Confessions of a Working Mother, Wife, and Horse Woman

Jan 22, 2013 27 Comments by

Life is all about balance – setting priorities. I realize that for many horse people their horses are number one, as evidenced by the many ecards shared and re-shared on Facebook warning potential mates to “love me, love my horse” and time and spending habits that heavily favor the equine. Sometimes I feel like the lone working wife and mom willingly to let her horse slide in favor of the family (please shout out in the comments if I’m not actually alone in this!).

A few confessions of this wife, mother, and crazy horse woman in my current stage of life:

I would choose my husband over my horse.

If it ever came down to it and my horse addiction was causing strife in my marriage, I would choose my husband over my horse. Period. I’m thankful that I have an understanding and supportive husband who does not begrudge me the time (and especially the money) spent on my horse. I do believe it’s easier for him to encourage my horse habit because he knows that he is my number one. He also came into our marriage fully aware of what he was getting in to. And he was happy that allowing me to get my horse meant he finally got that fancy guitar he’d been eyeing up for years (the tit-for-tat system is a REALLY good one when it comes to the horse and the marriage).

It’s a good week if I see my horse once, great if I make it out twice.

OK, I do feel a bit guilty about this one. Motherhood – and being a working mother in particular – has certainly changed the way I spend my time. Post-holiday-craziness, I’m trying to make sure that I get out and spend some quality time with my horse once a week. Once I get that established, I’m hoping to move up to more days.

I’m learning to set manageable goals that take it one step at a time, so I don’t constantly feel disappointed in myself. I’m also learning to make the time I do get with Ace really count. It helps me knowing that he gets good care at his boarding barn, and that some of my barn buddies keep an eye on him, feed him treats, and pick his hooves for me. He may be lacking in “mom” time, but he’s certainly getting to enjoy just being a horse right now. Also, the only thing that is suffering from lack of attention are his manners in the cross ties. The horse has the memory of an elephant and doesn’t forget a thing – so under saddle he acts like he’s getting ridden every day.

I have considered whether or not I should even keep my horse.

Paying full-care board on a horse I ride four times a month is pretty steep for our current financial situation. As I am just beginning this motherhood journey and fully intend to have more kids in the not-too-distant future, I figure it’s just going to get harder to work in my barn time. I feel guilty from time to time, in fairness to both our budget and to Ace. 

Then I go out for my once a week ride and reconnect with Ace, get some exercise, enjoy the fresh air. I’m reminded why it’s worth it, even if it’s expensive and receives less of my time and attention than I would like. Knowing that I’m giving one horse a great home where he receives high-quality care is enough for me right now. It would break my heart to part with him. It would feel like giving up a member of my family.

I’m currently doing only the bare minimum.

I’m paying the board bill. I stop out once or twice a week to ride and/or check over Ace with my own eyes, and pick out his feet. When I ride, it’s a quick brush, a short warm up, a brief work, and a hack around the field to cool down. I don’t clean his tack afterwards. We don’t spend much time on manners or ground work. He’s been having an issue with the cross ties for a few months, and other than working on “head down” a few times during the tacking/untacking process, I haven’t addressed it and resort to tacking him in his stall, or ground-tied in the aisle (hey, my horse kinda ground ties, so that should count for something). I stop out to mess with appropriate blanketing when needed. It might actually be a bit above and beyond that I’m there for the trimmer once every 4-5 weeks, lead rope and check book in hand.

Does all of this make me less of a horse woman? Some would probably say yes. Would my life look different if I wasn’t juggling my horse plus a husband, a 9-month-old, a home, and a full-time job? Absolutely. Am I doing the best I can? You bet.

Am I enjoying every minute of the time I have with my husband, son, AND my horse? Unequivocally yes. 

Your turn! Confessions about how YOU make your horse fit into YOUR life and priorities. Or, encouragement, sympathy, and babysitting offers always welcome.

Babies & Horses, Featured, Women and Horses

27 Responses to “Confessions of a Working Mother, Wife, and Horse Woman”

  1. NIcole says:

    One option is to lease your horse out, that way you would know that he is getting the appropriate riding time and care time. It is difficult to juggle all of those things. I am a college student, and I am juggling being a full time student, a job, riding, family, friends, and volunteering. I don’t currently have my own horse, because it’s too expensive and I plan on transferring to a University, so most all of my, (and my family’s) money will be going to that. I am actually leasing a horse right now, and I was lucky enough to find a trainer who was willing to allow me to come out any time I want and ride, and I have priority to ride her horse as well. Just know that you aren’t alone when it comes to having to juggle horse time and everything else! Just as long as you fit it in somewhere, everything will be okay. I know for me horses are a kind of therapy, and I would be so overwhelmed if I didn’t have that time to focus on them. Good luck!

  2. Shawna says:

    Sis – You are an incredible wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, leader, horse-owner, employee, musician, and volunteer. You wear many hats, juggling them gracefully and with such a wonderful spirit of care and expertise. I am so proud of you for all the ways you impact the people around you. Thank you for always being an inspiration in my life and for the many times you have shared your wise counsel with me. I love your honesty and sincerity in the blog.

    Worlds of Love!!!! (a little shout-out to Grandma Closz’ awesome signature tagline =).

  3. Net says:

    I think no one has a place criticizing you. If Ace were miserable, you would owe it to him as a horsewoman to change things. But if he’s merely not progressing forward in training yet happy and useful when you get out to ride you’re both continuing to provide for him and protect him by providing him skills where he would have value to someone else if something were to happen should you get injured… and anyone with a problem should go fly a kite.

    I am single, and there is no question as far as fitting the horses in it is FAR easier. I hope to have a husband and adopt someday or something, but right now no man has a right to try to complain about what I spend on the horses. It’s MY money. If I were married and financial situations changed, it would be a different story. I think a relationship/marriage should come first within reasonable amounts – someone being demanding and insisting you shouldn’t have horses because he wants all your attention should get the door, but someone concerned about finances or contributions to caring for the family has every right to ask things of you. I’ve heard of both good and bad in relationships. Most of my relationships involve men I date wanting me to be free for them at all times from the start, and therefore go nowhere. It’s only when a guy acknowledges and accepts horses as my passion that he gets to have my voluntarily rearranging my horse schedule to get to spend more time with him.

    In my case, my heart horse is a TB who is miserable if not ridden often (actually just had a recurrence of ulcers from stressing over lack of riding while I was recovering from an injury – despite being out 24/7 and having plenty of space to run and play.) A man will have to understand he requires regular exercise. If I only had a horse like my mom’s Friesian cross who doesn’t mind being left alone in a small pen as long as she gets fed and is the same to ride even after several months, that could be a different story.

    Ultimately, figuring out what works for you, what’s rewarding to you, and balancing it is the way to go. Good luck to you!

  4. Miss Meat and Potatoes says:

    I agree! I think if he’s happy and you’re happy it’s a win win. And you are SO lucky he doesn’t need regular riding so enjoy. My horses growing up were that way but my new mare is off the track and needs a SOLID five days a week which I can’t do so I have my trainer work her for 3. We didn’t pick a cheap hobby, did we? :) I’m hoping when she’s older she won’t need the constant riding but I’ll be ready if she does on how to handle it. Partial leases are wonderful if you trust the person and particularly if they happen to ride under a trusted trainer. Keep it up! If it makes you feel better I only get out 1-2 times a week and I don’t even have kids! just a demanding job!

  5. Equine Obsessed says:

    Jackie – you are not alone with your life balancing act. But it is worth it. I know people who place their animals over their human families and I can’t say I understand it. I am lucky to have a supportive, if non-horsey, husband. And lucky to have that full time job that pays for necessities as well as my horse expenses.

    My oldest kids were 8 and 5 when I got my first horse but we already had horses by the time my youngest daughters (twins) were born. Now that the twins are 14, we do weekly riding lessons together as well as trail rides, open shows and dressage schooling shows. So, we are once/week riders for the most part, more if planets align. I hope that our common interest will help us stay close through their teen years.

    My current horse would be much further along with his training if I could ride more. But we are making slow progress. More important is the equine therapy and the common activity I get to have with my kids.

    A lease agreement with a trustworthy person could help with finances or perhaps your barn could use your horse for lessons with selected riders for a little break on board. If not, I don’t think your horse minds more time being a horse and less time in training.

    We are all doing the best we can so don’t worry if you are not riding 6 days a week and spending ALL your money on your horse. Soon your baby boy will be begging to ride with you and you can share your passion with him.

    http://yayariders.wordpress.com/

  6. Debbie Tejada says:

    Keep your horse as long as you can! Horses can bring balance in a life that’s full of work and responsibility, even if those responsibilities are joyful ones. I know when I got out to the barn my blood pressure (and shoulders) go down and I get a rejuvenating dose of fresh air, sun, open country and a spiritual connection with my horse and nature that I can’t get anywhere else. Love your blog!

  7. Maggie says:

    Do everything thing you can to keep your horse/friend/therapist/partner in crime, because your happiness will benefit your entire family and – as an earlier comment suggested – your children may end up loving horses as well – a lifetime gift! If your gelding remains happy with limited work, don’t feel like you have to share the ride with anyone else because sometimes your relationship with your horse is the BEST part, with a whicker reserved just for you. As a working mom who has taught my husband and two daughters to ride, I can say that for us it is such a perfect avenue for learning responsibility, compassion, bravery and anything else you can think of . . . not to mention that it keeps my beautiful daughters away from teenage boys!!!!

  8. motherofmany says:

    YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE! (and good for you!) Reading your article is encouraging and what wonderful courage you have in allowing your baby and family to transform your life in a positive way.

    I was overjoyed to return to riding, which had been and continues to be a passion, after a 12-year baby hiatus. I was able to reconnect with a riding centre in my area, take weekly lessons, and even pass a standard level (Galop), happy to learn that I hadn’t forgot it all. I’m now pregnant with my 5th and possibly final baby and taking time off again, but will return to the centre as soon as I’m ready.

    This second start at riding has brought so much to me, fresh air, exercise, a connection with the wonderful animal, a sense of accomplishment, new friendships, and great memories, that I know it will always be a part of my life, somehow. One day I’ll put my little ones on shetlands, buy a horse of my own, and even go back to competitions. Don’t let go of your dreams (and take care of your babies)!

  9. Jamie Jennings says:

    Jackie, As always thanks for keeping it real. I know that had to be tough to write. I know we are in semi different situations, but I admire you the same!

    You are honest and forthcoming in your blog, and you don’t hold anything back. I am proud of you! And yes, my Man comes first too! (Thank God he likes having horses in the back yard!)

  10. Bonita says:

    All I can say is: This is me…

    Confession time. Yes, I put my family before my horses. Yes, I feel guilty about the lack of progress/training/extended unplanned holidays my horses get! Yes, I struggle with the question of selling them – going to sell one, but both? Is it fair to my family? Our finances?

    It’s like you just wrote EXACTLY what my life is like as a wife, mother of young children, and a horse enthusiast. I don’t know what I’d do without my horses, but I also know there are cheaper options than owning my own horse; such as weekly riding lessons, or something. Sometimes I feel like the stress (and guilt!) of balancing it all, particularly with bubba number 2 on the way, just isn’t worth it. And then I ride. And I know I can’t give it up. Not just yet.

    So….. Thanks for writing this. You’re not in it alone, and it really is nice to know that I am not in it alone either! I think you’ve got your priorities straight, and I think your horse sounds really happy with the arrangement, so well done. Keep up the good work and enjoy your family AND your equine buddy!

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  11. Jackie says:

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful and encouraging comments! Together, we can bring a little balance to the equestrian blogosphere. ;)

    You all make the strong point that as long as Ace is handling the new system OK – and he absolutely is – then what we are doing is working. Thank you for calling that out so nicely.

    Also, he was half-leased during my pregnancy and his rider had so much fun that she ended up getting her own horse! Unfortunately, the barn where he is boarded (while providing great care) is a completely different discipline and style of riding from what we do – so getting into the lesson program is out of the question and finding another leasee is difficult. It the right person comes along again, I’d be up for it. But honestly, I don’t mind having him be a one-woman horse, or having to worry about someone else “messing” him up.

    And you can bet I’ll have my kid up there on the horses if he will tolerate it! I’m working on brainwashing him to love it already.

    Sis – you rock. Love yah!

    Jamie – I’m very much looking forward to hearing how your baby vs. horse life goes once your little man arrives. I know your experience will be very different from mine – and work out just as well for you and your family. I might even have to do some guest interviews on here with you.

    Net – Thankfully no one has criticized me yet for any of this – I’m just very hard on myself about it!

    Now, who wants to come babysit so I can go riding?

  12. OnTheBit says:

    I think you are doing the best you can at this moment with everything you have going on and who can ask more of themselves than that??? I know many people who don’t even make it out once a month to see their horses and they don’t have a husband or a baby so you are doing just fine in my eyes.

    As for the guilt and the costs…have you thought about doing a half lease? I know you had someone riding Ace when you were pregnant, but I was thinking something a little more tradition, like 3 set days a week and half all expenses. I just always thinking of people like me out there who would love to ride but can’t because they can’t afford it. I know it is hard finding the right fit, but I also know that I cannot possibly be the only person who owns a retired horse who would love to enjoy half of a second horse.

  13. Ashley says:

    Oh, I can relate. I could have written this post. I’m in the exact same shoes. I bought my dream (and green) mare about 6 months before I got pregnant. I had no idea what I was getting into.

    As a working mom, I can’t even dream of getting to the barn on a typical day. Puh-lease. I’m happy if I can get home in time to spend two hours with my little one before shuffling her off to bed. Being a working mom is no joke. It’s endless juggling, organizing, and ruminating. I have tremendous working mom guilt. Add to that the guilt of my gorgeous horse sitting in the barn without me and the money we shell out each month for her to be ridden a few times a week by a generous teenager in my barn – I’m a bag of guilt.

    So, my horse is for sale and she is now inappropriately green for her age. (My daughter is now almost 2.) I thought about leasing, but nobody wants to lease a green horse. Plus, we are thinking about having a 2nd baby soon and I think this is not the time for me to have a horse. I’m saddened about giving up the hobby/life that has given me so much happiness over the years, but it’s unaffordable and impractical.

    It’s hard. No advice here, just understanding.

    Ashley (formerly of The Horse and Habit Blog (http://www.thehorseandhabit.com/ )- gave that up bc of time constraints too!)

  14. Shannon says:

    Well I’m due with my first, and hopefully only, next month. I have no intentions of giving my horses up. Though in my case if things go well we’ll have a home with room for them by the end of the summer. That will make it a lot easier for me.

    If the leasing doesn’t work, and board is getting in the way, could you put him out on pasture board? It’s cheaper and he’ll definitely get to enjoy just being a horse for a while.

  15. Linda Clark says:

    I was where you are right now many years ago and I can so relate. From everything you have said, it sounds as though you are doing a pretty good job of juggling your life. Maybe it is because you have a husband who is willing to, should I say it, put up with your passion for horses. It is not easy to do all that you do and have a horse especially when you have to travel to see it. Before I had the horse I have now, which I have had now for 8 years, a friend once told me I needed to get another horse. I told her then that I did not have time for a horse. Even now I totally understand why I said that because it is not so much time that is necessary for your horse but it is the time you would love to spend with your horse. So before you relent to the guilt that you feel in not seeing your horse often, really look hard at whether it is affecting him, especially if you have spent a lot more time with him in the past. Granted the riding part is affecting him because you aren’t able to ride as often but I have seen someone go from seeing her horse almost everyday to maybe only 2 times a week and it has had little affect on him. I know because he is in our barn. One question: does your horse have a horse buddy? That often helps a horse adjust to being without you more.
    Again, it is not so much the time spent as it is the time you would like to spend.
    I have justified having another horse to my belief that it is good mental as well as physical therapy . I am thinner and saner than I use to be. Not to mention, dollar for dollar, the amount would be about the same regardless of whether it goes to a doctor or the stable where you board your horse. There is nothing better than riding out in the fresh air or mucking out the stalls in the barn. I am now retired from one business and starting a new one. My son is grown and I do have more time than I use to but I work more around the barn than I ride.
    Here’s the thing. The passion for horses is for life- your whole life. Don’t make yourself miserable by feeling guilty that you can’t spend the time with your horse that you would like and then when you do go to the barn, don’t feel guilty for going and leaving your baby behind. If you decide you cannot do both then find your horse a good forever home and wait for time to pass when you will have another opportunity to rekindle that passion.
    Best of luck and happy horse play
    Linda

  16. Melissa says:

    Amazing. I loved reading this. So many things I can relate to. I am relatively new to riding. My husband bought me a lesson package for my birthday but I then became pregnant with our first child before taking them. I called the barn and asked for a refund but they refused, saying they would grant the voucher in a year. Im glad they never provioded the refund because I never would have started riding.
    Fast forward to an emotional postpartum woman at home on mat leave with a colicky baby. I needed to get out of the house. I was (and am) very fortunate to have a babysitter at my disposal whenever I need. My grandmother is like a surrogate mom to my son and is ready to help at the drop of a hat.
    My 5 week lesson package morphed into 6 months of weekly ongoing lessons which then increased to a 2 day lease (i told myself only for 3 months before returning to work, then I would go back to weekly lessons). I have managed to contionue leasing twice a week despite returning to work fulltime and I am currently saving money to begin a third day.
    My husband does not begrudge me the time or money (and he cant because i often point out that it was all his idea anyways! lol) and you are right about the tit for tat definetley working out in this case. Interestingly my husband has also purchased a nice new guitar since ive started riding. haha.
    But the truth is, I feel guilty about leaving my son with my grandma after hes been at daycare all day. He should be with his mom? I feel guilty for spending the money on a 2 day lease when it could go to bills or debt. I fell guilty since becoming a mom in general.
    However, my son is now 17 months old and this past Easter my husband and I took him to the barn where I ride and I Ied him on his first real pony ride. (This was his 4th or so trip to teh barn as I have been “exposing” him from as early as I could. Watching him on that pony, my heart almost burst open at the sight. When the ride was over and we removed his little helmet, my son started bawling. He wanted to ride more. I certainly know the feeling.
    I want to buy a horse but cant afford it quite yet. What I have learned in the meantime however, is that neither myself, nor my family can “afford” for me not to ride at all. You will make it work. You are making it work. Your son will catch on and you will give him one the best gifts a person can recieve. The calm mind and fulfilled heart that comes from loving a horse.

  17. Britney says:

    Wonderful that your writing about a subject that so many women can relate to. With the craziness of life — it is hard to find time to enjoy our passions. I had to sell my horse, but I still indulge by watching western/english and horse racing videos online when I can find the time.

  18. Britney says:

    Wonderful that your writing about a subject that so many women can relate to. With the craziness of life — it is hard to find time to enjoy our passions. I had to sell my horse, but I still indulge by watching western/english and horse racing videos online when I can find the time.

  19. Tracey Smith says:

    You are not alone…I am in the same boat. Although now that my step children are older (one grown and moved out) my horse time is increasing. For years I felt like some of my fellow horse folk thought I was not a good enough horse owner.

    You know what the funny thing is though? My mare is forgiving and happy for whatever time she gets to spend with me…and I feel the same way about her.

    Do your best and your horse will be happy and so will you.

  20. Jesus Garcia says:

    I,32,a working woman and a mother of two find hard to take care of my fitness in the hectic daily routine and have piled on heaps of fats in last few years.I did horse riding,golfing and skiing as an amateur but never took it very seriously.I can relate myself to the role of wife and a mother same as of
    you.But I am totally appalled and fascinated by your story.It is
    commendable to hop between the roles of a wife,mother and a horse woman.Reading your blog thoroughly has motivated me and I am now determined to take out time for myself with no excuses,lose weight with rigor and pursue my interest.

  21. Vanessa down east mama says:

    I used to ride a horse with friends for good recreation in my
    teens but never did it in almost a decade.Horse riding is the best physical activity that makes almost all the muscles work out especially the limbs and abdomen muscles.I was
    never a fitness freak, but last year my uncle had a cardiac
    arrest.And the reason that the doctors cited was ‘lack of
    exercise over the years’.From then on,I have become more cautious on doing regular physical activities.I have been doing regular exercises along with Yoga from past 1 year.I am very motivated by this post and few comments mentioned above.Being a mother,wife,if you can pursue your interest of riding a horse,it inspired me a lot.Though horse riding is a tough and rigorous activity which will require a lot of self discipline and austerity,I am ready for the challenge.

  22. Makayla says:

    I was learning horse riding when i was young. But once I fell from the back of a horse and got kicked by it in the back. From then I am got a fear for horses. When I got older, I tried to overcome this fear, but could never overcome it. I am really impressed by the manner how you manage everything. I salute you from my heart.

  23. Catherine says:

    You are living the life you choose, right? All of us run into time constrictions. I tend to confuse my horses when they don’t see me for a few days…and I have them at home. I work, go to school and have 4 kids. And a husband, who is probably more work than all the rest of that put together.

    My horses are not neglected and they will never leave my life. Many of the people I meet say they don’t ride their horses as much as they should. I’m about ready to advertise for a horseless rider to get mine into shape, but overall, I’m not stressing or regretting anything

  24. Garcia Madison says:

    I am learning horse riding now and really love the experience. When I sit on a horse the wind that touches my hair feels so good. I am planning to buy a horse after sometime. I hope I too can spend as much time as you do with your horses:)

  25. mia says:

    I think horse riding is one of the best recreation. I was learning horse riding when I was young, but then times changed and due to bad times we had to sell our horse. I still remember the day when we sold it and I was crying.

  26. Gray Elizabeth says:

    Hats off to you. You look so very confident and happy. I wish I too could be like you. But now my life has taken a different turn and it is difficult for me to be back on track. Keep up the good work.

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