We’ve all heard about those equestrian-oriented online dating services. They’re part of the increasing specialization of the Internet matchmaking business, which now generates roughly a billion dollars in revenue in the U.S. each year.
But...do they actually work? Do they enable horse people to find real love-with a soulmate who shares their enthusiasm for country living and all things equine?
To find out, we decided to talk to the folks at EquestrianSingles.com, the most recognized dating service for horse people worldwide. Founded in 2001, the Texas-based Web site boasts over 10,000 marriages and success stories around the globe, according to founder Marcia Zwilling. She helped us locate five couples willing to tell us how they went about finding their horsey sig-o through cyber dating.
Here are their stories.
Connie and Han: Best First Date Ever
Connie Schuh of Fort Collins, Colorado, had just lost her childhood horse to old age when she decided to try online dating. She joined EquestrianSingles.com in January of 2004—but with some trepidation.
“I was nervous about putting myself out there for strangers to see,” she explains. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to know someone well enough via e-mails to feel comfortable meeting him in person.”
A month later, she connected with A. J. “Han” Smith, owner and general manager of the Rusty Spurr guest ranch in Kremming, Colorado. The two corresponded by e-mail for three weeks before speaking on the phone.
“Han didn’t brag or boast about his achievements,” she recalls, noting that e-mail turned out to be a good way to get acquainted, after all. “Instead he’d write about how amazing it was to watch the moon rise over his cabin, or the wonderful smell of sage when he galloped his horse through it. All that evoked a feeling and image that can’t be portrayed in a regular conversation.”
When they did finally connect by phone, they talked for hours, “as if we’d been friends for a long time,” says Connie. They also planned a day to meet in person a week later.
“I’m cautious, so for our first meeting I had my sister in tow, and we all went skiing. A short time later, we had our first real date—he took me horseback riding through the snow all around his ranch.
“It was a gorgeous, sunny Colorado day in February, and the horses were perfect,” she continues. “Han packed us a saddlebag lunch and even remembered what I liked to drink. We never ran out of things to talk about. I believe it was the best first date ever because we’d had a chance to get to know each other so well through all those prior e-mails.”
Connie says she knew things were serious several months later, on another ride.
“He took me out along a beautiful stretch of the Blue River. We stopped for a break and got off the horses, and he held me in his arms. The look in his eyes when he told me he was falling in love with me was when I knew he was ‘the one.’”
They were married in 2008 on horseback, at the ranch. “We gave each guest the option of a trail ride through the ranch with one of our wranglers at some point over the weekend. People still talk about that!”
Today, the couple manages the guest ranch together, providing cattle drives and trail rides through the Rocky Mountains with a string of mostly Quarter Horses, which are treated “like family.”
And speaking of family, the couple’s son, Wyatt, is now 2 years old. (You can visit the Smiths’ ranch online at rustyspurr.com.)
Christy and David: Skip the Horse, Take the Girl
A client prodded real estate broker Christy Hartman of Gresham, Oregon, to join EquestrianSingles.com in 2005. She’d earlier tried Match.com without much success, but over the next few years, she met many interesting people on the equestrian site, some whom she dated and some who were just friends.
Then, in 2010, the need to sell her Quarter Horse gelding Commando (because of the economy) prompted her to put out the word through the Web site. This eventually led to contact with David DeCourcey, a real estate title examiner from Bend, Oregon, who was also a member of the site. Christy sent him photos of her horse, and the two began corresponding by e-mail and phone.
“On the phone he was warm, witty, and smart,” Christy recalls. “He was comfortable talking about anything from politics to raising kids.” Eventually David said he wanted to come see Commando—and his owner—in person.
“I told him I prefer a cowboy, not some city-slicker type,” Christy recalls with a laugh. “The day he came, he showed up at my door early, and my hair was still in curlers. I told him I wasn’t ready, so he went out for breakfast. When he returned, he was adorable—all dressed up in Western clothes and a cowboy hat and with two-dozen red roses in his hand. The chemistry was there, and it really was love at first sight.”
They went to see the horse, and wound up driving to the Oregon Coast, “singing crazy songs we both knew by heart, eating great food—the day seemed to last forever and it was wonderful,” she says.
The pair wed a year later. They now live on a 40-acre farm outside of Bend, with five horses they use for trail riding, sorting, and cowboy mounted shooting. One of the horses, by the way, is Commando—Christy wound up keeping him.
“Friends tease David that he should’ve just bought the horse—and saved himself a lot of money,” says Christy. “He always laughs and says he’s very happy with how it all turned out.”