It’s hard enough trying to achieve the elusive “work/life balance” without adding horse riding to the equation. Between demanding jobs, relationships and possibly demanding children as well as needy equines, it’s like juggling three full time jobs.

There are very few people who have managed to successfully achieve an optimal work-life balance. Except possibly trust fund babies who don’t actually have to work – but is that actually a fulfilling existence?! The horse rider in me who dreams of riding all day and spending hours at stables says yes, but the achievement-orientated, independent working-mom in me says yes too – let’s be honest – unless work is meaningful and changes lives, for most of us it’s a means to an end (or a means to continue our super expensive hobby that quite literally eats while we sleep).

Considering most of us aren’t recipients of seven digit inheritance pay-outs or freak multi-million Rand lottery winnings, we have to attempt to balance work, life and horses as best as possible. It’s important to note that unlike, cycling or running, horses are living, breathing, sentient animals who can’t be set aside in the garage or cupboard until such time as life allows us a break to pursue it more regularly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, pressured by peers, over-extended to the point of near burn-out or simply that there must be an easier way… read on for some hints on how to better achieve the work-horse balance:

  1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead isn’t so much a solution as it is a change in lifestyle and mentality as it applies to everything. Whilst easier said than done with horses, where possible, try to plan your work and family commitments and show schedule in advance and then schedule everything else around those. It makes saying no and becoming more selective on how to spend your time that much easier. Print or purchase a month-to-view calendar and populate it with shows you’d like to compete in, holidays, work commitments and family celebrations so that not only do you pre-commit your attendance, but you can visually analyse your distribution of time amongst the priorities in your life.

 2. Work Together

If it’s a possibility, consider half-baiting your horse so that you can share the responsibility and time commitments required. This way, the horse still gets sufficient attention, exercise and care but you reduce the pressure on yourself to be its sole provider. The equine ‘co-parent’ could be someone you know – a friend or fellow rider at a stable yard who loves your horse as much as you do – or a stranger who has a similar riding style to you who complements your training methods. No matter how well you know the other person, always have contracts in place, consider what disciplines or grades the other rider completes in and allocate riding times or days and show calendar entries accordingly to ensure a fair and equal split between riders.

 3. Time Saving Tricks

The one thing that majority of us are lacking most (apart from finances and above-mentioned trust funds) is time! There are a number of small changes one can make in daily life to free up a few extra minutes. Whilst the actual amount of time saved may seem insignificant in isolation, when you add up all the time saved  through the course of a day just by doing things smarter, it actually makes a meaningful difference. Examples of this include prepping meals in advance – which reduces shopping and cooking time required- scheduling meetings in a more logical flow based on distance (and proximity to the stable yard!)

 4. Motivate for Flexibility

While technology has enabled us to be able to work from pretty much anywhere, working remotely or from home is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea and can be a cause for procrastination and distraction. If it’s possible, grab the opportunity with both hands and ensure you diarise a decent horse-work schedule. If working remotely isn’t an option, consider asking for a change in work hours such as getting to work earlier in order to be able to leave sooner or keeping office hours the same but committing to working extra hours in the late evening or early morning on the days you may miss work or leave earlier in order to fit riding in.

 5. Schedule Saddle Time

Set goals and try your best to stick to them – don’t make them too regimented or they become a grudge – we all know sometimes #LifeHappens. Unfortunately, sometimes riding (as a hobby) has to come second to work or family commitments depending on the importance or urgency of the task at hand – but when this starts happening too frequently we often lose the balance we had achieved and it’s difficult to regain it. Schedule saddle time in your diary and take it as seriously as you would a meeting request from a client. If needs be, reschedule it for another time or day but don’t get into the habit of cancelling or replacing it whenever work requests may clash. Keep riding a priority in your life as much as you would work and kids – after all, riding is basically therapy, so in the best interests of our sanity, our bosses, colleagues and family members should encourage it!  

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