“Horse people are not like normal people. That is a fact all horse people know, and I define myself as one of them.”
By Princess Märtha Louise of Norway. Photos Therese Alhaug & Malene Nilssen
Horses attract people from all walks of life. From the poor to the rich. From the highly educated to the non educated. From thin to fat. From tall to small. From outgoing to introverted. From happy to sad. At a glance we look quite different. And that is the beauty of horse people; we tend to meet across social status, gender and differences. The love for horses erases all that. What really count for all of us, are the horses. We even tend to love these magical creatures more than our friends, children and family. Resulting in our Christmas cards not containing members of our families, but of our horses. Horse people tend to think of their horse first. And we are, sorry to say, a tiny bit obsessed with our four legged friends. We even fall in love with them and talk to them excessively as though they understand what we say.
“The love for horses is normally transmitted via the horse people’s genes to the next generation too.”
I remember the first thing that hit me in contact with horses was the expansion of my senses. Entering a stable has always been a liberating experience to me. The stable smell is the most poignant to me and makes me feel safe and taken care of. Adding the sound of the chewing jaws, the stepping of hooves against the floor and the soft neighing of my beloved horse, make all stress that I previously had, leave my body. Shoulders relax into place after the high pitch that the stressful life outside the stables imprints on me. The focus changes from troubled thoughts to the present moment of – what should I call it – bliss. What better place to lean your tired stressful head than on a horse’s shoulder? Feel the nuzzle sweep your hands, and lightly chew your neck. Hugging you in a warm embrace. How come normal people don’t get that?
“Real horse people tend to get up at 5AM on a Saturday and Sunday morning to go off to a show, regardless of having been out the night before.”
As a child, coming from an upper class background, as I did, with a lot of behaving well and being neat and tidy, where cleanliness was a virtue, behaving well for a tree climbing adrenaline-seeking tomboy like me, was a bit of a challenge to put it mildly. Escaping to the stables where you were expected to get dirt under your fingernails with no small talk regarding the weather was heaven. Horse people do not think weather is important, unless it is related to the horse, that is. If it is related to the horse, mind you, it is really important! I mean, it is important for knowing how many blankets the horses need to wear in the paddock. Or whether they need to be taken in earlier because of a downpour. It is even important to talk about the weather if snow has suddenly arrived and none of the horses have their snow grips or their permanent studs for winter on their shoes. It is also important regarding how wet the ground will get, and whether to take the horse out in the class or not. But, as superficial small talk, never.
If you, as a normal person, decide to enter a horseperson’s house, make sure to step carefully to avoid crushing any of the Jack Russels that will most likely come barking towards you at the entrance. Try to overlook the horse smell as you enter. Understand that it makes the horseperson who lives there – in addition to all the photos or paintings on the wall of their beloved horses – feel safe and secure and as though they haven’t left their stable after all. Don’t be surprised if you find shavings in the bathroom. If you had been mucking out horses, the shavings would have stuck on your socks too, resulting in a trail of shavings around the house once the boots are off. Say yes to the tea or coffee presented in the cups decorated with horse quotes or beautiful horses. While eating please comment on the beautiful horsy cutlery and continue throughout the meal to ask about their horses, who they are bread by, what they are working on right now etc. Whatever the theme of the conversation as long as it concerns horses, is not looked upon as small talk. But never question the fact that the horse person, although previously having eaten a piece of apple from the horses mouth picked up from the floor in the stables, need to wash their hands excessively before eating at home. Or might even have a small phobia for bacteria on doorknobs in shopping centers.
“I actually love driving the truck. I love getting ready for shows, filling the truck up with all our show gear, the girls’ ponies and my horse and off we go. It’s like going on an adventure together.”
The love for horses is normally transmitted via the horse people’s genes to the next generation too. Two out of three of my children have inherited the love for horses. When my kids come home from school, they run up to the stables, even if I have given them strict instructions to do their homework first. They don’t even necessarily go to the stables to ride, but to check if the horses have survived the night without them. They muck out their stables and their paddocks. Carry heavy buckets to give them fresh water. Check their blankets. And cuddle them. They cry desperately if I don’t let them go to the stables one day because I think it is important for them to spend time with normal people and friends from school, once in a while. That is how horse people are.
Horsepeople take responsibility from an early age, because the horse is a living creature who needs attention every day. Regardless of your form, health or the weather. You have to be present. They have to be exercised and ridden in addition to being groomed and looked after. The handling of the horse is in itself stimulating for the emotions, but scientifically it is now proven to develop attentive leadership in girls. And there are a lot of positive scientific studies on what the horse does to girl’s self esteem and confidence. Luleaå University of Technology have done several studies on women who work with horses and how this enhances their entrepreneurial and leadership skills that they can benefit from at work, the doctorial theses by Lena Forsberg states.
– In the stable women are handling big horses, they skip pastures and repair horsescups. Courage and decisiveness are rewarded, something that challenges traditional gender patterns, says Lena Forsberg.
In a stable, or in a competition involving horses, you will find both genders side by side. They will do the same amount of heavy work, ride as many horses and compete at the same levels at shows. Both women and men drive the huge horse wagons. And I must admit I have the license to drive them too. I actually love driving the truck. I love getting ready for shows, filling the truck up with all our show gear, the girls’ ponies and my horse and off we go. It’s like going on an adventure together. Valuable time spent with the children. The wagon has a living, so we have somewhere to stay during the show, we might even spend the night there if it is more than a one day show. The living is also used as extra space for show gear and usually looks as messy as horse people’s cars filled to the rim with horse gear resulting in passengers hardly fitting in the car at all.
“Horse people tend to act the same way as they give signals to the horse, straight forward”
Horse people tend to act the same way as they give signals to the horse, straight forward, clear and with emphasis. They have strong voices from bellowing across the field or the indoor school. And whenever they need to remember a person, they ask; ”Which horse did he/she ride again?” Remembering straight away, who the person was when the name of the horse is mentioned.
Real horse people tend to get up at 5AM on a Saturday and Sunday morning to go off to a show, regardless of having been out the night before. And they don’t really care if they smell of horse even around normal people. Horse people would never dream of changing their clothes to buy groceries or go to the store. They don’t smell the horse smell, so they get very surprised when normal people do.
Yes, horse people are a special breed. Our lives seem to pivot around our beloved horses to whom we owe the best and some times the worst times of our lives. We are not like normal people. But although we some times tend to look down our noses at normal people for not having opened their eyes to the tremendous gift of loving horses, we tend to manage to mingle quite well with them, after all.