Horse-Life Balance

Like many of you, I am fortunate to have my horses in my life. But having horses often means giving up time for other parts of my life, such as going out with friends, cleaning the house (oh darn) or other hobbies.  Horse people have a saying: if your house is clean, you’re not spending enough time in the barn.

I was fortunate enough to grow up on a small hobby farm with horses.  My parent’s told me that if I wanted to have horses as a ‘grown up’ that I needed good grades in school, to get through college and get a good job.  Horses are not exactly a low investment hobby, so I followed their advice.  Now that I have the degree, career and horses, time seems to be the biggest constraint.

There is a certain amount of irony to this; the job that pays for the horses is the biggest thing that keeps me from spending time with them.  I don’t believe that I am alone; countless other professionals or college students must have this same struggle. 

During the week, I get home after a long commute (I live out in the country so my horses can be with me), feed the horses, clean the barn and check fences.  If anything has been broken, it gets fixed.  Add in time to feed and care for the dogs, myself and it’s already late in the evening, nearly time to go to bed just to get up early for the long commute to work the next morning.

My solution so far has been to ‘schedule’ my saddle time.  Weather permitting I designate an evening during the week after work to be ‘horse night’.  If I’m too tired from work, I will only do grooming or ground work.  So instead of cleaning the house, walking the dog or weeding the garden, the horses get their much deserved attention.  This is a sacrifice I’m willing to make; I’m sure the weeds will be there tomorrow.

What do you do to strike the balance in your life?

14 thoughts on “Horse-Life Balance

  1. I board my horse and even though I work full time, just finding the time to go out and ride isn’t as easy as it was 10 years ago when I bought my very first horse. After working an 8 (sometimes longer) shift, I am pretty tired and the thought of driving up to 40 minutes one way to the barn is daunting. But I am try very hard to *make* the time for my horse. Make the time for the quiet sounds of country life. No horns honking, no police/ambulance sirens, just birds, and an occassional vehicle that goes by and the best sound of all a horse whinney. I love to be with my horse once I am there and it takes everything I have to tell myself I really have to leave so that I can get some other things done in my life too, such as housework. I don’t have a large circle of friends nor do I belong to a saddle club (unfortnately) so making time for friends isn’t all that hard, but my co-workers definitely do not understand (or want to) my love for my horse and that’s ok, cause trying to talk to a non-horse person is tough at times. To get through my horse withdrawl when I can’t go out, I go to horse forums or try to otherwise occupy my mind. Isn’t easy. I always look forward to seeing those deep brown eyes and those perked ears when I come to the fence though to see her. I get a nicker from her now and then, so that makes me feel so much better.

    • Hi Mary,

      I appreciate the effort it takes to get out to the barn after a long day at work, and agree completely that once in the saddle, all the effort is worthwhile. It’s just a matter of getting past that mental block! Thank you so much for posting your comments and I wish you a happy summer of horses!

      Thanks!
      Megan C.

  2. I recently lost my pasture where I kept 9 horses. Had to give up part of them because we couldn’t build a barn big enough to take them all home. However, I still have 4 here with me. And yes you are right. If you clean the barn you do not have time to clean the house. I jsut love the way you wrote this up. It’s all so true. On top of not having enough time, and I don’t work, I have arthritis and fybromialgia to boot, so cleaning stalls and house work is extra hard for me. And you will not find anyone, I don’t care if they do vonlunteer, to help you when you need help the most. I will do this and keep doing it until I’m so crippled up that I have to be in a wheelchair. We do make a lot of sacrifices for our animals, but in the end it’s all worth it.

    • Hi Cheryl

      The last line of your note really hits home. The enjoyment they bring to us certainly makes the life choices and sacrifices we’ve made worthwhile. Thank you for your post and I wish you the best!

      Megan C.

  3. I have had horses now for 18+ years. Some I boarded and the last 11 years I have had them at home. I had a good amount of time w/my horse BEFORE children. Then I had a fair amount w/the help of my mother and mother in law and my grandmother that I got to ride a couple of times a week after my first child. But after my second…. Well I took a few years off of riding just enjoyed taking care of my horse(s) I did make some concessions that help make for less barn chore time and more horse time. 1. I dont have a “barn” w/stalls. I have a tackroom/feed room which actually is a converted shed. My horses have 10 acres of grass, and 2 run ins one of which can be converted to almost be as tight as some stalls. So I only have to clean the run ins once a week or less. I keep a small amount of horses and do pasture maintenance so that I have GOOD grass all spring, summer and fall. This means I only have to feed Nov-March and I have Air ferns for horses (easy keepers) so they dont even need much during the winter. During the summer I have to check the water daily and do the fence check (white fence tape- I can see most of it from a distance) and check the horses – aka feed them treats when putting fly masks on and off. So all my non kid/family time is spent w/the horses. AND my daughter rides so I can justify some time as quality Mother Daughter time and hubby cant say I am spending too much time w/the horses.

  4. This article is **so true** for me…I am trying to work less, ride more.

    The challenge is that the work is needed to cover costs of horsekeeping and equestrian activities, gear, etc. I keep on taking on some projects extra here or there to have money for horse items I need and/or want (just took on two projects that have to be done in next week! however, I have plans for that extra moola, looking ahead to doing more showing in the coming year!)

    A while back, I did a serious analysis of how I spent my time and whether it was making me happy – dropped a LOT of activities (first of all, returning phone calls from people who are time suckers, even dropped people from my life that I like very much, but, there is simply not enough time and energy for everything! Second of all ‘going out to lunch’ or ‘coffee’ got dropped! and many many more things got dropped (yes, including housecleaning, that got dropped to a bare minimum)!). I also assessed my ‘stuff’ and sold anything that wasn’t actviely making me happy (also tried to get rid of any stuff that simply took too much time or money to care for!) so that I could turn it into funds (andturn it into saved time in some cases) for horse activities or horse ‘stuff’ that DOES make me happy! It pays to really think about everything you do, everything you own from dishes, to cars, clothes, music, books, and clean out whatever was important to you at one time but no longer actively makes you happy! I bought a saddle by selling old books, music cd’s and taking some clothes to consignment shop! (I also consign-sell any horse stuff that I find I no longer need so I can turn it into stuff I now need).

    I ride one or both of my horses 5 or 6 days a week now, nearly every week! I earn less money, and am MUCH happier! My horses are too!

    • Hi CB,

      Thank you for sharing your story! You really got me thinking about the choices I’ve made for how I spend my time and energy; physically, mentally and emotionally. While I still struggle with saying ‘no’ to activities like volunteering, visiting with non-horse friends and other activities I enjoy (gardening and photography) I have been able to make other changes in my life such as whittling down on the ‘stuff’… physical items that clutter my space and take time to organize and maintain. I know I won’t change overnight but I’m glad I’m now thinking harder about my decisions. It really does come down to the choices we make for our lives and setting our priorities.

      Thank you again! ~Megan C.

  5. Spending time is just that and if you do that the bond can only grow stronger. Today I tried something a little different that could especially be done if you are tired from working and only have a little time to spend with them. I sat on a bucket reading a horse training blog that I had printed to read at a later time. Of course the two 3 year olds that I have been training for two years could not stay away from me. This is what they do when I fill the water tank, clean the barn or anytime I am out there. They are either licking me or nibbling on my pant legs or sometimes just hanging out to be in the way, but I love it so they are allowed. Anyway back to my point, I sat on the bucket and they came up to me. One was nibbling on my boot and the other licking my coat, so I moved them, one by light pressure on the nose and the other with my paper flapping. back a few steps and tried to go back to reading. Each time I moved them only the amount of steps they took toward me, 1 step forward 1 step back. After a little while I looked out of the corner of my eye I watched for even the slightest weight change toward me, the idea is do the least amount of pressure you can and them understanding that this is where you want them to be. Pretty soon is was just lifting my hand for one and just moving the page for the other. When the both stood very still and did not move toward me for a few minutes, licked their lips telling me they got the message. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a cookie. They stayed in their place and I reached out to give them the cookie. Spending time is sometimes is just spending time sharing their space with them. Doesn’t mean that they can’t learn something small in that time and this is a great ground skill. Debby

    • Hi Debby,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! You illustrate a great example of how just being around horses was good for you and them. The thing I struggle with is thinking I need to have an outcome, such as a ride/training session when I’m out with them. But really, just brushing, cleaning up their barn or hanging out is therapeutic and rewarding. Thank you for providing the perspective!

      Cheers – Megan C.

  6. I love to read that so many people feel the same way I feel about horses. I have four horses, a Paso Fino , two pleasures mares and an Apaloosa filly, they are all I need when i feel tired, bored, sick,etc. I just have to go near them to feel happy. About having time to clean the house, it is so funny but is the truth, I clean my horse stalls every day so my horses feel confortable and happy but it doesnt leave me any energy to clean the house, actually i dont like to do house work. They are the best and purest energy you can get. I love my horses and do wathever takes to keep them healthy and happy.

  7. Hi Megan,

    I don’t know if you still check this blog, but your post (and the replies) were just what I needed today. I work full time about an hour from where I live (my horse is about 10 minutes away, and fortunately on my way home). I work full time and I am a part time grad student. I have a 7 year old Thoroughbred mare I’ve been working with and am at a fairly low-key training barn. We take lessons together once a week but I always feel guilty about not having enough time for her. It has been leading to thoughts recently about how I’m going to keep this up for another year and a half (how much grad school I have left) and if it’s fair to her and to me. I keep thinking, well, it’s just a year and a half … but she’s in training, getting older, and it’s a whole year and a half. Anyway, a lot of the points made here about how important a small amount of time is really hit home. I always feel guilty for not having time for a lunge (at the very least) or a ride when I’m out there. I also need to make sure I simply make time to give her grain and do a quick brushing with her, at least. I just love the idea of reading out there while working on ground manners, too. Anyway, thank you for posting this. It was really helpful.

    • Hi Kristin,

      We are definitely checking this blog and appreciate you reading through and commenting! I certainly believe horses are a lifestyle and just as you said, sometimes just a brush and a pat are all that is needed. Especially during harsh winters like this one, it’s important to make the most of each minute we can around them.

      So happy this helped you – please stop by and read again!

      Best,
      Megan

  8. Hi,

    I have a young horse too, he’s about 45 mins away from me and I work full-time shift work. It’s super hard to “make” time to go out there, especially with him being so far away, its not financially logical to drive an hour and a half total to go out and spend ten minutes with him, but I feel so much better when I do that it is worth it in the end. Glad to know I’m not alone!

    Shelby

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