Ever wondered how an upper-level rider can have a family and still find time to be competitive in this sport? Athletux blogger Tamie Smith makes a very compelling case that it’s possible to find balance in this crazy horse life. Many thanks to Tamie for writing. Go West Coast eventing!
As upper-level competitors and trainers, most of us spend nearly every waking hour of the day thinking about the next competition and worrying about our horses’ and clients’ every need. However, many riders, myself included, have a life outside of horses, which has us perfecting the art of managing it all. In addition to being a business owner, competitor and coach, I am a wife and a mother of two incredible kids.
Juggling it all is challenging, even greatly overwhelming at times, but at the end of the day I would not sacrifice any of it. The balance of my family and all of my other endeavors has not always been simple, and over the years the pendulum has swung from one end to the other; but after lots of practice, I finally feel that I have a great balance on how to manage these things well.
Don’t get me wrong; there have been times when I wondered how I would ever handle it all, and I know there will be days that I feel this way in the future. But despite wondering at times if I could fit it all in, I am proof that if you want it bad enough, you work hard enough and you surround yourself with good people who want to see you succeed, the sky really is the limit.
So what’s the secret to success? That’s a tricky question. Managing a business takes an extreme commitment and requires organization, prioritizing, time management, multitasking, great communication skills and lots of patience. Some of these skills came naturally to me and some … well, some honestly did not.
Take all the challenges and demanding requests of running a horse business and now add in a family. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Some say you can’t be a top-level competitor and have a husband and kids, and I guess if I hadn’t had my children, I might agree. In fact, I have had people tell me I could never do it all.
I had my daughter at a young age, and so I have no idea what it’s like to live life without thinking of more than myself. Therefore, although it has been a struggle and at times I wasn’t sure how I could manage it all, I am happy and feel blessed that I have my children and wonderful husband.
My husband is a dare devil like me and loves adrenaline sports. He is an avid spear fisherman. The ocean is his passion, and before a horrific accident, he competed and was a member of a prestigious spearfishing club called the Long Beach Neptunes. I feel that his understanding of competing has helped our marriage and helped him understand my madness.
Raising children while traveling and competing has only been possible because of the support team I have at home. My stepdad has been an instrumental piece to managing our kids, and my husband is a saint and quite possibly the most supportive man on the planet. Obviously we have had our struggles with me traveling; however, my desire to be a top-level competitor is one of the things that attracted him to me — at least that’s what he says.
Some people take on the thought that after having a family your life should solely be focused on raising a family. My philosophy is different. I feel that we all live our lives, and becoming a parent and wife is an opportunity to show our children that striving for their dreams and having a never-give-up attitude will make them better people who go after what they want! I think this mentality and example has made my kids into great people. They aren’t afraid to fail, they are not afraid to work hard, and they know it takes long days and diligence to be successful. They have watched my husband and I grow in both our businesses and in our relationship, all while doing what we love.
Being on the outside looking in, you might think my life is without any ups and downs, and although they are farther and fewer between, my husband and I have had to make a mutual commitment to not only be true to each other and our marriage, but communication has been our biggest savior to keeping our love and commitment growing. We usually take some time away together at the end of the show season in November, and it brings us back to that intimate connection again and reminds us that even the hard days are worth it.
Managing volleyball, swim and water polo practices along with games for my daughter has been challenging; however, my husband and I always try to have one of us there each time. She is now a senior in high school and coming back to riding, which I am very happy about, and our son is now 10 and starting his competitive career in basketball with the same rules in play. One of us, if not both, are always at his games and practices.
Although my kids have always grown up around horses, I never wanted to pressure either to ride. My daughter rode for several years and then left the sport to focus her time on high school athletic endeavors before recently telling me she aspires to do Young Riders while she is still able to. My son has of course attended numerous horse shows over the years but is more content playing with our dog and enjoying himself in the dirt than he is riding a horse, and that for me is fine as long as he is happy. I am sure he will enjoy coming to shows a great deal more as he gets older and realizes that in the U.S. eventing includes many good looking ladies.
The number one reason I can do everything I do is because of the many people and supporters I have in my life, and maybe in part to green tea extract as well. I have always been a high-energy person that likes a good challenge, and usually the harder the challenge and more pressure, the better I am. It is a quality those of us who strive to be successful at the top level all seem to share.
I tell my friends who are thinking of whether they want a family or have already decided that they don’t want a family that they will miss out on an equal balance in their life if they don’t consider it. If you don’t want children solely because of your career, I think you might be making a mistake; but again, I have a family and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. My son and daughter have brought perspective to my life and a good balance.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the crazy world we horse people live in, and before you know it, you’re over 40 and unable to have a family. I’ve seen so many fall victims to this, and in many ways I think it is sad. I know there are people who choose to not have children or a family for personal reasons, and I of course respect that, but I think top riders all owe it to themselves to take a step back and be sure it is what they want in the big picture, or what they would choose if they did not ride so that they wholeheartedly have no regrets.
My advice to being able to juggle it all is surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed: sponsors, owners, trainers, coaches, grooms, family, students, clients and friends. Don’t allow the people who don’t want to see you succeed or are insecure in their own lives to be around you. You’ve all heard that saying, “one bad apple spoils the bunch,” and I don’t think it could be more true!
I am very strict on the students that I accept in my program. My friends are all true friends and more like family, and the people that own horses for me are all very supportive and trust in my program and ability because I have been very particular about my program and how things are run.
And the last but arguably most important piece of having a successful business in my eyes and making it all work are the people that make it possible to concentrate on my job of riding and competing. My barn manager, assistant rider, groom and barn owner are all monumental reasons why my focus has been better in recent years, and as a result, I have been successful in the competition ring. They are all similar to me in my beliefs, and it makes having a family, being an upper-level competitor and running my business possible.
I’ve had people try to steal them away, but luckily we have a wonderful relationship and partnership, and therefore my life can operate in a more organized yet still hectic and busy manner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.