Normal people (as in non-horse folk) struggle as it is to have the sought after ‘work-life balance’. Society now is so goal focussed that people are working ridiculously hard and yet still feel incomplete, rushed or like that hamster running on the wheel but never getting anywhere.
Before I started my teaching career in August of this year, I swore to myself I would put this balance at the forefront of my mind. As a person, I get quite tense and anxious when I have too much on my plate. Whereas, if I manage to have some form of balance, I am a much happier allrounder.
Now, that all sounds great- strike the balance and all will be well and rosey. Let’s throw a couple of horses into the mix though and oh dear some days it feels there are not enough hours. Can you relate?
From the October holidays onwards, I really struggled with this balance. I did not ride at all, I barely spent quality time with Bo or Harry (as at the time I loaned him) and my mood was so low. I know it was because I felt like I was letting the horses down, I was feeling pressure in school to get the 7 million to-do’s done and I just could not get a grasp on balance. I felt like this for the first few weeks of term one also when I literally did not ride for 3 weeks! Though, by the end of term, I had re-worked my week and figured out a way to ensure I was riding. It usually takes a little bit of thought and time to myself to figure out how to get back on track.
I would like to share five ways to achieve a work/life/horses balance with you that I do myself to get back on track.
Please note, this is not a ‘do this and you will strike the perfect balance’ type of post. Balance is not static. Week by week, different commitments crop up and so a set schedule is not going to work permanently. However, there are things you can do to make sure you feel you’re on top of things- including your horse!
The most important first step you need to do is plan out your weeks. It doesn’t need to be an exact time or precise plans (they rarely turn out as you plan anyway) but they do need to give you an overview of your week and what is happening when.
I like to use a bullet journal type method. I will have a work list of things that I would like (or need) to accomplish for the week. Then, I will have a personal list with items such as food shop, laundry or any meet up’s with friends/family. Finally, I will have a horse section of what I would like to do that week.
Then, once I have my separate lists, (which should all fit onto one side of an A5 notebook by the way- any more than that and you are over-horsing yourself) I will start to allocate days to certain tasks. For example, before when I was riding both Bo and Harry, my plan would have looked something like this:
|TUESDAY||Hack Harry (the loop), feed Bo.|
|WEDNESDAY||School Harry- Stubble field 30 mins- transitions, between gaits and within gaits. Do short canters on each rein in straight line.|
|FRIDAY||Hack Bo (the loop)|
|SATURDAY||Hack Harry (woods)|
As you can see from above, it is a very rough guide of a plan and it is definitely subject to change but for the most part, I want to aim to stick to this as best I can. I might decide that Sunday is actually a lovely day and Saturday is rainy, so I switch them round- but the outcome is the same for the week.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
My next point is to be kind to yourself. If you have a schedule like the one above and you don’t manage to ride on Wednesday because your work kept you in longer or you had a bad mental health day- it is not a huge deal. Yes, it’s not what you planned, but will it have a huge impact? Nah. There are some weeks that are busier than others and some days things don’t go to plan, you feel a bit off and life happens. You cannot do everything.
This is something I have struggled with- trying to do everything- when it’s just not possible. So, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t manage, listen to yourself and what you need.
3. Be Realistic
There is absolutely no point setting a mad schedule where you ride five times a week and work late four days. It won’t work. You need to be realistic about your situation and what takes up your time. Perhaps, you need to look at where your time is going and how you can use it more effectively. Can you get up earlier? Do you need to go the grocery store every night? This leads onto the next point…
Prioritising involves a bit of the old brain power. I recommend you sit down and write out a list of everything you do throughout the week which takes time- outside of your working hours. Mine would look something like this:
- Plan for the following teaching week.
- Resource gathering for lessons.
- Write blog post.
- Food shop.
- Visit family.
- Spend quality time with other half.
- Ride Harry.
- Ride Bo.
- Yard chores.
- Youtube marathons.
You can see, there is quite a lot I get up to on a weekly basis. Now that you have your list, you can see how much you do in a week. Now think about what ones you enjoy, what ones you are not doing as much as you would like and what ones are your time suckers. For me, I probably spent a lot of time on youtube this morning watching people riding their horses rather than riding my own- just as a completely candid example.
Once you can visualise where your time goes you can decide what ones matter the most. Maybe you could re-work your morning routine and give yourself some extra time there. Or maybe you’re guilty of going to the shops every night to buy dinner and could cut down that time by doing a weekly shop? Could you start meal prepping to save time? There are lots of angles and it will be dependant on you as a person, what you’re comfortable with and how you want to spend your time.
5. Seek help
This is not always an option but a lot of yards do offer part/ assisted or full livery to help with chores which could offer you more time to work with your horse. It is more expensive though, so like I said, it’s not always an option. Are there any friends you can buddy up with at the yard to split workloads? Perhaps you could alternate turn out/ bring in so you don’t need to be going to the yard multiple times a day.
Overall, your situation is largely dependant on you. There is a certain amount of discipline required in order to make changes. I would say, do them gradually. This week, for example, I will be glad if I can ride once as I allow myself to get back into the swing of things at work. Next week, maybe I’ll up it a little. That works for me right now because Bo doesn’t need to be doing too much, he’ll be 20 this year so it’s not as if we are training for a three day event! If you do have a three day event coming up, your priorities will be different, obviously.
The best piece of advice I can give is- if you physically cannot make it work in a way where you have ‘you time’ and where you are training your horse at the level you would like- something has to give. You need to work out what that is.