Jillian Hill is a 23-year-old hunter/jumper enthusiast. She graduated from Utah State University in 2016 with a journalism degree. Horses are her passion in life, with journalism a close second! She has a soft spot for grouchy geldings and owns two: Donny and Atlas. They compete in hunters.
We are all busy with our everyday schedules, and aside from the lucky few, we don’t have the luxury of paying our bills with our hobby. Even though we would prefer having our equestrian lifestyle as our top priority in life, that just simply isn’t the case.
Most of the time our riding and equestrian goals are put on the back burner, what with work, school, family life, and taking care of the horses. We know things have to change, but how? And when?
There are a myriad of different tips and tricks that can be learned from amateur equestrians on how to integrate the horse lifestyle into an everyday routine. What better way to gain a few extra minutes in the saddle or barn than by stealing some hacks from fellow riders that have it figured out? This list should help you accomplish just that.
1. Keep a riding calendar.
Haley Johnson from Utah is a Thoroughbred owner, eventer enthusiast, barn manager, and full time veterinarian assistant. In order to achieve her specific goal of competing at a USEA recognized show at Novice level in 2017, she likes to keep a calendar by the barn door.
On it, she writes when she has a lesson or practice ride and a brief note of how that workout went. For example: “Canter transition, great!” or “Jump 2’3” lesson, trouble w/ leads.” This also helps her gauge how her horse’s fitness and training is progressing.
2. Remembering that time out of the saddle is actually beneficial.
For upcoming winter months, Haley follows the direction of eventing legend Jimmy Wofford, by giving her horses a month off from work for some much needed “rest and relaxation.” This allows her to spend more time inside catching up on tack cleaning, event calendar planning, etc.
3. Find little ways to save time and money.
In the same way that an efficient equestrian finds ways to save a moment here and there, pinch pennies can add up to better financial security and a bigger budget for equestrian activities.
For instance, Haley has now added a peculiar way to save money, by taking advantage of Walmart’s online order/free grocery pick-up. With it, she can easily keep to her weekly grocery limit, and it helps her to avoid those budget-draining “impulse buys.” Saving money on groceries means more money to spend on lessons.
“After all, a well-fed equestrian with spare lesson money is a happy equestrian,” she added.
4. Manage priorities.
Alicia Campbell is an amateur eventer, horse owner and full time senior at a university in California. For students, it’s a balancing act to stay on top of equine goals while keeping up with studies. She offered this advice: Have a time management priority list. Be prepared to draw boundaries on activities that aren’t academics and riding, which may mean limiting outings with friends.
5. Let riding drive your less-fun life responsibilities.
Alicia also noted that riding goals are a great way to motivate the tackling of non-horsey duties — in her case, academics. When you add the incentive of barn time after you finish your studies, she explained, you are more likely to meet homework deadlines.
6. Of course … never give up!
Competing heavily and being a full time student means a lot of long, exhausting nights. “Carry on even when you fail,” Alicia concluded. “All the best riders have failed at one point or another.”
7. Integrate riding into everyday activities.
Brynn Choruby from Oregon is around horses for a good chunk of her everyday life. She trains and owns six horses, is an amateur eventer and freshman in college. She takes integrating the horse lifestyle into an everyday routine quite literally.
“I work out and stretch while I cook,” she said. “You can do all sorts of exercises in the kitchen.”
“I also have this weird thing where I practice dressage while I’m driving the horse trailer; I imagine the hitch being the ribs, gas being leg, brake being seat, wheel being outside rein, etc.,” she continued. “I don’t think anyone else does this, but it really helps me go over things after a ride and get into the mindset of riding before a practice or show.”
As great as this tip is, make sure to pay attention to your driving. The last thing we need is a bunch of equestrians doing dressage patterns on the road with a truck and trailer.
8. The early bird gets the … extra horse time.
At one point or another, most equestrians have been advised to wake up early in order to spend more time with the horses. These next two riders explain how they manage to make it work and why it is so beneficial.
Tresa Downey is an amateur eventer in Utah. She coaches and trains on the side and also recently opened her own riding school, the Saint George Riding Academy. She likes to have barn time before her nine-to-five job. She packs, plans, and does her makeup before she hits the barn, after which she changes her clothes for work.
Emily Burns, a trainer of western and English disciplines in California, believes in groundwork every day before breakfast. “Being groggy together as man and steed always seems to establish and maintain a greater connection,” she said.
9. Team up.
A simple tip came from Leah Hayes in Idaho. This amateur eventer works full time, owns horses and helps run her family’s farm. Her advice is to find an accountability partner to ride with. It is a lot safer teaming up with a buddy, and it’s harder to talk yourself out of riding when deep down you know you really want to be with the horses.
10. Involve family.
This advice is for equestrians who work and have small children. It comes from Stacey Hess in Utah who works a full time job, is an amateur eventer, a horse owner, and mother of two.
She explained how sometimes she has no idea how she manages to do it all but she gets by with a lot of family support. Her children share her love for horses, so when she goes to ride she will saddle up a horse for them, letting them do their own thing while she focuses on her riding.
She also mentioned how important it is for her to include her children, because having little worker bees who enjoy helping out at shows isn’t such a bad idea.
“My kids are so excited to go to shows and watch, support, groom my horse and clean my boots,” she said. “I am a very lucky riding mom. As much as I love horses, and competing is my passion, my family is always my first priority and I always make sure they know that.”
For the equestrians with children who are not fans of the horse world, make sure to involve them in other ways. For example, if going to a show for a couple days where you need to bring your children, get a hotel with a pool and make sure there are fun activities to do when not showing.
Keeping the balance between family, school, work, and horses can be tough. By prioritizing what is important, keeping close to a support team, putting in the work and hours, and adopting some “out there” tips, balancing these can become a little easier. It’s difficult to manage, but when we continue to work on it and spend time with our equine partners, we realize all over again why we fell in love with the sport in the first place.