How to Not Feel Guilty About Your Riding

You’re a busy person with things to do, places to go and people to see… which can make a visit to the barn feel more like a guilt trip. Jenni Nguyen shares some advice.

From Jenni:

You don’t need me to tell you that guilt is no fun. That nagging feeling, eating away at you day and night about things you should or should not have done. Sometimes you feel like you can’t sleep, you can’t eat. It makes me queasy just thinking about it! But I’ll share a little secret with you, citizens of Horse Nation: I feel terribly guilty about my riding.

Yep. I said it. My riding makes me feel like a horrible person who is unworthy of the love of those who put up with it. Pity party for one, please! I’m not sure, but I have a theory that I may not be the only one who feels this way because let’s just face the facts, equestrians: This little “habit” of ours can be extremely time-consuming and astronomically expensive. With everything else going on in our lives, we find ourselves stretching the limits of our energy and our bank accounts. We get ahead of our little horsey selves and this is what can usually leads to the aforementioned guiltiness. If you too feel guilty about your horse fever, fret not! As an expert in the subject of feeling like a rotten person for indulging in my equestrian passion, I’ve done a little field research and have come up with a plan to get over the guilt.


As you well know, the barn is a black hole into which we can get sucked for hours at a time. Multiply that by all the days that we go out to ride, groom and just hang out and that’s a lot of time not spent with friends and family. I really only go out about once, maybe twice a week, but when I see the look on my son’s face as I leave, it makes me want to rethink going out altogether! Between work, classes I’m taking, the barn and general craziness, I have to make an effort to make time for my family. If someone mentions that they wish they saw more of you and not just endless pics of your horse on their Facebook feed, hear them out and see if you can pencil in some time to see them. Don’t worry, your horse WILL be OK if you skip the extra treats one night to spend some time with friends!

One of the triggers for a lot of the guilt I have experienced was leaving hubby at home with our crazy two toddler. Sometimes I feel like I’m just ditching and running off to go have my fun while he’s dealing with chaos at home. So I knew I had to do something. Hubby and I worked out a deal that he could go play football with his friends once a week and I could go and ride. That way we both get a chance to get out and do the things we love. A lot of what makes a successful relationship with anyone is compromise. For me personally, knowing that I wasn’t the only one who got to go out and do my thing made me feel much more comfortable with going to the barn.

I’m really talking financially here. Horses might as well he giant toilets into which we flush money. A LOT of money. It’s hard when you’re a working parent to justify purchasing tons of stuff for your horse or riding clothes for yourself knowing that that money could be used for something else. Even if it’s really just you and your horse, everyone’s felt the squeeze of the economy. It’s OK to indulge every once in a while but if you find yourself wincing over your credit card statement, ask yourself if you can make any adjustments to bring down the cost. Do you really NEED those breeches in EVERY color?


All right, so now that we’ve experienced a guilt trip halfway around the world, I’ve found that it’s really important to remember one thing: you deserve to have something that makes you happy. We’re all hard-working equestrians who bust our booties for our beloved equines. Aside from that, everyone needs something to take their mind off of all of the real world crap that we deal with and for myself, and a lot of us, horses do just that. This took a lot of self-convincing and Jedi mind tricks on myself but once I realized that yes, even I deserve my “me” time, going out to the barn was less of a tug on my heart and more of a freeing of my mind.

This might sound like selfish justification just to make ourselves feel better but hey, we’re only human and beyond that we’re equestrians, which means that this horse thing isn’t going away any time soon. The real challenge comes in making riding and life mesh together and it can be hard on us sometimes. I’m slowly learning to get over the guilt I feel about my riding and how to happily incorporate it into my hectic life. Hopefully one day I’ll be rid of the guilt that sits on my shoulders at the barn, but it’s a process. I’m not the only one who struggles with feeling guilty about being at the barn… right?


Jenni Nguyen is a full-time mom, wife and horse freak. Though she does yet not have an equine companion of her own, she enjoys spending her time in the company of some very patient horses who are subjected to her frequent follies. She hopes to become an eventer, as soon as she can stop being such a spaz. Please don’t ask why her car smells like a barn; she gets enough of that from her mother.


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