You can’t go anywhere this time of year without catching glimpses of red and pink hearts, little cupids and ads for roses. Every retail outlet has a sweetheart theme, every restaurant a lovebird special.
Even the equestrian world has jumped on the bandwagon. I got an email from the Equine Network mailing list the other day that was titled “14 Ways To Treat Your Horse-Loving Sweetheart,” but it just advertised books! Now I’m a real sweetheart and a horse lover, and I can easily think of 14 other ways to treat myself.
I’m not a hater of the holiday, by any means. I’m definitely not one of those women who steers clear of the color red in her wardrobe. (I know someone who eliminates any red or pink items from her closet just in case she forgets the date and winds up wearing them on Valentine’s Day—and “supporting the propaganda of love.”) I still send valentines, and I would gladly welcome any flower delivery on the day (or any day, for that matter).
But it comes as no surprise that my favorite Valentine’s Day memories are equine-related. And although those boys who played a supporting actor role on those occasions are no longer in my life, they still hold a special place in my heart for fulfilling a horse girl’s romantic fantasies.
The first boy was a senior while I was a sophomore in high school. His parents lived right down the road from where I kept my horse. They had alpacas, and his mother made him a sweater from alpaca wool each Christmas.
In his pursuit of me (in addition to writing me love letters), he often stopped by to visit me at the barn. This should have wooed me immediately, but I, of course, had the biggest crush on his best friend. In one of his last attempts to sweep me off my feet, he beat me out to the barn on Valentine’s Day, and when I arrived, my horse was wearing a homemade Valentine around her neck. (Well, actually that’s the way he hoped it would happen. But my mare wasn’t keen on playing Cupid and got rid of it, so my trainer found it mildly trampled in the field and posted it on the bulletin board.) But it’s the thought that counted!
Nowadays, I would have signed my life away to a man who was that thoughtful, but that high school love story ended—where else, besides the barn?—when he kissed me as I was cleaning stalls, and I told him “I didn’t feel anything.” I’m such a heartbreaker.
Karma ended up biting me in the butt with that one because, like any true 16-year-old, once he was done with me, I decided I loved him, and he took someone else to prom. He is now married with children and still proudly wearing his alpaca wool sweaters.
Coming in a close second was V-Day 2009, when I was riding through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with my then beau. He was the first horse guy I’d really ever dated, and I think hearts were floating out of my eye sockets as we wandered through the woods on horseback.
I have to mention that I was on very strong painkillers after having sustained a serious injury only weeks before, so that could’ve had something to do with my euphoria. Even though I was certainly not supposed to be on horseback (I was still in a cast), I reveled in our peaceful and romantic lover’s promenade (only to find out my horse had also been given a tranquilizer to ensure I wouldn’t incur any further injuries).
I’m positive there won’t be any memory-making this Valentine’s Day that will rival those, and it’s not because I’m feeling nostalgic. It’s just because I don’t have a date at all—or even a potential secret admirer.
So how has a great girl like me managed to not have suitors texting and emailing me (no one calls anymore!) to secure a St. Valentine’s Day spot on my schedule?
I’ve been going out on a lot of dates recently. Winter weather has seriously cut into my riding, and so I decided to pursue the company of humans instead of equines—nothing wrong with trying something new! But here is why I won’t get chocolates from the following two gentlemen.
Situation 1 – He’s Learned From Experience
I’ve been going out with this guy off and on for a few months. He’s hilarious, and while he knows nothing about horses, he makes very good horse jokes. We won’t be going out because I believe he doesn’t think I would actually make it to the date. His reasoning is based on past behavior, and in his defense, I would also be nervous asking myself out for a planned evening. The last two times we were supposed to go out “tentatively,” I was unable to keep those plans. The first time I got a concussion when I was knocked out by a horse while blanketing him. The second time I had to school ponies at a horse show so the kids wouldn’t get thrown.
“I don’t know what school ponies means, but I guess I’ll try to catch up with you later in the week,” was his response.
Situation 2 – Mr. A Bit Too Nice
I’ve only been out on one date with this guy, and since then, I cannot get him to stop texting me—no number of one-word replies or ignored texts have been able to get that message across. Now, the guy is really nice. He’s thoughtful and obviously listened as I rambled on about how being a horse girl has changed my life, because ALL his texts have something to do with that.
“Pretty day! Are you going riding?"
“I just found out today that one of my clients also rides horses!”
Or my personal favorite—as part of the invitation to be his date for a function one Saturday night.
“I’m certain there will be people there who have horses or ride horses.”
Like I am unable or uncomfortable to converse or socialize with anyone who doesn’t. I slyly denied that date.