How we got over heartache… with a divorce horse! Steadfast, loyal and always there for them – meet the women who say there’s no better way to spend the alimony cheque
- Some women go on holiday after divorce but some unconventionally get a horse
- Four women say their ‘divorce horses’ were the best way to mend bruised hearts
Divorce has always been one of life’s most stressful events. But then the decree absolute arrives and the financial settlement — if you’re lucky — lands in the bank. But then what?
While many women may book an exotic holiday, treat themselves to a new outfit or even a little treatment or two, some have found a very unconventional way to spend the alimony — on a horse.
SAMANTHA BRICK spoke to the women who say their ‘divorce horses’ were the best way to mend their bruised hearts.
‘WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER, CHARLIE,’ I WHISPERED
Relationship therapist Caroline Lovett, 54, lives in Lewes, East Sussex. She has two daughters and a son in their 20s.
I walked down the aisle in 1985 when I was 20. We were both so young, we knew nothing about relationships, and sort of bumbled along together. I was always mad about horses and learned to ride as a little girl.
I’m adopted. In my 20s I discovered my birth mum was a riding instructor who had carried me while working, which convinced me horses were in my blood.
Caroline Lovett from Lewes, East Sussex, and her horse Charlie
Sadly, my ex-husband never shared my passion, and as motherhood and life took over, there was no room for a horse in my life. And, of course, feeding and caring for such a large animal is not cheap. Occasionally he’d bandy around the idea of ‘letting’ me get a horse, but it never really happened.
Three children and 25 years later, we’d grown apart and divorced in 2010. The following year I was working long hours in shifts as a nurse. On a break one evening, I found myself browsing a website specialising in horses for sale.
My desire to own a horse had got stronger, the children were growing up and my eldest daughter was leaving for college. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing from my life.
Within minutes of scrolling I found Charlie, a beautiful two-year-old chestnut-coloured Welsh cob. Entranced, I couldn’t scroll on by. My boss walked in and asked what on earth I was doing. She was right to challenge me. I was going through a divorce and struggling to make ends meet, so why on earth was I looking at horses?
I was about to receive £20,000 in alimony and the sensible thing would be to spend it on the house, or put it into my pension pot, but I pushed all reason and logic to one side, called Charlie’s owner and arranged a viewing.
As soon as I saw this young colt, so full of wild energy, rearing up and showing off, I had to have him. My daughters told me I was crazy.
Charlie’s boundless masculine energy made me realise passion was sorely missing from my life. I paid the £600 price and, as I walked him out, I whispered: ‘We’re in this together, Charlie.’
The first time we rode out was a profound moment. After the divorce I was left feeling raw and wounded, yet this cheeky horse helped heal my damaged heart.
I haven’t looked back and neither have the children. Charlie quickly became part of the family, bringing us all closer together. We’d take him for walks along the South Downs, making a day of it with a picnic.
I feel safer on Charlie than on my own two legs. I do my very best thinking and planning when I’m with him. If I need to work something out in my head, a good old gallop sorts it out.
He’s everything I could ever wish for in a man and more.
I FELL INSTANTLY FOR CHEEKY, LOVEABLE TED
Beauty therapist Kristy Godsall, 26, is single and lives in Blaenavon, South Wales.
Instead of seeking marriage counselling after my divorce, I looked to my horse, Ted, to help me heal. When we’re together, he helps me forget about the world and makes my problems go away.
I was with my ex for three years. He was in the Army when we began seeing one another, we married in August 2016 and he left the Forces in 2017. Sadly, we weren’t compatible and split up within a year.
Beauty therapist Kristy Godsall, 26, lives in Blaenavon, South Wales. Her horse Ted (pictured) helps heal her after her divorce
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It had always been a childhood fantasy to own a horse, but while I was married it just didn’t enter into the equation. For starters, my ex was allergic to them!
When I found myself single again I took time to reflect on my relationship. My love and attention had been focused on my ex: it’s part of my make-up to want to care and nurture someone.
So, feeling sad, I asked a friend if I could borrow her horse now and then to see if it made me feel better. It did.
Sitting in a saddle, and placing myself in the trust and care of a horse was how I’d imagined therapy to be. Riding out together, my troubles just faded away and the positive feeling lasted for days.
Over the following months, I rode my friend’s horse almost daily. I came to realise I needed my own.
After we’d split, my ex paid me a few thousand pounds, which I could have spent on a new floor — or a horse. I’m afraid there was no contest and I immediately started looking for my new ‘Mr Right’.
I viewed five different horses and had a £1,000 budget, although I ended up paying £1,200.
When I entered the yard, Ted’s head was poking out of his stable.
He caught my eye and something passed between us. As I approached him I put my hand out and he gently licked me. I fell for him instantly.
Ted is a Blagdon grey-blue cob and a cheeky, loveable character.
My girlfriends were really happy I had a new ‘man’ in my life, but my dad told me I was ‘nuts’. I was often told I’d traded my husband for a horse!
Ted and I have a spiritual connection and he has helped me to find ‘me’ again.
Ted’s so trusting, that’s why I’ve put my heart and soul into our relationship. My rewards are plenty, because he brings so much joy and happiness into my life. Even on cold, wet mornings when I’m up to muck him out, I’ve never regretted making Ted a part of my life. My philosophy is that with horses you get what you put in. In a relationship with a guy, sadly that’s not always the way.
FLASH OPENED THE DOOR TO A NEW LIFE
Riding instructor Caroline Stagg, 44, lives in Wimborne, Dorset.
I WAS married for nine years. The divorce was amicable because essentially we had wanted different things.
I was working in investment banking. When my career took off, it became my main focus, sadly at the expense of my marriage.
Riding instructor Caroline Stagg, 44, from Wimborne, Dorset, was married for nine years but her relationship broke down when her job in investment banking took off. She is pictured with pony Rosie
We divorced in 2010 when I was 35. My newly single status meant I worked even longer hours. While the payoff was a promotion, I suddenly found those weekends alone desperately long and lonely.
I needed something to focus on and that’s when Flash came into my life. My sister’s horse, he was at the age to be broken in to ride, which she didn’t want to do.
He seemed just the project I needed to get me back on my feet.
So I dipped into my divorce settlement, and bought him for £2,000. I know my friends and family thought I was mad. I barely had time for them, how would I have time to break in a horse?
At that time in my life, it wasn’t unusual to be working until 11pm — and after my divorce I was usually one of the last people to leave the office. But having Flash changed that.
Flash needed to be trained and he needed me. I had to get home in the evenings, and up in the morning to feed him and muck him out. I couldn’t let him down.
Flash filled the gaps at the weekends and he also opened the door to another social world. I went to group lessons and met other likeminded individuals who I’m still friends with today.
He quickly became my main priority. It was lovely having those moments to ride out together.
After I was made redundant in 2017, I walked away from the world of banking. I was in my early 40s and ready for a career change, so I decided to become a full-time riding instructor.
Flash and I parted company in 2012 and he’s now a happy old man, enjoying retirement with another family.
But I have four more horses. There’s Rosie, Milkie, Lucy and Bobby. My horses are my family. People who don’t have a horse won’t understand the bond.
The first chap I dated after my split didn’t ‘get’ horses and we went our separate ways after a year. It’s non-negotiable that I spend all my spare time with my family. They’re not a hobby, they’re my life.
Since then I’ve warned chaps that horses are part of the deal. Now, I’m finally seeing someone who totally understands!
Flash changed me as a person. I’m a better rider, but I’m also more accepting and more tolerant of not only other people but also of myself.
NO MAN LISTENS TO ME LIKE BARNEY
Stacie Allensby, 37, is now married to Paul, 38. They run a taxi company in Warminster, Wiltshire and have two children, Jack, ten and Skye,eight.
Barney has been in my life for 15 years. Our relationship is the longest one I’ve ever had with a male.
The reason for welcoming Barney into my world came as my first marriage broke down. I was just 17 when we met, and it was a relationship fuelled by dramatic break-ups and make-ups.
Stacie Allensby, 37, is married to Paul, 38, and they run a taxi company together in Warminster, Wiltshire. Her horse Barney has been in her life for 15 years
Looking back, there was no fault, we were simply too young. I walked out after five years. It was the right thing to do. I’d spent virtually the last year we were together in tears. I moved out of the flat we shared and back in with Mum.
I had no one to talk to, I didn’t want to burden my family with my relationship woes, and I was desperately lonely.
It took a couple of months to arrive at a financial settlement that my ex and I were happy with. The sensible thing would have been to use the money he gave me towards a deposit for a flat, but fate intervened.
I’d always been mad about horses, although I’d never been able to afford one. When a friend suggested that we go and visit a horse show one weekend, I was happy to tag along.
I was swept up in the excitement of the day and, when a lady gave me a number for a yard where there were horses for sale, I got it into my head that this was a good thing to do! I’d arranged to see a mare — I really didn’t want another man in my life — but as a stable hand attempted to put a saddle on her, she bucked and wasn’t having any of it.
I looked over a nearby gate and that’s when I saw Barney giving me the once over.
For me, it was love at first sight. Within minutes I was in the saddle. The feeling of coming home was indescribable.
Barney, then 12, was in his prime. He’s a large, rather hairy, chestnut and white, heavyweight, cob skewbald. I paid a deposit for him then and there.
Mum was astonished when I told her what I had spent £2,000 on, exclaiming: ‘What the heck have you got yourself a horse for?’
Barney helped me in ways that I didn’t know an animal could. Every morning while mucking him out I’d get my feelings off my chest, then we’d disappear off into the woods for hours.
I would complain to Barney about the state of my love life, grumbling until I was blue in the face! No one else would have listened so attentively to me. Friends going through their own relationship woes chose to find comfort in alcohol. I’d never judge, but that could so easily have been me. Barney was a healthy alternative to going out partying.
I met my husband, Paul, a year after I bought Barney. I introduced them to one another a month after we started dating. Paul isn’t a horse person and never will be, but he respects how much the ‘other male’ in my life means to me.
He knows that Barney helped me through a difficult period and that we come as a package. Even though I am now married with children, I see Barney, now 27, twice daily. I still consider him my best friend.
Taking on Barney was the best thing I have ever done, that’s why he’ll always be in my life. He’s an absolute saint.
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