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Managing the Equestrian Lifestyle with a Non-Horsey Partner


horse and owners at an eventing competition

Earlier this year, I received an amazing job opportunity which required me to relocate from Miami, FL to Philadelphia, PA. I would be moving with my significant other, my dog, and my horse, Phinn. Now after realizing you are moving across the country, most couples would start looking for places to live. Instead, we flew to Pennsylvania to look at barns.

Not housing for us. Housing for the horse.

Our idea was to find a great boarding barn for Phinn and then strategically move into an apartment halfway between the barn and my work to make it an easier commute. We actually chose the barn, scheduled Phinn’s trailer, and ordered his “winter clothing” before we even signed our own lease. Now if that doesn’t say “equestrian,” I don’t know what does.

Let me preface this by saying that my partner is not a horse person by any means. He dated into this lifestyle. We’ve been together now for over 10 years and honestly, I would be lying if I said living the equestrian lifestyle with a non-horsey partner is easy. It’s a very expensive and time-consuming passion, and one that requires a considerable amount of understanding and sacrifice from your partner.

Over the years, we've had our fair share of challenges and discussions about the importance and role of horses in our lives. We've gone through trial and error and had disagreements, but the fact that we both agreed on finding a boarding barn for the horse before getting an apartment, shows our commitment to making this lifestyle work for us as a couple.

Here are a few things that help us manage the equestrian lifestyle while still maintaining a healthy equestrian-non-equestrian relationship.

Figuring out your finances


Determine the person in the relationship responsible for managing and covering the equestrian expenses. Horses are not cheap, and the monthly expenses can easily become a second mortgage payment. Decide if you both will split the total cost, each person pays for a different expense, or one individual is responsible for everything. In our house, although we share a joint account for household costs, I handle receiving and settling all the horse related invoices, and those expenses come from my income. We've decided on this financial arrangement because I receive the most benefit from the horse-related expenses, while he contributes more to household costs. This helps us monitor our spending, stay on top of both our equine and personal bills, and prevents him from worrying about the amount of money going out each month.


Something that we found really helpful for managing our finances as a couple was having weekly finance meetings, usually on Sunday before the start of the week. We made it a sort of "date night" where our conversation centers on upcoming expenses, debt needing to be paid, and plans for extra income. It's proven to be helpful in keeping us accountable and on the same page when it comes to our finances. Plus, it makes it a bit easier to discuss finances on a full stomach and with a glass of wine.


Setting a limit for horse-related spending


The limit does not exist...but it should for horse-related spending. Set a limit that requires your partner's permission for horse-related purchases. While this may seem controlling, it's actually considerate, especially given that horse-related expenses can be costly. Sometimes, as equestrians, we overlook the financial impact of equestrian spending because we feel it's necessary for our horse. However, making impulsive purchases, especially expensive ones, can unintentionally lead to disagreements between you and your partner.


For us, anything horse-related over $150 prompts a discussion. In my experience, I found my non-horsey partner was more concerned about the thought behind the expense than the cost itself. He wanted to know what is being spent and why, since big equine purchases could impact our household budget and future goals. Setting the limit has worked so well for us that we have actually implemented it into non-horse related things as well. Most of the time, our non-horsey partners just want to see us happy without being caught off guard by unexpected charges.

Managing expectations


This is one of the most important things for managing an equestrian lifestyle while maintaining a good relationship. Being an equestrian in a relationship goes beyond the financial commitment, it's a huge time commitment. If you have a non-horsey partner they might realize the financial sacrifice the sport requires, but not yet understand the amount of time it demands. It becomes your responsibility to manage their expectations. It's essential to keep them informed about the frequency and the amount of time you plan on spending on horse related activities.


To help with this aspect, in our house, we started using an "equestrian" calendar on the fridge. This is where I plan my riding schedule ahead of time and any upcoming horse-related events weekly and monthly. This helps us both understand when I'll be at the barn and when we could make time for other things. The fridge calendar really was a game changer. It's a helpful visual tool which reduces the amount of questions and makes sure that expectations are set and understood by both partners.


Don't take it personally


It is possible for your non-horsey partner to be supportive of your equestrian lifestyle without actively participating in it. As an equestrian, it's important to recognize that you and your non-horsey partner are separate individuals with different interests. They shouldn't feel obligated or guilty for not wanting to be more involved in your horse world. If specific aspects don't appeal to your non-horsey partner, don't take it personally. They can still appreciate and respect the lifestyle without actively participating in it.


For example, my partner does not like horse shows. He doesn’t understand why he has to spend nearly the whole day at a show just to see me compete for a few minutes. Is he a bad or unsupportive partner for not wanting to go to my horse shows? Some people may say yes, but I disagree. The reality is that I'm generally not available to hang out with him at horse shows. I am always on the go, working, or catching up with friends. So while he does opt out of attending most horse shows, he does accompany me to lessons and plays videographer, which I find better anyway. It's not that he doesn't enjoy the equestrian lifestyle, he simply just wants to experience it with me.


Talking about your combined goals


Once a year, usually right after New Years, my partner and I sit down to discuss, review, and update our short, mid, and long term goals. I find this conversation to be really helpful because it ensures that our horse related expenses and goals properly align into our overall financial strategy. By discussing our combined goals, we can set expectations, avoid misunderstandings, and better plan for the upcoming year.


By setting short, mid, and long term goals, we also remain focused as a couple on the bigger picture instead of getting knocked off our path by bumps in the road. Since we are on the same page when it comes to shared goals, we are better able to navigate life's challenges and financial hurdles. Personally, I think it's a good idea for all couples, whether they are into horses or not, to do this kind of talk once, if not twice a year.


Making them feel included


Include your partner in your equestrian lifestyle by keeping them informed about your horsey world and asking for their opinion. Even if your partner doesn't have much equestrian knowledge or interest, making them feel included is extremely important for fostering and maintaining a healthy relationship. While your partner may not be really interested in specific horse-related details, attempting to share aspects of your equestrian life helps them feel connected to you while you are away pursing your passion.


Asking your partner for their opinion in horse-related matters gives them the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process. Asking for their opinion communicates that their input is valued and turns individual choices into joint decisions with shared responsibility. This approach not only strengthens your connection but also helps your partner feel more engaged and invested in your equestrian journey. By asking for their opinion, especially with financial matters, you create an environment of financial transparency and respect.


Spending quality time with each other


In the early days of our relationship, the time I spent on horses wasn't a big deal. With just a lesson or two a week and a few hours each day commuting and riding, it felt manageable. However, things changed when I bought a horse. Riding increased to six days a week, and my involvement in the barn and the horse industry turned from a few hours to almost the entire day. This constant focus on horses became a point of contention in my relationship. My partner resented me for being at the barn, and I resented him for giving me a hard time about doing something I loved.


It took quite a few arguments before I realized that it wasn't the horse causing the issues; it was me. I was putting so much time and energy into living my equestrian lifestyle that I forgot to give that time and energy to the person I was in a relationship with. I needed to give my human partner just as much love and attention as I did my four-legged one. To address this, I created a pretty consistent weekly riding routine that allowed me to spend more time at the house with my partner. We started cooking dinners together, watching a nightly TV show, and taking evening walks with the dog to talk and catch up on our day. Engaging in activities unrelated to horses allowed us to disconnect from that aspect of our lifestyle and concentrate on spending quality time together.


Living the equestrian lifestyle as a couple


In managing the equestrian lifestyle with a non-horsey partner, finding common ground on priorities is essential.

When we moved, we made Phinn's barn a priority.

But the reason that this was made a priority was because this decision actually benefited our relationship. By choosing a barn that was conveniently located to both my work and the apartment, I would spend less time driving in the car and more time at the house. Also, by selecting a barn that had top care and service, I could be fully present at home with my partner without having to stress and worry about Phinn. We both acknowledge that horses will remain a significant part of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we make horse-related decisions based on how it will affect our relationship.


The real secret to making the equestrian lifestyle work with a non-horsey partner is figuring out how to best to live the lifestyle not as an equestrian, but as a couple.


It's worth noting that the equestrian lifestyle may not suit every couple, and that's perfectly okay. It does take a significant commitment both in time and in money. While we always hope that our partners will come around eventually, if your partner is not willing to compromise and remains unsupportive of the equestrian lifestyle, you have only two options.


One, lose the horse.


Two, lose the partner.


And for all those non-horsey partners reading this, as an equestrian, I can confidently tell you it will not be option 1.




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