My tween daughter just had the Christmas every little girl dreams of.
She got a horse.
Now, technically, she didn't get the horse for Christmas. She got the horse about three weeks earlier due to a whirlwind confluence of events that left all of us a bit stunned (not to mention, suddenly impoverished).
It all started on Veteran's Day. I know this because my daughter had the day off from school. In her world, a day off means an extra day at the stable — never mind that it's a half an hour away. Never mind that she has neither a car nor a driver's license. Never mind that her mother has dueling deadlines for clients. (Clients that, I might point out, fund said excursions to the stable.)
Still ... being the devoted parent (read, "chump") that I am, I arranged to drive her there prior to starting my day. I was wearing rumpled yoga clothes and no make-up. Just wanted to give you a visual so you can understand how I looked (and felt) when I was sideswiped by the stable owner.
"You have a minute?" the woman cheerfully asked as I was about to exit stage left.
"Uhhh, sure." I didn't, but what are you going to say?
She proceeded to explain that we had to start thinking about buying a pony — our own pony, as in, our own pony with our own money. This was a business request, really. My daughter has been competing at the "Novice" level and wants to move up to the "Training" level. This means more and higher jumps. The school's horses have to accommodate many riders and the stable's owner really couldn't continue to lease her best jumpers to just one student.
"Plus," she told me, smiling, "This is the right time of year if you're going to buy one. The owners don't want the expense of keeping the horse through the winter. You can get a much better deal."
I drove home (later than planned), thoroughly freaked out. The idea of buying a horse wasn't new. My daughter has ridden for nine of her fourteen years; this isn't a passing fad. But, my husband and I had hoped we could wait until she was sixteen. That way, she could drive herself back and forth to the stable every day. And, hopefully, we would come into some money between now and then. Maybe I would sell a bestselling book? We might win the lottery? Great Great Great Uncle Sherman (whom, of course, we have never met or even heard of) could pass away and leave us his fortune?
The exact words out of my husband's mouth when I relayed the conversation, were "We can't afford it!" But, after a lot of discussion, we realized that we might be able to afford it. All we would have to do is give up some of life's little luxuries — like food, shelter and clothing. We agreed that we would "start looking at horses." Like any modern mom, I went online. That's when forces beyond our control took over ...
I found an ad for a pony the right size, age and breed ... BAM!
We went out to look at the horse ... POW!
We put down a deposit ... WHACK!
We took our trainer out to inspect the horse ... WHAM!
Faster than you can say, "Holy Unexpected Equine Expense, Batman!" we owned a horse.
There was more to it, of course. There was vetting (by an actual vet), a visit from a saddlery professional. His teeth have now been "floated" by an equine dentist, and he had a pedicure from a "natural equine hoof trimmer." (As I write these checks, I imagine all the trips to spas I'll never take.) There have already been several mail order deliveries of tack: harnesses, lead ropes, girths. Soon, I trust, the buying will slow down. I mean, really, how many saddle pads does one pony need?
The horse itself (which everyone has assured us was "a steal" — eek!) was just the beginning. One of our instructors told my husband, "You could sell him for twice what you paid for him." Yeah, right. Over my daughter's dead body.
Speaking of ... if the whole process has taken my breath away, try talking to the young equestrienne. I'm surprised she doesn't pinch herself every morning. "I can't believe I own a horse," she whispers. "I can't believe I own a horse."
And, we are using the entire experience to help her build responsibility. She is paying for half the tack out of her allowance, babysitting money and savings account. She knows (and has agreed) that her grades cannot dip with all this increased stable time. She is working hard with the new horse, training him and looking forward to competing together in shows this spring.
We are very lucky that we can provide this enormous (truly, we're talking 1,200 pounds or so) new pet for our daughter. It will involve a lot of give-and-takes, compromise and prioritizing. Suffice it to say, we probably won't go on any family vacations for a while.
That's okay though. It's not like my daughter wants to be on some beautiful beach or touring a foreign country. For now, her home and her heart are where her horse is.