Thursday, June 18, 2009

Horse/Life balance

So, as a junior associate at a big law firm, there's a lot of talk about having a good "work/life balance." Basically, a lot of us struggle with meeting our obligations to the firm while still managing to maintain some sort of a social or family life. For most of the people I work with, the central theme is spending enough time with your kids and family. I feel like I've managed to find the work/life balance because, as long as Tucker gets ridden 4-5 times a week, I'm not working too much.

I've been wondering lately, though, whether there needs to be a Horse/Life balance? I know the readers of this blog can relate to this situation. Going to the farm is my night-time activity and takes up pretty much all my weekend time. Instead of a vacation, I'm planning on taking Tucker to HITS this summer. (Where we may, or may not, be doing the 3' adult hunters. Depending on whether that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about jumping 3' is still here at the end of July. For those keeping track, it's still here.) And, of course, as OntheBit pointed out a few months ago in one of my favorite of her prior posts, I am horse poor. I don't buy new shoes for myself, yet I spend over $200 on shoes every month. That's like a riddle that only a fellow horse owner could solve.

Pretty much everyone I know has gotten used to me being at least an hour late for everything because I "took longer at the barn than I planned." And I know that the unequestrians in my life think I'm Crazy (with a capital C) because of what I spend on the kids -- and they're only basing that on what I spend on board! They don't even factor in the vet bills, farrier bills, training costs, trips to Dover and Bevals, supplements. . . you get the idea. And I've gotten used to my boyfriend explaining to people, as a means of summing up my horse obsession: "Her horse has a chiropractor." I know everyone reading this has seen the shocked looks that follow that statement.

Confessional: I do spend almost half my paycheck on my horses. Sometimes more, let's be honest. And more often than not, I don't get to all the things I was supposed to do on the weekend (laundry, cleaning out that closet, grocery shopping, paying bills) because I was having a really interesting conversation with one of my fellow riders about her horse's right lead canter, or watching a video of someone's round at the last horse show, or taking Tucker for a nice long walk after our ride, or reorganizing my trunk, or. . . again, you get the idea.

But how much is too much? Is it crazy that I pay twice as much for board as I do for rent? Is it unreasonable to cancel plans with friends because I have a horse show the next day? If I didn't spend my nights and weekends at the barn, what would I do? Watch tv? Go the the gym? Go to the mall? Go to the beach? What do unequestrians do with their time?

This is a concept I've been wondering about ever since I spent a weekend at the shore with my boyfriend's family earlier this summer. It was a really nice, relaxing, horse-free weekend. And I said to my boyfriend's mom, "It's so nice to have a weekend free to just do nothing. Usually I'm so busy with . . ." At this point my voice trailed off, because I realized I was about to admit that it was nice (*gasp*) to have a weekend that wasn't consumed with horses. Even now, that thought sends pangs of guilt right through me. What a thing to say! Tucker and Julie would be so hurt.

So my question for you, readers, is this: As horse owners, do we need to maintain a balance between our horses and . . . everything else? Do we need to think about making time for unequestrians and family members? Is saving money for something other than a new bridle an important goal? Or, on the other hand, is life really just about the pursuit of happiness. . . and if horses make us truly happy, should that be where we focus our energy?


  1. haha...I am a totally bad person to ask considering I base a lot of things around my horses. I am with you in that one of my 2 paychecks every month goes right back out to pay for horses. And a few weeks back when I was really sick and could hardly make it to work every day and had to stay home from the farm after work I went NUTS from boredom. My afternoon just dragged on and on without horses to visit. I think you are totally normal, but look at me!! And if you think you bad, my RETIRED horse still gets visits from the chiropractor, masseuse and acupuncturist! Mind you I have never had the pleasure of any of those services myself! And I am so excited that you are thinking about doing the 3 foot at HITS!!!!! (even if it is only a thought). I am so proud!

  2. I did a post earlier this month (June 7) on a related topic - the balance between being able to enjoy your horses and getting all the work done that horses require - particularly if you do a lot of your own horse care. My post didn't even get so far as to touch on your issue - which is also a very good one. I think the fact I didn't get that far says a lot about me and my life!

    I have 5 horses and do a lot of their care myself - it's a huge job. First I'd like to get the work under control, so I can actually have the time and energy to ride the 2 horses we have that are rideable. I expect if that happens, time for all my other interests and activities will open up as well.

    I think each of us has to come up with our own answers to your questions - for some people all horse all the time is right, and others will need less horse and more other stuff. I'd judge based on how you feel, and come up with a balance and arrangements that work for you - if you feel like horse is taking too much of your life, it probably is. And if you're happy with the ratio of horse to other time, then that's OK too. A lot of us do things because we "have to" or "ought to" rather than because we want to - and I know I for one need to keep working on that. Also, I think that a balance that works fine at certain points in your life may not work as well at other times.

    (By the way I was a lawyer at a large law firm for 16 years in a long-ago prior life.)

  3. I guess we are all half-crazy! Haha. The "have to's" and "ought to's" often take the place of the "want to's" in life. I think part of the reason I question whether my horse/life balance is okay is because people without horses put a lot of judgment on the time and money I spend. But that's probably because they don't see that "horse time" is "me time."

    Kate, I have to say that the fact that you were a lawyer in a prior life gives me some hope that I won't be doing this forever! Although my job is intellectually challenging and I am probably very well-suited for it (what with the over-acheiver personality and all), I do dream of some time in the future when I can just play with my horses all day. I know "play" means a lot of work, but it's work that does your heart good. I know you put a lot of effort into taking care of your horses Kate and it's exhausting, but I hope it is also rewarding.

  4. You are not crazy AT ALL. I am in the same boat...young-ish, career oriented with 2 horses. I spend more on my horses than I do on my mortgage. I think this year interestingly enough for the first time I hit a wall where at my birthday I didnt ask for a single horse thing. I wanted something for MYSELF :) You'll know when the balance is no longer, balanced! But if you bf supports it and your friends are still calling you to do stuff you havent gone over the edge yet. I feel like, if I wasnt spending all that time with my 'kids' what in the world else would I be doing...sitting on the couch getting a big behind like the rest of America???? No thanks, I'd rather clean out my tack trunk or pull my horses mane :)

  5. Thanks Nicku, it's great to hear I'm not the only one! Hope you like the blog.

  6. What a perfect post. This is the story and battle of my life. I have had friends tell me that my "animals are ruining my 20s". or that I will never find a man to tolerate the time and dough I spend on my critters. Since sending my gelding to training, I have been able to experience the late nights and weekend trips of a non equestrian 20something. It has been an absolute blast! BUT I only feel truly in touch with the "real me" when I am at the barn covered in dirt and horse goo and I come home to pass out in complete exhaustion. As fun as it is having no responsibilites and too much to drink every evening and weekend... I cant wait for my baby boy to come back to me and to settle back into my life amongst the equines...


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