Here is a take with pictures and humor, mine is just vitriol and a couple of weak puns.
Women and girls love horses. When I was younger I had a theory that it was displaced sexual issues: wrapping their legs around a muscly, sweaty animal, rubbing their clit on the saddle (in English-style riding you “polish” the saddle that way while “cueing” the horse with your knees and butt). This was a fun thought, but ultimately incorrect view with maybe a single thread of correctness.
Women love horses for the same reason men love their “stuff”, they just have different things that they want. I don’t know any families that broke up because of dad’s side business or stuff; I know three that broke up over horses. I like to believe it is because horses are uniquely fragile and terrible, but maybe my sample is off, or maybe the side-effects of it are extra toxic.
I was in the horse scene for nearly 20 years. I married into it and divorced out of it. It is populated exclusively by naïve white women of all classes, wealthy gay men, wealthy people running a tax loss on facilities, and loser suburban dads that pay real cash for it all.
There’s a ring of veterinarians, farmers, farriers, undercapitalized businesses and scammy cowboys that sustain the industry. All of them actively distrust each other and are convinced everyone else is incompetent. They are correct in this assessment.
Your wife has always loved horses and at some point buys one. No problem, bottom-rung horses are cheap. So cheap you have to pay someone to take them off your hands. There used to be a slaughter market but that no longer exists, so people are constantly dumping them, hoarding them, starving them, and “rescuing” them because there is literally nothing that can be done with them other than pay $300 to have them put down and another $250 to have it buried/composted/cremated.
Sorry, that was off topic. Ahem.
So now you have a horse. You have to put it somewhere. Board is typically $300 and up a month for someplace that isn’t terrible and that has space to ride; plus vet, farrier, medication expenses. Do you want to take your horse somewhere? You need a trailer ($10,000+) and a truck ($40,000+). Your wife might pay for the monthly board and such, but truck and trailer are man stuff.
Bottom rung horses can’t do fun stuff. It costs the same to keep a cheap horse as an expensive horse, so you might as well get one that you can trail ride or dressage or barrel race.
Does she know how to ride? Training is $75+ an hour. Want to take your horse to a show for the weekend? $750 minimum, plus somewhere to stay, so you might need a camper horse trailer ($40,000) which requires a huge truck ($60,000+). Can you share these expenses with someone? It seems like it would work but I’ve never seen that.
Guys can do math. Hay, we’re paying all this and need somewhere to park all this stuff, why don’t we just get a place with acreage? Build a barn and arena, I’ve now got a place to hunt and shoot, rent out some stalls and do some training… it pencils out ok. Gives the kids something to do and the wife can earn some cash boarding and training.
Turns out everything about living in the country is expensive; farmers know exactly how much they can charge the rubes; stuff breaks. A $1000 a month hobby turns into a $3000-$4000 a month tax loss amazingly quickly, which is nice in April but feels like a serious cash crunch every other month of the year.
The only thing horses can really do is make other horses, and baby horses are crack to a certain type of woman, so now she pays $750 for little tubes of horse cum that a vet inserts for $500, producing a baby that is worth $0 when it hits the ground. Keep it for 2-3 years at $250 per month total expenses, show it a few times, pay a cowboy to “break” it and then work it occasionally to develop its riding steps and you can sell it for $2000-$3000.
How are your math skills? You just sent $10,000 out the door with that horse.
Horses have this move they do, called “colic”. Whenever they make that move you haul them to the nearest university with a vet program and pay them a $5000 deposit up front. If they do this move once they will do it again. They will also very occasionally lay down and are unable to get up anymore and you get to disassemble them to get them out of the stall. (There used to be people that do this, called “knackers” but it is a DIY job now.)
So, you’ve got a place that you really love dependent on a business that is losing money in a sector that has been declining for the 20 years you’ve been in it. What are your options? How do you change direction or call it quits?
By this time your wife is really invested in this lifestyle and is also never able to leave because of all the animals and work that needs to be done every day. How good are your communication skills? Can you even talk your way of this?
Mine weren’t up to the task, yours probably aren’t either. Do yourself a favor, when your wife suggests moving up from the starter horse, put your hoof down hard and tell her neigh.