The elusive work/life/barn balance…
Nothing in this industry is easy, but take it from this girl who is practically driving the adult amateur struggle bus — trying to meet set goals while balancing a real life takes some work and creativity. I would like to tell you that I found the perfect equation for balancing all of the odds and ends out, but I haven’t. Each day offers up new complications that would leave many thinking to themselves “is this worth it?” And as we all know — it is way more than worth it.
Budget Budget Budget
Seriously, don’t skip this step. Especially you young adult amateurs fresh out of college — yes, you NEED a budget. I lived without one for a few months only to find myself at a horse show writing a check for class fees and praying it wouldn’t bounce because I couldn’t remember how much was left in my bank account. Life is expensive. Life with horses… well, I don’t need to explain it to you. With unexpected expenses popping up here and there, plus the costs of board, farrier, show fees, training for your horse or yourself or both, you need a budget so you know what you can do and what you can’t do this month.
Yes, I know you WANT a new bridle and you may NEED a new bridle but you also NEED to buy groceries. Sometimes the funds just aren’t there this month. What I have found helps me when sorting out my budget each month is becoming a habitual saver. I am like a squirrel with nuts over here hoarding for winter. We all know horses are a wee bit unpredictable. Things happen and if you don’t have the money to handle those expenses it’s easy to go downhill fast. I set back large portions of each paycheck into a savings account or I stash it in an envelope for horse expenses and then I allocate the rest to living expenses. When I want to go to a show or Joey needs a fly sheet, I can only spend if I have enough funds in that account. It keeps me grounded and out of the “but I want to go to every show” mentality.
Find Time to Mow Your Lawn
You probably think I am crazy, but just stick with me on this one. My life story probably isn’t that much different than any other struggling adult amateur. I have a full time career, a new marriage, a pack of furbabies at home, my closest family is almost an hour away, I have a handful of side jobs to make ends meet, and my horse is boarded an hour away from my home and work. I am a freaking road warrior. I don’t know why I have a mortgage because I rarely spend time at my house!
A few weekends ago, the weather was beautiful. Perfect riding weather. I woke up on Saturday with every intention of going to the barn to ride, because who in their right mind wastes this beautiful weather at home? However, new carpet installation and the clean up afterwards kept me from that plan, so I pushed it off to Sunday. I woke up Sunday ready to ride, only to look out my bedroom window and realize that my lawn looked like a scene from The Jungle Book and desperately needed a good mowing. So I decided to start my day off mowing the lawn and then I would head out to the barn.
To make a long story short, mowing my lawn turned into sprucing up my garden, walking my dogs, spraying weed killer down my walkway and setting up my patio furniture. Halfway through the day I was so proud of my accomplishments at the house, but I felt a hair guilty. I had sacrificed a beautiful day I could have spent with my horse…
GUESS WHAT? It is perfectly fine to do things other than ride your horse. It is perfectly fine to mow your lawn and spend the afternoon enjoying being a normal human, because let’s face it — equestrians don’t always fit into that category. Spend time away from the barn. Enjoy a healthy dose of nothing for a change. You have to find a work/barn/life balance or else your passion will consume you and you will grow to resent it.
Make Friends and Make Good Choices
Not only can you drink wine together and cry about your struggles, but you can help one another. Become blanket buddies, carpool to shows, take turns skipping your lunch break to hold each other’s horse for the farrier. If you are an adult amateur and you aren’t struggling to balance school, work, or just life itself then I am very jealous of you… because a huge chunk of us are. You are not alone in this.
On another note, trust me as an advocate for the adult ammy: I talk a lot about the lack of representation or resources for our community, but never use your status as an excuse. Don’t give up because it’s hard. Don’t give up because you are tired. Don’t. Give. Up.
Meet every single person you can and make every single connection you can. Get to know everyone in this industry. Shake hands, kiss babies, smile and be friendly and polite (okay, now I just sound like my mother…). The relationships you build could one day open up doors you might never have known existed. Don’t burn bridges, don’t gossip, don’t make a bad name for yourself. Make good choices and build those relationships. One day, that relationship could greatly impact your life.
It is easy to get swept up in all of the challenges of being an adult amateur, but during those times remind yourself of the rewards! Every success, every step forward is the fruit of your labor and dedication to the sport. It doesn’t matter if you ride English or western, or if you ride or drive — being an adult amateur is hard but well worth the reward.
What are your tips for your fellow adult amateurs out there?