Most of us aren’t professional horseback riders. That means equestrian sport is often just our hobby, even if it feels a heck of a lot more than that.
Whether you own a horse or not, finding the time to squeeze in regular rides in between everything else in “real life” (aka while managing a career, a family, and other commitments) can be a daunting task.
The hosts of the Heels Down Happy Hour Podcast tackled the issue of “work-life-horse balance” in a recent episode. Jessica Payne, Justine Griffin and Ellie Woznica live in different parts of the country, ride with very different goals in mind, and compete at different levels. But they all struggle with maintaining a consistent riding schedule.
“Balancing all of it is probably the biggest challenge of life,” joked Jess, a professional four-star event rider at Payne Equestrian, which she runs with her husband, Doug Payne. Jess is also a relatively new mom to her 17-month-old son, Hudson. “I just haven’t figured out how to compete full-time right now. So Doug is concentrating on competing while I’m trying to figure out how to manage this whole life.”
Jess Payne: Pro Rider, Trainer, Mom, Wife, And The List Goes On…
Jess said her biggest advice is to stay organized. The Payne farm coordinates their riding, competition and general “life” calendars via an app called “Calengoo” which helps them stay on track.
“We have eight different calendars in it,” Jess explained. “From lessons and ride times to our dinner plans. It’s the only way to stay organized, honestly.”
Hiring a nanny, too, has freed up more time for Jess to ride, to teach lessons and to just get stuff done – like take trips to the grocery store.
Because the Paynes spend so much time on the road for competitions between their eventing horses and show jumpers, Jess tries to schedule all her lessons with clients on the same two days of the week.
“We’re always home on Monday and Tuesday, so those are jam-packed days for lessons for Doug and I,” Jess said.
She also rides the most in between horse shows – keeping the hunter and jumper horses in their barn in regular work.
“When we’re home, I’m riding those every day,” she said. “I can ride them on days when they’re not showing.”
Ellie Woznica: Farm Owner, Trainer, Graduate Student
Ellie sets goals for her week, often trying to ride each horse at least three times in that time frame. She tries to not have to ride more than three horses in a day.
“I still have time to go to grad school online and to fix the fence,” said Ellie, who operates her own farm and professional colt-breaking business. “I want to make sure everyone gets equal attention. The horses I have in for breaking I have to work more frequently, maybe five-to-six days a week. Unfortunately my horses get pushed to the wayside.”
When Ellie is not riding, she still has to maintain her farm herself. She tries to set up “hacks” to keep herself organized and efficient, which helps carve out more time for being in the saddle.
“I set up buckets the night before, so I just have to dump them. Or I spread manure immediately, so I don’t have to worry about going back to fill the spreader,” she said. “I’m always trying to find ways to make it easier for myself.”
Justine Griffin: Adult Amateur, Journalist, Wife
Justine works full-time in the news industry, which means her working hours can be all over the place sometimes.
“Most of the time, it’s fairly normal. It depends on the news happening that day,” she said. She tries to ride two-to-three days during the work week. “During the summer it’s really hot but the days are longer, so there’s more light to ride in the evenings. But it can be hard to stay motivated.”
Most of her riding happens on the weekends, which can be tough to juggle with other commitments.
“Most of my weekends are horses. I put a lot of pressure on my poor husband. I have two days off a week and I want to horse show and take lessons. To take a lesson, I have to haul out on a Saturday.”
If she gets to ride four days a week, Justine says she feels accomplished and satisfied with that.
“It’s a struggle. I’ll text my barn owner to leave my horse in because I’m coming to ride, then news happens and I don’t get out there,” she said. “That’s why I’m a full board person through and through. I can’t be responsible for my horse day-to-day.”