It can be hard enough getting that elusive ‘work/life balance’ without throwing a horse into the equation. Torn between a demanding job, a demanding horse and possibly demanding kids as well, you may occasionally find yourself tempted to lock yourself in the bathroom with a bottle of Chardonnay and soothing music on full blast. We’re not saying this is necessarily a bad thing… but here are a few other suggestions that may help you manage life/work/horse-related stress.
1. Consider putting your horse on part-livery or assisted livery
It’s more expensive than DIY, but multiple trips to the yard every day are undoubtedly difficult to juggle with a job and the school run, particularly in winter. It’ll free up a lot of time if you let someone else take some of the weight off your shoulders.
2. Grass livery is another option
If part or assisted livery are financially out of reach, you could consider keeping your horse at grass all year round. Most horses cope perfectly well with this — and although you’ll still have to poo-pick the field, not mucking out will free up some time. You are also not tied to having to visit at set times to turn out and bring in when they are living out 24/7.
3. Share horsey tasks with a friend
If your horse is on DIY, you could arrange with a friend on your yard to do muck-outs and turnouts/bring-ins for each other — this would mean you’d only need to visit the yard once a day.
4. Are you in the right job?
If you’re constantly bringing work home with you, and you resent the way it eats into the time you get to spend with your horse and/or children, then this may be a good time to look at your career and be sure it’s going in the direction you want. Retraining or rethinking may result in a more flexible career that’s a better fit with horses and kids.
5. Consider flexible working or reduced hours
Obviously, finances dictate that many people have to work full-time. However, if you have children, your employer has to give proper consideration to any request you put in for flexible working. Likewise, many of us work full-time because that’s what we believe our employers/partners/society expects from us – but is working full-time really what YOU want? Again, household finances have a huge part to play in any decision about reducing working hours, but if you sit down and work it all out, you may find you’re able to make some cut-backs, work less and have more time for your horse.
6. Work from home
The traditional office-based 9-5 working culture is beginning to fade as a growing number of businesses are cutting costs by getting employees to work from home. It may be worth asking your boss if this is an option for you, even just once or twice a week, as taking the commute out of your day, and being on-hand for your children and/or horse in case of emergency, is a great way of reducing stress.
7. Get a slow cooker or batch-cook and freeze meals
Ready meals serve a purpose when you’ve got back from the yard after a hard day and you’re exhausted and starving, but they’re expensive and generally not very healthy. Slow cookers are viewed as relics from the 70s but they’re perfect for working equestrians – just bung in the ingredients in the night before (apart from the meat), switch it on in the morning and you’ll get home to a perfectly cooked meal. Some things work better than others – stews and curries are fab; pasta and rice dishes just come out as gloop. If the 70s thing puts you off, try doubling the amount of chilli/bolognaise/curry you make for the family, and freezing half of it.
8. Set yourself goals, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve them
It’s important to have things to aim for — whether it’s a three-day-event or a sponsored ride. Don’t be put off by the other obstacles in your life, but work towards that. Having a horsey goal will take your mind off your daily stress and give you a positive focus – but if something comes up that means you don’t make it, then that’s life. There will be other times.
9. Enjoy that Chardonnay!
There’s nothing like a glass of wine to help you unwind after a busy or stressful day – cheers!