When Horses Have Her Heart but So Do You: The Male Survival Guide for Dating a Pro Rider

When Horses Have Her Heart but So Do You: The Male Survival Guide for Dating a Pro Rider

Pursuing the same sport can be advantageous in a relationship since your partner has an understanding of the demands and long-term commitment required by it. But that isn’t always the case. Whether you’re a professional athlete yourself in another sport, or a complete “civilian” when it comes to the equestrian lifestyle, it’s true what they say about relationships: it takes two to tango, and regardless of background or profession, we know that the dance isn’t always easy.

Renowned Course Designer Guilherme Jorge on his wife, show jumper Angela Covert

Noëlle Floyd: How do you and Angela find balance in your relationship and parenthood as you both travel and work as professionals within the realm of international show jumping?

Guilherme Jorge: It is, for sure, a big challenge, but Angela is an incredible mom—very hands-on with everything that has to do with our 22-month-old son, Lucas. We have to have a nanny so both of us [can] work, and when Angela is traveling to shows, [our nanny] travels with her. We managed to organize our calendar so that we were together at Lake Placid and Ottawa, when she was competing. She also sometimes comes to support me at shows like CSI3* Central Park and CSI5*-W Helsinki.

Is ‘horse-talk’ something that is naturally a part of your day-to-day, or do you try to separate work from your home-life?

We are pretty good about having horse-talk, but we also talk a lot about non-horsey subjects. Luckily, we have a lot in common outside of the horse world. We keep our business totally apart, but of course, talk about it and try to exchange our experiences and support each other.

Unfortunately, I can’t help Angela with her training, and to date, I’ve never designed her a training course. We agreed and understood that we had to keep it separate to avoid any potential conflicts of interest right from the beginning of our relationship.

The only time I help her is when she goes to give clinics, and then I help to design a course for her to use, but not for her own training.

How do you pass the time at the shows when you are there to support Angela?

I mostly just be a dad and supportive husband, and help with taking care of Lucas. I try to enjoy it as a spectator, have a drink, and watch the good sport. My main concern is Angela’s safety, but of course, I am part of her cheer[ing] party.

Do you have any advice for the men in relationships with equestrians who are not necessarily equestrians themselves?

Angela is a very dedicated and perfectionist [oriented] professional, but she is also very good about putting her family as a very important part of her life. It is, for sure, a challenge to a non-horse person to date a professional rider. The scheduling, itself, the weekends, and all the long days can be very demanding. My advice would be to first learn how demanding the hours and schedule are, and then try to create a balance [so] you wouldn’t have to be there all the time, but be there for the important moments.

Professional soccer player Roy Meeus on his wife, show jumper Ashlee Meeus-Bond

How have you and Ashlee have found balance in your relationship and new parenthood both being pro athletes in different sports?

It was quite easy to find balance in our relationship because, being an athlete myself, I know what it requires to be a professional in a sport. Our lifestyles were pretty much the same before we met, and it worked out great after we got together. After having our daughter Scottie, it has gotten a little more complicated!

There are times where both of us have to ‘work’, but we have a wonderful nanny who helps us out a lot! The horse world was something completely new to me. I was never involved in the sport until I met Ashlee. After being together for a few weeks and the more I went and watched her show, I started realizing how amazing she is at what she does, and what she means to the horse world. Our marriage has been wonderful, and with our beautiful daughter, we could not be happier!

As someone who was new to show jumping, do you find it more exciting now that you better understand the sport?

It definitely is! I admire and really enjoy seeing athletes perform at the top of their game, whichever sport it is. Now that it’s my wife that’s competing, the excitement is immense! Also, you get to really like the horses and with that, have some favorites as well. Ace of Hearts (aka “Spike”) has been my favorite since the beginning—a little fighter, with a big heart! Ashlee and him make an amazing pair!

When both of you have events on the same weekends, what are your conversations like?

We usually try to follow each other’s events through live stream, and then ask about how we personally experienced it. You’d be surprised how much it reflects on our own sport when we talk about each other’s!

Jean Pierre Jouannic on his wife, Eventer Chelsea Nix

When you first started dating Chelsea, what surprised you the most about the horse industry?

I knew a little bit because I used to ride when I was 15. But what surprised me the most was how passionate she was—how passionate you have to be to make it. What surprised me in eventing is how difficult it is for good riders to find a horse that matches their expectations or skill level; you need to be very passionate to try and make that happen, which really impressed me.

When you’re at a horse show, what is one thing you have to have to help you pass the time?

We usually take our dogs with us to the show. They get a lot of attention and everyone loves them, which is nice, because you can meet a lot of people.

Has watching your wife compete made you want to start riding again?

Definitely, but not as an eventer. I’m scared of cross country, and I wouldn’t do dressage, because I feel like it’s a bit boring for me. I’d like to do jumping [for fun].

What has helped you and your wife find balance in your relationship that you could recommend to future pro-rider spouses?

The number one thing is we try and find time together as a couple. When your wife is competing, you never have a weekend off, so we try to organize something without the horses or the farm.

Try to have another activity outside of horses, or try to find something you can do together. This is a particular sport because horses take up so much of your time and money. I think for the husband, it could be good to do something else every once in a while.

If you really want to be successful riding horses, you need to make choices. When you get a horse, it’s not just for six months or one year. You’re thinking about something that might be ready in three or four years, or you might even need to breed to get the horse that you want. It’s a long-term process, and I feel it’s very important that when you get ready for that particular decision, you can talk as a couple. Try to get your husband involved in your decision to try and make the thing happen together.

Feature photo by Kristin Lee Photography