Prior to my return to riding after college, my main hobbies included watching HGTV, touring model homes with my husband and planning fully customized multi-thousand-dollar Crate and Barrel couches for our first home. After I started riding again, my priorities started to shift and eventually the thought of buying something more expensive than an IKEA couch became unthinkable, that money could be spent on horses!
I still love all things home-y, but I’m now happy to play the difficult balancing game of horse mom duties versus home duties. I named my blog The Two H – Horse & Home because these are the two main things I love to talk about.
Since I am such an expert (that’s sarcasm), I thought I would write out the most important aspects an equestrian needs to consider to maintain balance before they either win the lottery or convince their husband that stay at home horse and dog mom is indeed a legitimate job title.
You will need a job that can both sustain the cost of horses, but also offers what would be advertised as “work-life balance”. I know this as work-barn balance, but you get the picture. After a few years in the professional workforce, I would highly recommend interviewing your potential managers and co-workers about what they like and don’t like about the position.
Flexible hours are a huge plus, and I even participated in an alternative work week schedule for a few years. This specific one is called a “nine eight eighty” (9/8/80) where you work nine hours a day for eight days within a two-week work period, this is what the 80 represents. Then, usually every other Friday, you either work an 8-hour day or have the day off. Those days off are great for having an additional extra day to yourself at the barn, great for lessons during the week when its quieter or spending your whole day doing house chores so your usual weeknight and weekend can be devoted to riding. There is also a 10/4/40, where you work ten hours a day for 4 days and get a three-day weekend every weekend.
Another important factor to consider for employment is your management. If the organization says they’re supportive of work-life balance, what does that mean? Does your manager have kids? Are they married, do they have hobbies? I cannot stress enough that if your office’s management cannot empathize with having a life outside of work, this relationship will not last. They will not understand you having to be there for your horse’s chiro appointment or your dog’s emergency vet admission when he’s diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Ideally, you would split chores up with your significant other/roommate/parent/etc. by who enjoys what task most, but I’m coming to realize that negotiating that sort of deal is not my expertise at all so I’m basically in charge of all the chores for my household. On weekends when I am super-motivated I can do a week’s worth of laundry in one day, and meal prep for a few days for the following week. Grocery shopping is usually done Sunday or Monday night. Laundry, if not completed that weekend, is done Monday night. Costco also delivers groceries which you can order online, and you can also order online from Raley’s and have them walked out to you in the parking lot. I use both of those services a lot. Dishes, cleaning and unloading, and cooking are done as soon as I get home so I don’t fall into the “once I sit down…” phase of my night. I generally try to ride two days during the week, so I make sure that my husband isn’t traveling and can get home at a normal time to take the dogs out and feed them. Only one of our dogs gets walked now, so that is usually my husband’s responsibility.
I think the best tactic for planning out my week is just usually a simple notepad and writing what needs to be done each day, maybe not down to unloading the dishwasher, but things like calling in a prescription or pick up a certain good on my way home. Checking things off a list is a huge motivator for me!
These also need attention. Maybe plan a weekly date night or, their favorite, invite them out to the barn to video your lessons for some extra good quality time!
Oh yeah, your human family! They’re probably the ones that initially gave you the ability to ride horses to start with. Reward them by letting your horse have a day off once in a while and visit long enough to tell them how thankful you are that they started you on this whirlwind of adventure that riding is.
Unpopular opinion here, but there needs to be home vs. horse balance in your budget. I’m not here to tell you what a reasonable dollar figure or percentage of your budget is to spend on horses, because every situation is different.
I’m just here to remind you that there are other things that are relevant in life besides just riding. Maybe like a retirement? Make sure you have a sensible Roth and 401(k) contribution set up before spending that extra thousand dollars on a horse show. Maybe your spouse wants to go on vacation one day? Start a side savings account for that, because after all those long work to ride days, your bones probably need a rest, too. Emergency funds are great, a house where the cost per month doesn’t increase is a huge advantage when board will always go up over time.