by Marilyn Munzert
If you are feeling overwhelmed because you are stretched too thin trying to manage your job, your home, your family and your horse, perhaps you need some strategies for balancing your life. Balancing your life will give you more time to ride, more time with your family, and more money to spend on your horse life.
There are three balancing challenges which most horse-people face; finding time, stretching the budget, and riding when you have young children.
If you work full-time, you’re free only before and after work, and on your days off. If you compete, your time is even more limited, as you spend weekends at shows. With such a full schedule, how do you manage to make time for everything? Here are some suggestions.
Create a daily plan, and actually make “appointments” for yourself to perform your daily duties. Schedule your highest-priority duties, such as feeding and caring for your two- and four-legged loved ones first, then work on other tasks. You can experiment to find a routine that works for you, then stick to it. You’ll save even more time as the routine becomes second nature, allowing you to fit yet more activities into your day. Avoid a too-rigid schedule. You’ll need some flexibility for situations out of your control, such as a sick child, and emergency veterinary call, or a work-related crisis. Be sure to build in relaxation time, too.
Getting organized applies to your home, barn and workplace. The more organized and efficient you are, the more time you’ll have to ride.
At home, set aside time each day to manage mundane chores, such as housework, laundry, dishes, bills, etc. Then just do them — no procrastinating. But don’t cram all your household chores into one afternoon or evening. Rather, scatter them throughout the day or week for breathing room.
At the barn, store tools and supplies in easy-to-access locations, and always return items to their appropriate spots after use. You’ll find this saves your temper as well as your time.
At your workplace, eliminate and/or process paper piles. File important information, and toss unnecessary paper. Establish an organized filing system.
By delegating routine tasks, you can spend your time completing more important assignments, so you’ll earn time off for horse/family activities. Ask your family members for help. If your spouse and/or children ride, ask them for help with barn chores and work together in the barn. If a family member isn’t involved with horses, ask that person to chip in by starting dinner or relieving you from another household task. At work, delegate routine tasks.
Arriving at the barn very early in the morning to feed and care for horses, even ride, before getting ready for work frees up time in the evening for extra riding and/or family activities.
You might be able to find an extra 5 to 15 hours of free time per week by shutting off the television set.
Performing more than one task at a time increases efficiency. Fill water buckets while sweeping the barn aisle or cleaning stalls. Watch horse-related videos while ironing. You could clean tack while overseeing homework or during downtime at shows. Prepare dinner and fold laundry while returning phone calls.
Adjust your work schedule to accommodate your horse and family life, if your company offers this incentive, and if your work productivity won’t suffer. Ride in the morning before you get distracted by the day’s demands, and make up the work hours in the evening. Work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, leaving Friday free for riding or traveling to a weekend show. Swap schedules with a co-worker to get the necessary time off.
Get someone to perform basic barn chores and housework. Find a responsible, horse-loving teen or college student to help out for a modest fee, or in exchange for riding lessons.
Decide whether at-home horsekeeping or boarding your horse would be the best option for your balancing needs. Some horsepeople prefer the cost savings and lack of commute that at-home horsekeeping offers. Others opt for the time savings and choreless advantage that boarding provides.
Showing is expensive, whether you’re an amateur working toward a world championship or a weekend warrior riding for fun. Such dollar-draining expenses as entry fees, hauling expenses, bed-and barn bills, and training and lessons call for a plump bank account. How do you cover your show costs, without compromising your family’s other financial needs?
Consider building a budget in which you figure out roughly how much it’s going to cost to achieve your riding goal for the year. Next, work with your spouse to determine how your family can pull together to cut costs to enable you to afford your competitive goal.
Plan to attend shows that will maximize your opportunity to reach your competitive goal, such as multiday, multi-judge events with large numbers of entries, and events with the biggest purses and the most added money. Take advantage of early-bird savings by sending in your entry form and payment before the deadline. You can also reduce your expenses by sharing a tack stall with another competitor, and/or working out of your trailer.
If you do a lot of long-distance hauling, reap the long-term savings of buying a tow vehicle and living-quarters trailer. Not only will you eliminate hauling fees, you’ll cut hotel and meal costs.
For economical and effective grooming supplies, purchase human-care products at discount stores. Examples include: human shampoo and conditioner to clean and condition your horse’s coat; black or clear liquid shoe polish for hoof polish; disposable razors and shaving cream for clipping touchups; baby powder, cornstarch, baby oil and petroleum jelly for highlighter; and thick-plastic-bristled hair brushes and combs for mane and tail detanglers.
As with the other elements in your life, balancing parenthood and your horse life takes planning, finagling and compromising, but it can be done. And with the help of family and friends, it’s much easier.
Limit your long-distance hauls and number of shows, opting to compete at nearby events instead. This enables you to go home each night, and possibly take your family with you.
Take time off from competing to support your children’s horse habits. Coach them on their equitation, get them involved in riding clubs, and haul them to shows. The perspective you gain from outside the arena may be a welcome change. Just because you’re taking a break from the show pen doesn’t mean you have to give up riding, though. Take up trail riding or train a young horse to keep you in shape and to hone your riding skills.
by Marilyn Munzert