Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finding Relaxation

This face
You know that moment when you're too tired to go on and you've had a long day and there's a massive list of things to do waiting for you at home? You know you should ride, but you're not even wearing breeches and just the walk to the car to get them sounds exhausting.

I can't be the only one. I always wonder about those people with the "my horse is my therapist" stickers. I love my boys, absolutely, but my life would be so much less stressful and complicated without them. I frequently stress about barn time running in to work or home time and I find myself spending rides worrying more about what I need to do at work than what I'm actually working on.

That said, I'm an incredibly fortunate person who somehow ended up with two of the cutest, coolest thoroughbreds that God ever made. This summer, I decided to start making choices that would let horses be fun again instead of just another commitment/addiction. Here's the biggest things that helped me:

1) Getting out of the show environment. I love horse shows, I really do. Cuna and I were at a show barn and it was really fun when we were showing. When that was no longer an option for us, I found it to be so much easier to have him at a low key barn where I didn't feel out of place just because I wasn't going to the next A show.

Takes my breath away
2) Separating work and barn. I suspect that I'm not the only horsey blogger that picks up hours at the barn either to offset costs or as part of a rough board arrangement. This can be a great thing, but it's easy to get caught up in the work/stress part of it and completely miss the fun. My happy place here is cleaning stalls--it's a low stress job that lets me keep an eye on the little guy, but it doesn't follow me home and haunt my subconscious the way being responsible for show horses did.

3) Taking a deep breath. Most of the time, I'm on some sort of crazy rush between work, home, and barn and I don't have time to do everything perfectly. I try to have at least one day a week at a slower pace. Even if it's a short ride and I don't clean my tack, I smile and enjoy the good things about my boys and appreciate the beautiful place I live.

I maintain that horses are way too expensive not to be having the time of your life at least 80% of the time when you're in the saddle. Even with the right horse in a good situation, I find I have to be intentional about enjoying myself or "ride" just becomes another check box in an endless to-do list.

 How does everyone else keep it fun? Any tips for reducing stress for the adult ammies out there?


  1. I am right there with you! Sometimes when I have a lot going on, it's better if I just skip the barn and get other things crossed off the list. I usually feel a lot better and I know when I go out the next day, I'm going to give Miles a much better ride.

  2. Yes, right there with you on stalls. Until I was secure in my routine, or even now whenever that routine changes, the stress of knowing I was responsible for the well-being of 15 horses really got to me, especially since I did Sundays and knew they'd be alone from 2pm-6pm most likely. It definitely followed me home.

    I have told that 80% line to many people struggling with the wrong horse. It's got to be fun, it's too expensive not to be. It's not like golf where you can sell your golf clubs if you're not having fun, you know?

  3. Your #2 was a huge one for me. I actually really enjoy doing barn chores (for their own sake as well as for the break on board) and I'm hoping to get into the rotation at my current barn at some point...but I kept doing 'em at previous barn for longer than I should have for my own mental health. I felt super-guilty quitting my shift even with plenty of notice, but the improvement in my quality of life once I had that day back was significant.

  4. The only time I experience stress is when I can't ride - when Fiction is lame, or something is wrong with our equipment, etc. The longer I go without riding, the more stressed I feel.

    I think Fiction has really forced me to get rid of my stress. When I'm around him I have to remain calm and slow. I have to take my time tacking up otherwise he gets really antsy. Even if I'm late for a lesson, I have to remember to chill. Then, once I'm in the saddle I have to remain quiet but firm, otherwise he loses his brain. Perhaps that is why trips to the barn are calming for my rather than stressful.

    Some stress comes from money, but I'm pretty good at managing it and I have an amazing job, so it isn't too big of a concern, even when it involves large purchases - like a new saddle!

  5. I used to work at a dressage barn, but didn't keep my horse there. The part that stressed me out was feeding when the weather sucked and not getting to go do all the fun stuff with the boarders because I had to stay home and feed. I didn't even have my horse there! I think having my horses at home makes it easier to relax with them because I can go out to the pasture whenever I want even if I only have five minutes to get a hug. Sure feeding them and taking care of all their needs can be a chore sometimes (when the weather sucks), but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Also when I'm stressed I just don't ride... sad I know, but I have trouble controlling my emotions and frustration when I'm super stressed so it's better all around to just groom him or go for a walk with him and not even bother riding. Part of it is what you said about being too exhausted to change into breeches too. Dang insomnia lol. I'm glad you're figuring out how to relax and enjoy your time with your boy. :)

  6. I've certainly heard people say about horses being their therapists. What I believe is this: Horses are the best therapists, unless their the reason you need it. :)

  7. I'm one of those 'my horse is my therapist' people. Then again.. I've also turned into a Serious Trail Rider, so I'm not entirely sure how applicable this is to the adult ammies out there!

    I ride mostly in the afternoons and evenings as the last thing to do in a day. I don't have time commitments afterwards. Sometimes I hop on bareback and walk around, content in the knowledge the pony gets to stretch her legs. Sometimes we go trotting on the trail for 5-10 miles. Lately, we've been doing canter sets on the trail for a total ride of a mile or two.

    It probably helps that my horse goals are mostly related to pony fitness, not skills that I have to make sure she knows. Whatever we do on any given day, I have confidence it'll be okay in the long run. Worst case, I went out and just patted the pony's nose. Life is good.

    1. That sounds amazing. I wish I had trails again.

  8. Last winter, I just didn't have the energy to go to the barn. It was too cold and I was just too lazy. I was a minimum 3x/wk rider, often 4x. Last winter I was down to 2x/wk and they were both lesson days, haha. My horse is the same horse wether I ride 1x/m or 7x/wk so that is helpful.

    But after riding 2 years straight, 3x/wk I just wanted a break. So I took it and didn't feel guilty at all. I was awesome and come March I felt renewed and ready to take on new challenges. It could very well be why I progressed more this summer then the prior year.

    I do keep the exact perspective of 'it has to make me happy' and I am happy 95% of the time I spend with/around/on horses. And I very much keep it that way.

    Not sure the plan for this winter yet. But I'm sticking to my 95%.

  9. I wish I could separate the barn from being my "begrudingly go to place"....but its really difficult when the horses are so messy and not so great on the ground manner front. I cannot WAIT to never work at a barn again. UGH! Make sit hard to ride after all the chores because I just wanna LEAVE

  10. I really enjoyed doing barn work such as stalls, feeding, letting horses in and out when I worked at my boarding barn to offset costs. I think the "horses are my therapist" people are generally the ones that don't feel compelled to ride almost daily and don't have high competition goals. Not that what they want to do is any less important, they just chose a less stressful path for them and their horse. That's the great thing, you can chose to be a low key rider or you can chose to aim for Rolex, or anywhere in between.

  11. Your example number one really hit home for me. its hard to say becuase i want to say that i dont have this option but when i really think about it i do. It most likely would never happen but its nice to say that i could if i wanted too

  12. For me, it's allowing myself to lower my expectations of what "barn time" is. Right now, if I can get in more than a grooming session and quick lunge, then AWESOME. A ride period, on any horse, is a big win and I've just learned to not take that for granted. Sometimes, I've only had time to take Cash for a quick walk down the road and back, it may not be much, but it's something.

    Then, absolutely agree on the separating work vs barn. Budget in the full amount of boarding costs, so that if you can't get barn work done, or have to take some time off, then you're not SOL. But, if you DO get that barn work in, then hey, extra spending money!! :)

    It's a mental thing too, when I'm at the barn I simply don't allow myself to fret about anything non-horse related. Knowing I'll have that mental break in my day really keeps the barn time being my de-stress time.


  13. It's definitely stressful sometimes, but every time I manage to talk myself into going to the barn (when I'm tired or wavering), I'm always happy I did. I always have to remind myself to breathe, particularly when I'm stressing about Alex's behavior/accomplishments/training :-)

  14. I can relate, riding horses for a paycheck is usually great, but sometimes to ride with out it being necessary for bills would be nice. We need more trail rides;)

  15. I so totally agree that owning a horse has to be fun. They are way to expensive to not be enjoying it. I read this article today and I really agreed wth it. Especially the line about "learn to be happy learning how to dance." We put so much pressure on ourselves to meet certain goals, make progress etc. Although those things are fine, sometimes you have to be okay with simply hanging out with your buddy, and not worrying about the goals.

  16. I agree with all of this- I definitely have days where I think I should quit and I suck and it's too stressful on my financially and socially and blah blah. But then I have days where my world is falling apart and I go out to the barn and everything is right again. I really would go insane without it. It gives me something to look forward to and a release and outlet for stress. Of course, the barn and riding has plenty of it's own stresses, but I still have much more fun than misery so it's definitely worth it to me. But definitely- everyone struggles through those thoughts!

  17. Oh man, what a great post. And great comments. Especially in winter I struggle with this, after a long day at work and it's dark outside and I'd really rather just go home than trek out to the barn. But since my horse is stuck in a 12x24 paddock, guilt kicks in so I make the right choice to head out there to get him some exercise.
    Once I'm there, I do have to mentally remind myself to relax and enjoy rather than rush around. The days that my husband is busy in the evenings with friends seem to be the least stressful; otherwise I feel like I should get home as soon as I can. I don't have the option of working at the barn, so luckily that stress doesn't apply to me.

  18. Two thumbs way way up for you and this post. I think we all do that. After getting my new job at the animal hospital I was able to afford board without the extra work at the barn. Yes, I could do it... On my day off from my real job... But I finally said no. I board here, I want to enjoy it. "Do it because you love it, don't do it because you think you have to." Heard a trainer say that at the Equine Affaire this weekend and it's something I think we all need to follow. You'll get back into the show ring when you're ready. :)

  19. I seem to rush all day everyday, living with a knot of anxiety all the time because I feel like I'm always late for the next thing. Having said that, I seldom (but not never) feel that riding is an obligation. I mostly find it a joyful time out of the rush that motivates me to keep going. I usually try to ride first, so my energy level is higher.
    Like you, I love showing, but stopped during this crazy busy time. It isn't fun when there just isn't time.

  20. It is totally normal to not feel like riding or going to the barn on some days. For me I don't have that option anymore since my horses live at home but I miss having a day "off" now and then. When I have a day that I'm my feeling it I just push through and I am always happy I did. I have also found that when riding stops being fun it is usually because the horse isn't right for me or what I want. It is also tough to have a green horse if you don't have a non green one to get on and have fun with too. Those are the things that keep me going.

  21. The barn has always been my sanctuary away from stress (except of course when my horse is sick and therefore the cause of my stress). It's one of the few places I can honestly just be in the moment and forget everything else that's going on.

    That being said, I sometimes struggle with finding motivation to ride. Last winter was really bad. I got into a funk and couldn't seem to get myself out of it.

    I agree with you and everyone else that said riding should be fun! Perhaps because of that you should try to relax your expectations even more- I know Courage is young and green, but maybe he doesn't have to be ridden quite so often? Are you usually happy that you pushed yourself to ride or do you end up still feeling blah after?

  22. I have my horses at home plus I have 2 horses being boarded at my place. I love having them so close. I do stress when I don't get to ride... Since they are right here, I don't have much of an excuse when I go a few days without riding. I sometimes miss boarding at a barn with friends who have similar goals. But when I walk outside and Varro nickers at me, I wouldn't change a thing!

    Motivation seems to be my biggest stumbling block. I try to set a drop dead time everyday. I ride by 2pm or else I drop everything I am doing and at least do a 15 min jaunt around the arena. That really forces me to plan my day. It's a work in progress....

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  24. Speaking of "my horse is my therapist"....
    That's actually what I do, I use horses in psychotherapy. I just started a blog about it actually, I would really appreciate it if you had a look!


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