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Last winter a gambler who sat next to me in a Las Vegas casino said "horse sense" is what keeps horses from betting on people. This wisdom arrived too late - my husband has already left me for a mare.

Brown Betty captured Paul's city-slicker heart when she sashayed past the rancher's fence. With her part Percheron heavy horse lineage, she can carry off 800 kilos with elegance.

I don't blame him or his wandering eye: She's a majestic blood bay beauty with a thick black mane and tail, all set off by high black stockings. Add a large proud head and rounded hips and, well, she's downright sexy.

Until this summer, Paul didn't know a fetlock from a petcock. His previous horse experience consisted of childhood rides on the coin-op stallion at his neighbourhood grocery store, and betting on a few fillies last winter.

We're spending a few months in an RV park north of Edmonton. There, the owners have a herd that trots tenderfoots like us over peaceful forest paths. Through befriending the trail guides, Paul has learned how to bridle and saddle, and how to gallop bareback without falling off.

Now he knows the difference between a snip, stripe and star on a horse's head. Now he can differentiate the sounds of a nicker, neigh and whinny. And now he dreams of horses.

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While his equine skills are green, his head is covered by a weathered Resistol cowboy hat, his western belt adorned with barbed wire and his feet protected by Dan Post cowboy boots. He's all dressed up with plenty to learn.

Losing him to a horse on the weekends doesn't bother me. What does annoy me is how he'll accept Brown Betty's mood swings yet not mine.

He rolls his eyes when I nag him that "doing" the dishes includes drying and putting them away, not piling them like a house of cards on the counter. But Betty can nip his hands when being fed or kick over the water pail he's just filled. This he finds adorable and for her, no amount of bad manners or work is too much.

Who knew a relationship could be so easily forged with apple-flavoured biscuits? Forget the nagging. I shall nip and kick more often.

As for how far my personal stock has fallen, I consider the effort and money Paul spends on his May-to-September affair. He thinks nothing of making a 30-minute drive to a feed store where he'll drop in excess of $100 on special treats.

When I bribe him with a promised massage if he'll pick up a bottle of wine, he'll sigh and drag his feet to the truck, even though the liquor store is only five minutes away.

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Now he's interested in buying a blanket for a horse we don't own and might not see again after the snow flies.

"The colour of this one will bring out the brown in Betty's eyes," he answers defensively before I can question the expense. I'd like to believe the "Sale" tag reads $50, but I'm sure there is a third digit preceding those numbers.

We are standing in the cluttered aisle of a store that sells everything horse-related. I should be happy his focus has finally shifted from all things diesel truck-related, but like his truck the meaning behind these product labels is equally foreign.

He doesn't hear my loud "pffft" when I drop the price tag and walk toward the front door, away from this candy store of horse must-haves. He's deep in a trance, running his hand over a patterned wool/cotton blend.

The subject of grooming is another spur in my side. I own one brush. Betty, on the other hand, has five at her disposal. The softest is for her face and the toughest is for her hooves. In between face and hoof, she is buffed by any number of gadgets - from a curry comb that loosens the dirt to a polishing cloth that brings out her shine.

Paul sprays her with a pricey concoction to avoid tearing out hair when combing her tail. Me? I only have room for a tube of defrizzer in the RV's compact medicine cabinet. I didn't even bring along my hair dryer. Betty's mane looks more radiant than mine.

The last barnyard straw was when I found one of Betty's tail hairs kinked across my pillow.

"Honey?" I called out to Paul, enraptured in his chair by a book on horse conformation. "After you've played with your girlfriend, shower before coming to bed. There's only so much sharing I can take."

I am a reluctant Calamity Jane to his Wild Bill Hickok.

One morning I shut the trailer blinds and pretended no one was home. Betty was standing mere metres from our trailer. She was looking for Paul and would have kicked down our door if there wasn't a fence between us.

I wanted to shout, "Come back later, Paul's working so he can pay for your treats and tack," but then I would have seen the disappointment in her long-lashed eyes. I might be a woman scorned but I also have a heart, even though it hardened like a peach pit when I added last month's horse expenses.

Ride 'em, my faux cowboy. I'll bet my money on the bobtailed mare.

Shannon Kernaghan lives in Red Deer, Alta.

Illustration by Valero Doval.

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