Horse ownership disagreement - join in!

Oh you guys, you really need to read the first letter and the comments. The husband and I would NOT get along, as you will easily see!


Yeah, he’d be getting the boot. Sorry. Sounds like riding has been great for her mental health, it’s a bonding time with their daughter, and he is being a petulant child at best. She wants to hide in a cave? This isn’t “bad behavior” it’s abusive behavior. I’d get a lawyer before checking into a cave, but maybe that’s why I’m still unmarried & childfree at 43.


Put the husband in the cave maybe. With a nice boulder over the entrance.


So many Shrek references here…


I think the differences in the childhood background are a key factor. Preconceptions about someone else’s activities and attitudes can definitely derail communications. Maybe he’s secretly worried that horses are for ‘very rich people’ hobnobbing with other very rich people - and he doesn’t see himself as being in that crowd.

This letter goes well beyond horses. Horses are just the trigger for both of them. She is going to have to get to the root of the problem, and so will he. But I think that there may be a way forward if they both want to find it.

I also think his comparison to a strip club has to be taken seriously just as an insight into what is wrong with the horse picture in his brain. It sounds as if something about her connection to the horses feels very threatening to his feeling that she’s serious about their marriage - even about him. Maybe he thinks that she loves a certain lifestyle, even a certain crowd, more than she loves him? And of course, ironically his over-reaction is having just the effect of creating a rift between them - maybe unintentionally.

On both sides - Grabbing a key issue and maintaining an emotional stand in opposition to one’s partner is a way to further a divide. Have to wonder what is really going on here.


Absolutely. First thing that stood out to me was she out-earns him, by a significant amount. Many, many men are very insecure about that. Ask me how I know…
There is far more going on here than she wants a horse and he doesn’t…


This 100%. There are underlying issues that have nothing to do with horses that need to be addressed. His underlying anger towards an activity that both his wife and child enjoy is a bit unnerving and seems like a move to keep tight control over his family.

If he is truly concerned about the time or expensive that horses require sitting down and talking about it might lead to solutions that everyone can live with.


Seeing as I have always done what I wanted, maybe I shouldn’t comment… Agree there is definitely more to it than “just” horse ownership, especially since it sounds like he grumbled enough over a quarter-lease to make her quit that as well.

Being at least $50k into a six-figure income, unless you are already living the McMansion lifestyle, a horse would not be a huge money sink for even just her income even in some place with $1500/mo board (tho…yikes…). I comfortably close to upper-middle class and have six and a farm mortgage.

Add to it that it sounds like she only derives happiness from the horse parts of her life and bonding with her child, and this sounds like a super unhappy marriage on its face.


Seems to me that this wifey’s horse ownership causes conflict over dear hubby’s ownership of her.
I know two couples well where one of them is so controlling that if the other one is here at our farm, or anywhere else without the other one, there are usually more than one checking-in phone calls. But it’s a rare occurrence because the controlling one rarely suffers the SO out of their sight.
As for expenditures for both of these ‘awkward’ couples, everything bought better be for the enjoyment of both together or it’s a real source of contention.

I don’t know how often this sort of controller/controllee situation occurs in marriages, but omg, i’d not endure it for two seconds.


Even without six figure incomes, my DH knew better than to “forbid” me anything. What century is it again?


Poor woman. I’m going to channel my inner Dan Savage and say: DTMFA!

I actually wrote to an advice column once about whether to move with my college boyfriend to an area that would suck for riding, right as my FEI horse was ready to step up towards GP. I chose horses even though my boyfriend wasn’t being a jerk about it. It was republished recently, 15 years later, which was an interesting trip down memory lane!


So what was the answer you received?

Only question I have…do they (husband and her) ever spend any time together? And no, washing the dishes and falling exhausted into bed does NOT count. She, and he, need to bond with their daughter. She and he need to bond with each other as well. If horse time is replacing time that might have been that…I can actually kind of see the origin of the strip club comment.
Relationships do not continue, do not grow, without care and feeding.


And re that, we are only hearing her side of the story. It would be interesting to hear his.

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Here’s my letter (which I find slightly embarrassing as an older, wiser person but oh well, here goes):

Dear Carolyn: I am trying to make what seems to be an impossible decision. My boyfriend and I have been together 1 year 9 months, but long-distance for the past 14 months. We are both 23. We are both convinced we have found our lifelong partners.

However, he has been required to take a job on the other end of the country. I have been offered a good job there as well, but moving would take me away from something I have been working toward for years, that is very, very, very important to me and has been since long before we met.

He is unwilling to continue dating long-distance for the next two years, which would be the next time we could be together, though we talk every night and visit every month or so. I need to decide in the next few weeks whether to follow him and give up this very important thing, or to stay and give him up.

The fact that I haven’t decided yet is tearing us apart both as a couple and as individuals. I have talked it through with many friends, tried making lists, paid attention to my dreams, but these haven’t helped. I have no idea how to make this decision.

— Agonizing

I told her the very important thing was horses but asked her not to publish that part because I thought it would be too identifying. Even so, boyfriend’s sweet mom saw the letter and guessed it was me. Funnily, my husband (not the college boyfriend and not a regular advice column reader) happened to click on it when it was re-published last month, and he thought of me too.

Answer from Carolyn Hax:

Agonizing: Ooh, ooh, I know! I think.

How does he feel about this pursuit you’re finding so hard to leave behind?

If he doesn’t respect and support it — I mean really get it, not just lip service, which anyone can pull off — then he doesn’t support you, know you, love you. Certainly not enough to justify a heart-rending cross-country move based on, essentially, seven months of dating.

If he does really get it and I’ve brought you no closer to a decision, then we still have this: You’re 23. If he’s right for you now, he’ll be right when you’re 25. You don’t even have to agree to that now; it’s a conclusion you can both come to independently, despite — or even thanks to — breaking up and starting new lives.


What an interesting reply. IMO she nailed it.

Sometimes we forget that our decisions are not always permanent and for the rest of our lives.

Although in this case you would not have had control over his actions during two years of separation. It is quite common that during a cooling off period, one ex-partner finds what they feel is a much better partnership option. But to Carolyn’s point that might saved the other partner from a decision that wasn’t going to last, anyway.


So what ended up happening? Did you break up, get back together, stay together??? Did the advice help?
I don’t think you should be embarrassed, that’s a very heartfelt letter.

Thank you, I find it a little cringey but maybe it’s just like hearing a recording of your own voice lol.

We broke up. I actually can’t remember if it was before or after the letter was published…I think maybe before. My goal was to reach Grand Prix with the horse I’d bought as a 4-year-old and gotten to PSG after many soundness setbacks. The boyfriend was moving to two cities in a row (term-limited job between college and grad school, then grad school) that would have been far far away from my longtime coach and would have made dressage training and showing difficult and highly inconvenient due to trainer/board options and show locations. My horse was 11 at the time so I didn’t feel like I had 5 years to waste. The first city was also super hot and my horse has anhidrosis. We did have more soundness setbacks but I got my USDF Gold Medal on him about 6 years after the letter!

Here’s the update I posted in the Washington Post comments when it was re-published last month:

Update from LW2 here! Wow, was it weird to start reading it and think hmm that sounds kinda familiar… The update is that we did break up, have not lived in the
same area since, and are both happily married to other people (since our late 20s/early 30s). We email once a year or so.

The breakup was sad and difficult of course, and I still think if we’d stayed together we would have been good partners. However, I don’t believe that there’s only one path to happiness and I am comfortable with my decisions. I did achieve my dream and am still very involved with it, which was really not possible in the places he lived for 5 years after the letter. My wonderful husband is very supportive of it.

I don’t fault bf at all for the decisions he made either, or for not wanting to date long-distance indefinitely. FWIW, I was the one who initially moved away from him, when I graduated and he was still a student, to work overseas and then do a grad program. We both made the decisions that were best for ourselves, which I think was appropriate at that stage in our lives. It is interesting to think how different my life might be if I’d moved with him, but it’s not something I dwell on.

The Very Important Thing is competition at a high level of a geographically limited sport. I’m sure some people would deride it as not important enough to base life decisions on but it was/is for me. The vagueness was at my request because I felt the details would make me too identifiable. Although, even with the
vagueness, bf’s mom saw the letter when it was first published and guessed that I had written it. Weirdly, today my husband clicked on the advice section for his second time ever and thought of me when he read it! We had a hug and a moment of reflection about what we would have missed had our paths never crossed.


I also find it interesting that the wife only mentions wanting to buy a horse so she can ride a lot more-no mention of having also considered the cost/ time involved in caring for said horse. Perhaps that’s where the husband’s objections are coming from. We all know horses cost a lot, with farrier, regular and emergency vet care, boarding, maybe even showing- but I wonder if they as a couple have discussed all this?

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I suspect it is about emotion as much as money. I really think the “strip club” analogy he is making, that makes no sense to most of us, or to his wife, is key to understanding his anxiety.

“Strip club” is his emotional shorthand for a deeper situation that his wife obviously isn’t catching onto. I suspect this was more about the intensity of her focus on riding and horses combined with the time away from him. Basically, that she is being distracted from their marriage in a way that he finds divisive. Just as she would react to him becoming enamored with strip clubs, something that could jeopardize their marriage.

But to her he is totally misinterpreting and over-reacting – but people don’t like to hear that in response to something they are deeply anxious about. They want their anxiety to be understood, acknowledged and validated. She’s not on that page on this subject, though.

And then he may be of the mindset that money is to be preserved, while she has prepared financially for the future and feels that some money should be enjoyed now. But we don’t know their different spending habits or what each finds of concern about the way the other uses money.

Just a random radical guess! But if they are willing to dig into these ideas there could be a way forward for them.