I always kinda thought I wanted a family….then I saw how few women with little children are at the top of the performance horse world as open/professional contestants. I always thought that eventually I would have to choose between having a family and having my horse business. That always seemed like an unfair and unjust, reality to me. Staying true to my stubborn personality (although I truly identify with strong-willed but my husband and dad say stubborn...to-may-toe, to-mah-toe) I decided that I would have both no matter what it took. Though I have just begun this journey of trying to balance the 2 somewhat conflicting lifestyles, here is what I have learned are key factors in moving forward, thriving, and having the best of both worlds as a horsey mama.
Have a support system: I can not emphasize this enough. I think I’m Wonder Woman most days. My husband will vouch that I have the grit and strength to make most impossible things happen on my own. But child bearing and rearing has brought me to my knees. There is absolutely no physical way I could love and care for my babies while breeding, raising, and training horses/mules/donkeys on my own. My husband does as much as he can to give me time for my equines. When that is not enough (he has a full time job too) I have to rely on child care. Right now I’m so blessed that my babies get to go to their grandparents so I can ride. If you don’t have the budget for childcare hopefully you have some really good friends or family that wouldn’t mind taking care of your kiddos a few hours out of the week or a couple days out of the week
Give yourself some grace: if you are pregnant, and trying to figure out how you will fit your newborn into a sling while you start colts a week after you give birth….spoiler alert, it ain’t happening. You will have to slow down a bit. Pregnancy/birth/postpartum takes a massive toll on your body and physical capabilities, that’s coming from a gal that had a healthy uneventful birth/postpartum experience. also, if you want to be as capable after birth as you were before, you have to take it slow and let your body heal.
Include your babies: when it is safe, and you are able to, bring your babies along to enjoy your horsey experiences. My oldest son has been out and around all the equines since the day we came home from the hospital and even before. I’ve been asked “is it ok to ride during pregnancy?” I believe that is a personal conviction, a bit like breastfeeding and formula. Up to the mama’s discretion. I was definitely riding up until I couldn’t get my foot in the stirrup, and my belly didn’t fit behind the saddle horn on the good broke horses with my first pregnancy. Then due to a freak accident with a mule that that left me with 3 broken bones, a dislocated ankle, and a separated tibia and fibula at 8 weeks pregnant with my second kid, I changed my thinking in that even with all the precautions taken, riding is unpredictable and risky at best. I didn’t ride much at all during my 2nd pregnancy.
Get a baby backpack/carrier: Seriously. The best money I have spent is on different carrying devices for my kids in the first 2 years of their life. For me, I stick to ground work now if I have a kid in a pack (see number 3 for my evolution of thought with littles on equines) and leave riding time for when it’s just me.
Know when to pivot: Since having my first kid, I have had to change up by business plan a bit and reassess my goals. I used to ride a lot of client colts...now, because colts are a bit more risky, I’m dialing back the number of colts I take in and ramping up other equine related streams of income and focusing my ride time on the horses I want to show or to have as good all around horses.
Schedule ride time: If you’re more of a free spirit, and schedules and structure kind of freak you out, like me, just hoping you will find time to ride isn’t going to happen. The demands of your family will always take up all of your time, and before you know it, you will be a depressed, resentful, mess. It’s okay and I would argue healthier for you, to actually block-out horse time in your weekly schedule and treat it with the same importance as a doctors appointment or your work schedule. You can always muster up an extra 5-10 mins and an extra ounce of effort for a load of dishes or laundry, not true for horse time. Make sure you are communicating with your support system from #1 about this. They will be the reason you succeed or fail at scheduling and fulfilling your horse time.
Do what works for you and your family: All of these tips can be creatively adapted for your situation. These are all examples of things that are working for me with my resources. I have friends/acquaintances that are horse mamas that do it a little differently than me.
Hopefully you find this helpful! If you do something different that has helped you be a horse mama, please send me a message or an email. I would love to hear your experiences!