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It's All About the Money

A couple of years ago, as my husband and I were walking through our nearly complete barn that we’d had built on our property after years of talking and planning and loan-acquiring, he said, “We should name each stall after a college we won’t be able to afford to send our kids to because we built the barn. This one will be Princeton. That one, Stanford. The wash stall can be Harvard.” I laughed, but couldn’t help but wonder if, someday, my children might not think it’s so funny.

Like most people who own horses and whose last name isn’t Gates or Trump, there never seems to be enough money. We spend our days looking at our checking account balance, wondering if we can will more money into it simply by staring at it. We ask our accountants if we can claim our horses as a tax write-off. “Can’t they qualify as dependents?” we say, as they roll their eyes and take another swig from the flask they have hidden in their desk drawer (which we secretly think would be a really nice hunting flask and wonder how much it cost). We obsessively watch hay prices. We stalk sales at tack stores like vultures circling a carcass. When our friend throws out a halter because it’s torn and the leather is frayed, we say, “I’ll take it!” and find a roll of duct tape. Problem solved. We’re the dumpster divers of the equestrian world.

Those of us who live in the horse world know: For every magazine article featuring an equestrian wearing a bespoke cubbing jacket and boots, who splits her time between Manhattan and Wellington—where she has a horse property valued at the equivalent of Guatemala’s GDP—there are hundreds of the rest of us, whose breeches have holes and whose gate latches are made of baling wire.

Confessions of a Foxhunting Mother

I’m sitting on my horse at 8:55 on the first really cool morning of fall in northern New Mexico, getting ready to cast out with the hounds. Horses are milling. Hounds are sending up their joyful, anticipatory howls. And I’m on my cell phone, calling home to check on my 11-year-old son. He’s fine, I tell myself, even though he’s not answering. Even though he’s home alone—my husband is out of the country, my daughter is at a sleepover. Even though I left the house before he was awake and a fire could’ve started or he could’ve slipped in the shower or he could’ve choked on his cereal. He’s fine, I tell myself again as I hang up, mute my phone, put it in my pocket, and set out at a brisk trot behind the field master.

He’s fine has become a sort of self-soothing mental tic I’ve developed over the last decade-plus of motherhood as I’ve worked furiously to carve a life for myself outside of my children. As anyone who has kids knows, this is harder than it sounds. Yes, being a parent is an amazing gift that teaches us about the wonders of childhood and how to be fully present as we watch these small creatures transform from drooling, wailing infants into soccer-playing, science fair project-doing, poetry-writing human beings. But what the Hallmark card doesn’t tell us is that being a parent is also an all-consuming, often draining, often soul-crushing gig that can leave you feeling defeated and deflated, staring in the mirror at the end of the day, wondering when you started getting wrinkles on your neck.

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