Pull up a hay bale, my fellow female equestrians, because we’re about to talk dating. (Sorry to leave you out of this one, men, but the male perspective on all this should come from an actual guy!)
I think parents are always secretly glad when their teenaged girls are involved with horses. In addition to teaching them valuable lessons about the work ethic, caring for another being, and the value of money, it also tends to keep teens out of trouble. After all, they’re at the barn instead of the mall, spending their Friday nights braiding for horse shows rather than getting drunk at parties and dating a new person every week.
I was one of those horsey girls. I had horses at home for awhile, so my day essentially involved getting up early to feed them, going to school, then coming home to do homework, ride and do chores. When I eventually moved my horse to a boarding facility so I could show more actively, I replaced the time spent on barn chores with a part-time job in order to pay for board, shows and my car.
What I am getting at is that there wasn’t much time (or need) for a social life outside the barn and horse shows. This hasn’t changed much as I’ve gotten older. And I know I’m not alone – this is the equestrian lifestyle. The only possible downside is that there really isn’t a large number of men involved in this sport. If you happen to find one, good on you! But for most of us, with the exception of the farrier and feed delivery guy, the male to female ratio isn’t exactly in our favor.
FOUR TIPS FOR GETTING OUT THERE
Just exactly how and where do I meet a good guy these days, you might ask yourself while grooming your horse. It can be challenging to meet people in general, but it can be even harder to find guys who are copacetic with the whole horse thing. After a few failed relationships with Mr. Wrong and Mr. Convenient, I was sitting on the other side of 25 asking myself that very same question. With a job and a farm to run, I don’t have much time or energy for a night out on the town. I didn’t do the “go to school and meet a guy” thing, and I don’t want to meet a guy in a bar. So now what?
1. DON’T SETTLE FOR CONVENIENCE
I’m probably one of the last people who should be offering dating advice, but you can learn from my mistakes. If there is one thing I would say, it’s try not to “settle” for convenience. The horse world is small. You see the same people all the time – whether in the barn, showing on the same circuit, etc. You can find yourself spending an awful lot of time with someone you might otherwise not. This could either be a good or bad thing, depending on how many red flags you are ignoring.
Convenient can quickly become very inconvenient when things head south, and again, because the horse world is small, everyone knows it. Plus, you will still have to see that person everywhere. It’s kind of like inter-office dating. Tread carefully.
2. LEAVE THE FARM
If the pickings are slim in your horsey realm, what should you do? I’ll share a tidbit of knowledge someone hit me over the head with a few years ago. You might actually have to leave the farm! Going to horse shows/clinics/ the tack shop doesn’t count. Your odds of meeting someone go up drastically when you expand your horizons past the however many acres you live and play on, and don’t simply wait for Prince Charming to come up your driveway or drop into your manure pile. Set a day or evening every week to go out and do something. Take friends with you. It doesn’t have to involve going to a bar. Make a list of all the fun things you’d like to try but never “have time” for. Take a cooking or fitness class. Go to the zoo. Take your dog to try out agility. You never know who you might meet.
3. START NETWORKING
Let people know you are looking for a relationship. I’m not talking about putting up a “significant other wanted” post on Facebook, but if there are people around you who know you fairly well, make them aware you are interested in meeting someone. They may either know someone you could hit it off with, or they’ll keep it in the back of their minds should they run into someone in the future. It never hurts to expand your network.
4. ONLINE DATING
Another option, thanks to the wonders of technology, is online dating. This is a concept I never thought I would be comfortable with, but a friend convinced me to give it a try for a short span. I did it more as a joke than anything, and figured it couldn’t hurt. It was definitely a different experience that I can only describe as hilarious, nerve-wracking, fun – and work. Picking a dating site was interesting – there are a few just for rural, farm and horse folks, so you know you’re not alone in this!
Creating a dating profile was probably my biggest challenge. I’m not one to try to promote myself in anything, ever. Writing my profile was like trying to write a sales ad for a horse (those are a lot easier). In the end, I tried not to take it too seriously.
And then there are all of the other profiles – oh my! Once you get on the site and see just how many other local folks are doing the same thing, you’ll immediately feel much less alone or silly. But it definitely takes some dedication to go on the site each day, look through the profiles (again, the search options remind me of looking for a horse online), and answer messages you have received (which will range from ridiculous to realistic).
But wait – now you are actually supposed to meet some of these people! This is where I quickly became uncomfortable with the experience. Meeting up with complete strangers was a little out of my comfort zone. I always made sure it was a very public place, and that friends knew where I was. I did meet a few nice guys. But overall, it just wasn’t for me. That said, I know several couples who met online and had great success with the whole experience.
Good luck on your journey – and it is just that, a journey. There will be ups and downs, and it’ll be ongoing – there is no “deadline” to find someone. Take your time, follow your heart, listen to your brain, and one day you’ll meet Mr. Right.
FINDING A BALANCE
Once you have some ideas about how to meet new folks, remember to keep these tips in mind as you move forward.
• Try not to put yourself out of the dating field with your selection criteria. You know how some horse shoppers have a zillion different things they think they want in a horse, then look forever without ever finding the “perfect” horse? One day, they by chance come across a horse that would be great for them, but that meets few of their original “must haves”. Well, dating is kind of the same. You need your core “must haves”, for sure. But try not to be so specific that you miss out on someone great because of something you might eventually realize is compromisable or goofy.
• First impressions are important, but they aren’t everything. The first time you meet someone, especially if it’s a blind date, you can end up overanalyzing everything. “He wasn’t as attractive as in his picture”, “I’m not sure if there was any chemistry” and so on. If you didn’t run away screaming, don’t be afraid to give it a second shot.
• Equestrian relationships involve give and take. Our sport is expensive and time-consuming. If you do not handle this well, it can become easy for a partner to start resenting the time, attention and finances your horse consumes, no matter how understanding he may be. Balance your time. Discuss horsey finances early on. Always make time for your partner and make sure you take interest in his own hobbies.