How to Juggle Saddle Time With the Rest of Your Life

Six Horse & Rider magazine staffers offer how to advice on balancing your horse and your life.
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Six Horse & Rider magazine staffers offer how to advice on balancing your horse and your life.

H&R HORSEWOMAN: Advertising Representative Kit Axton, 34, Lakewood, Colo..
Her horse: 10-year-old Morgan sport horse gelding, Nashboro Romantico.
Her family: Husband, John.
Real-life balancing tips:

  • Save on showing. If you're showing for fun or to gain experience, rather than chasing total points, compete only 1 or 2 days at multi-day events, reducing entry fees and other show expenses. Enter shows close to home to further cut costs.
  • Get lessons locally. To do well in your particular discipline--or to simply improve your riding skills--you don't necessarily need help from a big-name instructor (who probably also charges hefty fees). Instead, opt for a reputable instructor in your area who may've decided to step out of the show circuit, but who still has plenty of high-quality knowledge to pass on. You'll save money while still achieving your riding goals. (Tips: Once you find an instructor you like, explain your riding goals to that individual so he/she can customize a program to meet your needs. Also, if you'd like your instructor to attend shows with you, plan your shows well in advance, around his/her availability.)
  • Achieve harmony with hubby. If you have a non-horsey husband, plan your show schedule around his activities to prevent him from resenting your horse life. (For example, if I know ahead of time that my husband wants me to attend one of his motorcycle races, I don't enter a show that weekend. But if I know he's going to a race with friends, I go to a show. He isn't expected to be involved in my horse activities, but it's a real pleasure when he chooses to be a part of them.) Involve your spouse in the planning process, and keep him posted on your plans, so he's in the loop. H&R HORSEWOMAN: Contributing Editor Barb Crabbe, DVM, 40, Portland, Ore.
    Her horses: 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Darwin; two 19-year-old broodmares (an Oldenburg, Promenade, and a Hanoverian, Gelt); 2-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Bogart; yearling Oldenburg filly, Bacall; a 20-plus-year-old pony, Suzy.
    Her family: Husband, Bob; 3-year-old daughter, Katelin.
    Real-life balancing tips: Schedule time to ride. Make daily appointments to ride. Consider this appointment just as important as any others you may have, bumping it only in an emergency. Board at a barn. If your can afford it, board your horse at a barn. Doing so will help you gain riding time, because you won't have to take time to feed and clean stalls. However, watch out for excessive visiting with boarders; it'll subtract from your in-saddle time. Also, perform such chores as tack cleaning after you've finished riding, so you don't get distracted and wind up not riding at all. Establish a support network. Always put your family's needs first, but don't be afraid to lean on family members for help while you ride. Although my husband sometimes resents all the time I devote to my horses, he's always supportive, cooking and caring for our child while I'm at the barn. When he isn't available to baby-sit, I have great friends who help out. Limit lessons. Rather investing in a full-time trainer, save money by attending clinics or lessons once a month. To get the most out of your sessions, ask the instructor to give you "homework" to practice. Also, video your rides, and critique them as soon as possible to learn how you can improve your performance. H&R HORSEWOMAN: Senior Editor Jennifer J. Denison, 28, Woodland Park, Colo. Her horses: 20-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Oakies Pink Pokey; 18-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Easy Elvis Hull; 6-year-old Paint Horse gelding, Rock-A-Deck. Her family: Husband, Robert. Real-life balancing tips: Find riding alternatives. Compete at local shows or jackpots if your schedule (and/or budget) simply doesn't accommodate regular schooling, frequent lessons, travel expenses, etc. Also consider this option if you're a novice rider, or you have a green horse. Although these events aren't as prestigious as top breed shows, they often boast great prizes and tough competition. Or, take a break from the showing altogether, and trail ride, or just spend time with your horse. You may enjoy the flexibility and lack of pressure that comes with this change. Split feed costs. Split the cost of a semi-load of hay with your riding buddies or other horsepeople in your area. Or better yet, buy the entire load and sell the extra bales for profit, if you have extra storage space. Get your own place. The mortgage on your own acreage and home may be less than that cost of monthly rent and board, depending on your area and financial situation. Handle horse care yourself. Learn to properly vaccinate, deworm, treat minor wounds and illnesses yourself, reducing veterinary costs. (Caveat: Always call your vet if you feel you need help in any horse-care area. To learn basic first-aid skills--and when it's time to call your vet--get a copy of H&R's Hands-On Horse Care book.) Ditch perfection. You'll save time once you realize that not everything in your life has to be perfect all the time. Remind yourself that it's okay if your house isn't always clean, if you're a bit behind on correspondence, if dinner is leftovers or sandwiches, etc., as long as you get to spend time with your horses and family. Group errands. Run errands on your lunch hour, so you won't have to do so after work or on weekends. Group errands, and map out a route to limit driving time and backtracking. H&R HORSEWOMAN: Editor-at-Large Kathy Kadash-Swan, 54, Monument, Colo. Her horses: 29-year-old Paint Horse mare, Mindy; 8-year-old Paint Horse gelding, Cowboy; 6-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Nick. Her family: Husband, Rick. (All our children are grown.) Real-life balancing tips: Organize your barn. Keep all barn items in easy-to-find places, and always return them to their spots after use. Install wall hooks for halters, bridles, lead ropes, etc. Store bulky items, such as blankets, sheets, and leg wraps, in trunks labeled with their contents. Keep grooming products and equipment in plastic totes. Pre-mix rations. To save time during morning feedings, place your horses' grain rations and supplements in individually marked buckets the night before. Blow out the barn. Use a leaf blower to quickly and easily clean your barn aisle--available and home-improvement stores. (Tip: This works best if your barn has large doors that open wide to allow dirt and debris to blow out.) Buy in bulk. If you have extra storage space, buy enough hay for a year, rather than a few months, to save money. Buy hay when it's first baled and at a reasonable price, and haul it yourself. Also, buy a truckload of shavings or multiple bags to get a discount. Lighten laundry loads. Do laundry in the evening--after you ride--to keep it from piling up. Take shirts and jeans to the dry cleaner to reduce loads and ironing. Trailerpool. Haul friends' horses to shows for a fee to offset fuel expenses. At shows, spread the word that you have room in your trailer to haul a sale horse home. H&R HORSEWOMAN: Consulting Editor Jennifer Forsberg Meyer, 48, Shingle Springs, Calif. Her horses: 15-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Showgun Smoke. Her family: Husband, Hank; 5-year-old daughter, Sophie. Real-life balancing tips: Enroll in preschool. If you have a young child, find a preschool near your barn that will care for your child while you ride. You'll enjoy worry-free time with your horse, knowing that your child is safe and happy. Work around riding. If you have a school-age child and a flexible work schedule (or you work at home, like me), get up super-early and work, freeing up late morning or early afternoon for riding. Do barn aerobics. Before longeing and working your horse, briskly hand-walk him for 15 to 20 minutes. Not only will this release some of his energy, you'll save time you'd otherwise have to spend exercising. H&R HORSEWOMAN: Advertising Representative Stephanie Soule, 34, Kiowa, Colo. Her horses: 6-year-old Oldenburg, Grand Tradition. Her family: Husband, Brian. Real-life balancing tips: Pack a bag. If you board your horse, don't waste riding time to go home and change clothes after work. Instead, keep a bag with your riding/barn clothes, snacks, and anything else you might need in your vehicle. Ride during the workweek. Ride your horse every night after work, so you can spend non-show weekends with your spouse--and/or running errands and catching up on household chores. Make horses your lifestyle. If you make your horses a priority, they naturally become a part of your lifestyle, and everything eventually balances out. Most of Brian's and my life decisions revolve around our horses, from the type of vehicles we drive, to the area we live in, to the jobs we have, to the friends we spend time with. Consider caretaking. Become a caretaker at a farm in your area to cut boarding and rent expenses, which will allow you to save money to buy your own place. For more tips on balancing your horse life with your other obligations, see Horse Coping, Horse & Rider, September 2001.