Have you ever had this happen to you? After meeting someone for the first time you casually mention that you own or ride horses. Suddenly, you become keenly aware of the contorted expression that has spread across the face of your new acquaintance:
I get this look a lot, which probably explains why I don’t have a lot of non-horsey friends. Of course I also get this look from some of my own family members. My daughter also experiences this in school which can make a teenager feel somewhat isolated at times. Why is it so difficult for people to understand the passion that comes with loving horses?
The reaction that I get from people when I express my love of horses usually determines whether or not a friendship has any hope of survival. This is not a bad thing, because who has time for insincere friendships? My husband doesn’t ride (or at least not very often), but he understands and supports my passion and frequently comes out to the barn with me. The horses love to see him since he usually has a bag of carrots in tow. He understands that I would rather go on a trail ride than shop at the mall; I don’t want to go to a party if it interferes with my riding lesson; I don’t care if my car is always covered with muck from the barn and smells like horse manure. Unfortunately, few of my other non-horse friends understand this about me. So how does a horsey-loving gal make friends outside the barn?
My suggestion is to bring a friend who doesn’t understand your compulsive need to be around horses out to the barn. Introduce them to some horses; let them brush one and show them how to safely give treats to a horse. Make sure that the horse you use for this introduction is friendly. If your friend looses a finger while feeding a carrot you’ll probably never hear from them again. The point is to show your non-horse friend how peaceful it can be to interact with horses, out of the saddle.
If the trip to the barn goes well, take them on a trail ride. There are many places that specialize in trail riding for non-riders. This is a safe way to introduce your friend to the sport. Many people underestimate how relaxing a trail ride can be – meandering down wooded trails on a hot summer day. Hopefully the ride will clue your friend into the spiritual connection that forms between horse and rider, even on an hour long trail ride. We did this when my husband’s family came out to visit us in Texas. My daughter and I had recently bought our first horse, and many members of the family seemed to feel that we had lost our minds. By taking them on a relaxing trail ride they gained a better understanding of our passion.
Another way to introduce non-horsey friends to equestrian sports is to take them to a horse show. Summer is horse show season and there are plenty of shows going on across the country. (Check out usef.org for a list of events taking place across the country.) Taking in a horse show with a friend can be a wonderful way to introduce them to a variety of equestrian sports. Whether you watch dressage, jumping, or go to a rodeo, there is a lot to learn about the physical strength and mental concentration required to be a top notch equestrian.
Have any other suggestions about how we can build friendships with non-horse people? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.