If you own horses, work with horses, or have even just been around them, there’s no questioning how lucky you are. Spending time with these beautiful, intelligent animals is a privilege I do not take lightly; however, today I wanted to talk about the times when it isn’t all sunshine and daisies. Maybe you go to catch your horse from the field at the end of a long day and they won’t come to you when you call them, so you walk all the way to the other side of the biggest field on the property only to have them see you and take off running straight back to…. the gate. Maybe you got stepped on. Or bitten. Or maybe you had a lesson that made you feel like a complete fool who doesn’t know anything about riding horses and you’ve missed every single distance to the jumps: maybe you missed so much that you got catapulted into said jump. I think part of what makes work with horses in any capacity to be so rewarding is how challenging it can be at times. So if you’re having a bad day, if you want to throw in the towel, try one of these tips instead
1. Do something else
There’s sometimes a stigma in the horse world that if you want to be in it, you have to really be in it. Live, breathe, eat, and sleep horses. No question this is work that takes commitment, even if you’ve just chosen horses as your hobby and not your full-time job, chances are you’re making sacrifices to pull it all off. I’m not suggesting that in a moment of frustration that you pack up, leave immediately and do something else but I am suggesting that you have things in life that make you happy outside of the saddle. Something that allows you to leave your problems at the barn- it could be yoga, cooking, running, painting pottery, singing- or if you’re anything like me, strangling your friends in a padded room (okay that sounds pretty bad if you don’t know I like to do Jiu-Jitsu after work). The point is, having something that you enjoy doing outside of horses does not take away from your life with horses, it enhances it. It keeps you fresh so that on a day where you’re really down and out and frustrated in the barn you can rejuvenate yourself to come back and conquer the day tomorrow.
2. Show some gratitude
Gratitude is something I talk about a lot, but how do I actually use it to make my day better? Do I stand in the field as the horse I’m trying to catch runs to the opposite end of the field again and smile and take a deep breath and say “wow I’m so grateful for this amazing animal, even though it’s pissing me off right now.” Actually, sometimes, I do. Because in situations like that, you have to change your mindset. I learned about a concept recently called identified regulation, which is basically when someone engages in an uninteresting activity in order to excel at an interesting one and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe work with horses. There are a lot of obligations that go along with all the fun stuff that we “get” to do that we “have” to do. I challenge you to show some gratitude for those “have” to-s: in times of stress think about all the wonderful and fantastic reasons you chose to be involved with horses. Connect to your purpose. Appreciate why you are doing what you are doing, and remember no one is forcing you to have this life.
3. Pet your pony
Okay, maybe this one’s a little silly but I know that if I’m having a bad day in my life outside of horses, a good snuggle with my favorite horse is sure to make me feel better. Sometimes I think that the most frustrating days with horses are frustrating because we are running around without time to appreciate the beauty of what’s around that. So when you feel frantic, or frustrated, or upset, take a minute to take a deep breath and pet your freaking pony!
4. Call a friend
Chances are if you’re having a bad day with horses, you’ve got someone in your contact list that understands. If they’re not having a bad day with horses and they can remind you that it isn’t always going to be like this. If they are having a bad day with horses, you can bond over your bad day together. The point here is to feel connected because a bad day is always worse when you feel like you’re going at it alone.
5. Listen to a podcast, pump up the jams or spend some time with your favorite audiobook
Okay, so I’m going to be honest. This one isn’t always the most mindful solution to having a bad day with horses, but sometimes you just need something to get you through the day. Podcasts are great because there’s something for everyone: entertainment, self-help, and stories of what’s happening in the world that puts it all into perspective. Music can serve to energize and distract you, and there’s something wonderful to be said about getting lost in an audiobook. A word of caution, however-make sure your audio input isn’t distracting you from your work with horses. I personally like to listen with my phone in speaker mode so I can still hear what’s going on around me. Use technology as a resource, but don’t abuse it!
The most important thing to remember if you’re having a bad day with horses is that not all days will be like this. Embrace the bad days and you will find more joy in the good.
And if you want more content like this, be sure to check out @TheWholeEquestrian on Facebook and Instagram and listen to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts! Thanks for reading :)