baskets of fruit and onions on the counter, and into the cabinet where we keep his Raisin Bran.

Threatening the crazy alternative is always a smart approach. It could be worse. We could not have cats.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

Want more? Visit annablake.com to see our class schedule, book a live consultation or lesson, subscribe for email delivery of this blog, see the Clinic Schedule or ask a question about the art and science of working with horses. Join us in The Barn, our online training group with video sharing, audio blogs, live chats with Anna, and so much more.

Working with riders of any discipline and horses of any breed, Anna believes affirmative dressage training principals build a relaxed & forward foundation that crosses over all riding disciplines in the same way that the understanding Calming Signals benefits all equine communication.

Anna Blake

49 thoughts on “It Could Be Worse. You Could Be Married to Me.”

  1. When I got married, my husband and I made a deal: he would try horses if I tried golf. 25 years’ later, we now have a 30-acre horse farm and five horses of our own. I have played golf exactly once, and it was mini-golf, which apparently doesn’t count.
    His behavior during this lockdown has been amazing… he really stepped up, fencing/building new tracks for my horses, mowing edges of the pastures, and a hundred other horse-area improvements. And then I finally saw the reason: he was building a 6-hole course in the pastures, and needed a place to stash the horses while he and his social-distancing-conscious golf friends played.
    I never kept my promise of “I’ll try golf if you try horses”, but had we never needed acres for all the horses, he’d have had nowhere to golf in the pandemic.

    Just a minor point on this: the “horses is a girl thing” is of course a cultural phenomenon. Until fairly recently, for example, horses were much more a ”guy thing” in Iceland, and in the way we in the US refer to the “husband horse”, Icelanders would have something like the “girlfriend horse”. (Something else I learned about horse culture mismatches: what Icelanders called a “kid’s horse” is nearly the opposite of what I thought. I bought an imported Icelandic described as “kid’s horse” only to realize that in Iceland, these are the horses that just go full-power fast and straight. 😬)

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    • Not sure Iceland is so odd, in lots of places women still aren’t allowed to drive or own land. We have progressed since sidesaddles, no doubt, but we were the last group allowed to vote in the US. Knowing that parents buy their kids rough and tumble ponies does call in some questions about safety but I do love a man who’d put in a golf course. He’s a genius. Thanks, Kathy.

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  2. I find it hard to be married to myself, I can’t imagine how hard it is for my husband! He doesn’t dare ask me who is more important, my herd of horses, cats, dogs and chickens or him. Thank you for describing “our way”.
    It almost sounds normal, well not really, but I like it that way. 🙂

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    • Great comment, Susan. I remember being told more than once I would never find a husband being the way I was. It just goes to show… Thanks, welcome home.

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  3. love love love this one! Its been a very long time since “the divorce”. Getting married meant giving up my horse AND anything that had to do with horses. I have been horse-crazy since I was old enough to know what one was. AND animal-crazy. My kids were both raised with having dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens & ducks, loving wildlife – those feelings havent left them. Both had some horse-related times. But not quite to my horsey level. My oldest granddaughter works as a barn manager and groom for an eventing barn. Worry about her staying safe – horse-wise & now with this virus mess.
    I did manage to get back into horses – for 16 years and was blessed for every one of them.
    You have heard the old saying “be careful what you wish for”? Well, sometimes thats NOT a bad thing. I had what I wished for for 16 years – and now there are lots of good memories of good horses, good people & good times.
    I hope & pray that you, Anna, and everyone who comments & reads here appreciate & enjoy what you have.
    And, once again, really enjoy this blog – it takes me back.

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  4. Hilarious. And true. For the men lurking, you are not alone. My wife was secretly horrified the first time she came over to my (small) suburban house. I’m like Anna. Tour the animals. They are my real home. 3 constantly talking parrots, 2 cats, 2 dogs, 9 rescue rabbits, rabbit 10 had her own room in my home office, where she served as my manual paper shredder. Pictures of (gasp) different colored horses all over the walls. And then the outside: Louie the garter snake prowling the garden and snoozing under the dahlias, doves that adopted me, the skunk family under the deck, the turtles, frogs and possums that kept us a tick free zone. My feeling: “this is normal and lovely”, her feeling: ”what have I done?”. It must be a non-horsey spouse thing. Sure she was an animal lover. She had a dog. That counts, right? City dyke marries country dyke, and they both live in constant confusion from day one. She asks about my day at work, and I tell her everything the horses had to say. She looks concerned. “Are they actually….talking…to you?”, she asks. Neither of us is still sure why this works. Anna I LOVE this post!! It’s all the humor of our lives in a nutshell! I buy her lint rolllers in bulk. True love.

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    • My friends used to tell me when I had a date, to never bring them home. Go to a hotel, they’d plead. Set the hook before they find out about the animals. What fun is that? Could we fool them for even a half-hour?? Thanks, Jane. Your comment has me cackling like a big ‘ole hen. And thanks for the tip about rollers in bulk.

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  5. I LOVE THIS! The wiggly shag carpet made me laugh out loud and nothing is more appreciated today than laughter. I will return the favor and send you something to chuckle over. I do think ‘It could be worse’ is a good thing for all of us to remember more often. Imagine the alternative… “We could not have cats.” Hilarious.

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  6. OK Anna, I was actually thinking you might be a little more subtle when I suggested you might mention men in your columns, once in a while. But I admit I loved this article. So thank you for that. I won’t ask again. I get it. However, it is a little hard for me to really understand. I was retired over a decade before my wife and when I took my granddaughter out to the horse ranch and fell in love with the little filly, it was my wife who said, “Do it sweetheart.” Seven months later I fell in love with Aruna, the bucking mare. As insane as it sounds, it was my wife who said, “Just do it sweetheart.” Those words only increased my love for my spouse of nearly 50 years, if that is even possible. Some people just get lucky I guess.
    Thanks again Anna. I really do love you!

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    • Well, Fred. Subtlety? Me? I hoped to give you a chuckle. But don’t start me writing about your wife. She and I had a nice talk at the clinic, as if I didn’t love her before. I think in your first comment you said you rode with women and she loved it. Your wife is wonderful. I have so much respect for 50 years together. Lucky for me and Aruna, you make room for all kinds. Thanks, Fred. Love you right back.

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  7. One of your best ones yet, Anna. Congratulations on your marriage! I wish you much happiness. You make all of our lives a bit lighter and brighter/

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  8. Thanks Anna! This was spot on! Describes me and my husband quite well in so many ways. What a joy to read, re-read and laugh again!

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  9. LOVE it!!!! SO right ON!!!
    I’m single – was married for 33 too long years; had three kids who have their own issues as a result of staying with him so damned long. Girls are married and stand up for themselves – son isn’t and has a shitty attitude towards women. Gee…
    My horses are either retired or due to my past launchings, not being ridden. Such a waste, but I’m too old and fragile to try it again I think. Maybe I shouldn’t “think” and go for it in spite of. They are well taken care of and I absolutely enjoy them. I was a frustrated kid growing up whose parents refused to let me have one. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t stand dogs, having been stuck in the backseat with a couple of foul-smelling, drooley hounds.
    Now, I’m retired and loving being alone to do whatever I want, when I want within financial reason.

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    • Great comment, Leslie. Sometimes it take us a while. I didn’t leave home making great decisions and it took a while to sort it out. Glad we both landed safe.
      Best wishes.

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  10. This resonates – speaking as a long term woman in a man’s field (landscaper) who runs a farmette complete with all the animals you’d expect. Looking froward to some porcine additions.

    Have also been advised my strategy isn’t good for attracting men. Maybe I’m smarter than I look? We’ll see what happens when the right one comes along… (and the dump is a great spot to get flirted, as well as the hardware store!))

    Longing for the day when we are all just humans – the most hard-headed of the animals.

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  11. That is so funny and SO spot-on for so many of us! Thanks for the smiles and laughter, – and sometimes tears, Anna. This one was in the laugh out loud category!

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  12. Thanks Anna. I was scrolling down, saw pic of puss, and quote, THEN the dead critter, got a giggle. But then as I read more, nearly choked on my morning tea, hilarious.
    For me, the cruncher is do they love cats or not. Says a great deal about a bloke, and if they have control issues, as we know control and cats is an oxymoron. I reckon my current lifestyle is equivalent to your place, yep, wives could murmur about getting a van…….and get that new horse.

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  13. This was a great one. I lost my husband to cancer just over two years ago – I miss him every single day. After our first ‘date’ (he was a widower of 55, I was a never been married of 43) I invited him in and my in house pig promptly charge him and then peed on the floor. When my sister asked how it went I replied ‘he’s a good man.’ When he called for a second ‘date’ I knew he was a keeper. We started out with my two dogs and two horses and his one dog. When he died we had two horses, two goats, a mini donkey, a pig, (this one outside), my dog, his dog, several chickens and a duck. He and Roosevelt the in house pig detested each other for nine years until Rosey died, then he consoled me and dug the hole to bury Rosey and several years later drove me 6 hours round trip to get another pig. Like I said, he was a good man and we had 20 years of joy.

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    • Sherry, a good man indeed. Thank you for sharing your love story. And Rosey’s less than love story. So sorry for your loss and so happy for your 20 years of job.

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  14. Super blog! Love every word.

    When we married, my husband blissfully though it would only be the two of us, till kids.

    Living in a tiny apartment, only a pet rabbit joined our family. Then we moved to our first farm to be caretakers. “It’ll be fun,” I said. Soon I had my first horse and I needed someone to ride with so the not-so-much-a-husband’s-horse joined the menagerie.

    Dogs — big, fast and blue merle. Llamas because I wanted a fiber pet. A scarlet macaw because of their intelligence, beauty and Ace Ventura. Donkeys because we needed “music” and a clown around every corner. Cats of course! Even pedigreed Ragdolls who allowed me to show them if it pleased us both.

    All the time the acreage grew, the barns got bigger, the chores more involved. Somewhere along the way hubby realized…this kind of animal kingdom needed “stuff”. That’s when he knew why he put up with all the critters. With a sly grin.

    First came the big-ass tractor. Implements galore because you know you might have to blade the quarter-mile gravel driveway once or twice a year. Harrows for different reasons and surfaces. Mowers for pastures, mowers for lawns. Power tools galore. First cheap ones that broke, then up graded collections costing as much as a year’s supply of hay.

    The Ford F-350 to pull the four-horse fancy-schmancy trailer. The 3-seater Polaris Ranger UTV to work the land and take feed to the horses way out in the back 40.

    Some toys were four-legged, some had wings. Others took spark plugs and fuel and tires and drive belts.

    But going on forty-seven years of marriage I think we’ve hit a happy balance!

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  15. So beautifully and colourfully written.
    I had a chuckle while reading, my husband is a non-horsey person ….the alternative would be the gym, walking tracks, riding bikes….Really any activities taking me away from home for many hours, where as with my girls ( yes beautiful mares ) I spend a lot of time in our front yard :))))))))
    Thank you, 🙂 Carole

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  16. I loved reading this, especially the kitchen rodents and the guests walking the pens because “I don’t like people in my house.” I dread visits because my house is designed around an accidental family of dachshunds, so where do I ask visitors to sit? (not on the sofa at accessible level for dogs…) and a dining chair perch is not comfortable) and how do I leave the room without the guest saying the wrong thing to a dog in my absence and getting barked back at? I never sit down… my ears are tuned to the needs of newly hatched chicks trying to follow the hen across the garden, to the call of a buzzard or magpie..You can’t hug me because under my shirt the odd hypothermic chick is recovering in my bra. I can’t hold a meaningful conversation in Spring! I put cheese behind the cooker to discourage the dormice from running all over the work top looking for it and I mop up egg yolk from the floor in the morning after several dormice have spent the night rolling eggs off that work top to break them. I am amazed at the way animals observe me and fit my habits into their life style. I adore men but keep them at arm’s length because I don’t want to be told how to make my life easier or how to make more money, and I don’t need sexy underwear if it can’t accomodate hatchlings- I don’t want to be “looked after” because I’m happy (and proud of) the way I am, but I do take deep breaths of that wonderful male pheromone that hovers in the air when my hoof pedicurist is handling my horses or the local farmer is delivering hay! Having done the domestic life/marriage/children for one part of my life, the outside/animal/horse life is the next balancing part. Je ne regrette rien and my basket/garden/meadow is full! (And yes, my girlfriends like to use me as a comparison to their carefully organised lives, but secretly envy my freedom not to have to think of what’s for lunch and the warm welcome I get from my animals whenever I check up on them…)

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  17. Thanks Fred for the suggestion. However, personally I’ve always felt like just one of the Anna admirers (he or she), even though I am a man. I probably don’t have many pink genes or metrosexual elements, but when it comes to wisdom I often head toward a woman’s knowledge. Like you or Toni Morrison or reading Laura Hildebrand or having rooted for Amy to be President. I could go on, but I don’t want to ruin my welcome the next time I visit your stalls. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Hi Chaz. Always good to hear from you. You do appreciate women’s knowledge or donkey knowledge. Hard to tell the difference sometimes. You’re welcome any time…

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  18. I keep going back (yes, comments finally caught up here as well as my email) & re-reading this one. What a great bunch of people – men & women! And definitely MY kind of people. Just made a vet visit couple days ago – my 13 year old dog (my age in dog years) has more issues & of course Juliette (cat) really really needed her ears cleaned – vet informed me it took THREE people to do it! I believe it because all I’ve been able to do is shoot some juice in her ears now & then. They had to go in without me – likely it was better for all concerned! Now have to put ivermectin (!) in her ears twice a day. Oddly shes been pretty good so far. Suzie (dog) has elevated liver numbers so will have to take a liver supplement & go back for bloodwork in a month. Can you tell – we all of us are growing older together! But they are family – like my kids. You ALL know what I mean.

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