Can I tell you something funny? Years ago, before I had children, I was one of ‘those’ people. You know the ones that say “when I have children, I will have them at the stables with me all the time because nothing will change”. I usually followed it up with something offhand like “they will fit in with my schedule”. Ha, ha, ha!! Oh, how naive it was back then!
If you are trying to juggle horse riding and parenting, you will know all too well that they can often clash. The time, focus, and attention that is necessary to really improve as a rider can often leave us feeling like we’re stealing time from our children! Or that our children are stealing valuable ‘riding time’ from us!
Finding time to devote to your riding when you are a parent can truly be a challenge
However, by setting a few healthy boundaries, becoming more disciplined with your time, and a lot of luck, it can be done 🙂
Horse riding as a Parent
Before I had my children, I had this wonderful story in my head of how things would be if I became a mother someday… This generally involved lots of laughter, riding together in nature, peace and tranquillity, and little people who were very capable from the get-go. I know, if you have small children, trust me we are laughing together other now!
For me, the biggest challenge has been merging the consistency required for horse riding as a parent with the responsibilities of being an actual parent!
I have found that no matter how well I plan or try to cover all of my bases with regards to ‘what might happen’, children are wonderful at creating new scenarios that I never even considered up to that point!
Couple this with them wanting to accompany me to the stables ALL OF THE TIME, and then help them work with their ponies… Time spent in the saddle really does begin to take a knock. And this is not even mentioning being able to focus and physically ‘ride’ after a couple of hours of broken sleep. Or squeezing rides in between meals, car drives, and all the other wonderful things that life with children introduces!
However, after speaking with other brave souls who are committed to horse riding as a parent, and blending their advice with what I have found to work, I have become a lot more successful in making this happen.
1. Be Flexible – and Expect the Unexpected!
This has probably been the most useful advice for me as I continue to navigate the whole horse riding as a parent journey. You see, I would find myself feeling more frustrated than compassionate when unexpected things showed up.
By shifting my focus to appreciating the days when the plan worked, I found I was much more relaxed when faced with the days that it didn’t!
I realize that gratitude is a word that has been bandied around a little too much over the past few years. However, noticing and appreciating the days that I was able to ride really did help me shift my mindset.
Being grateful for the days I got to ride also helped me to be more focused, disciplined, and intentional with my time in the saddle as well
2. Have a Plan for Your Rides
Once I got over the frustration of not being able to stick to my plan, I began to plan a little differently. And I would highly suggest this way of doing things if you have a schedule that may also change suddenly.
I began to keep a list of things that I wanted to work on or do during my ‘riding time’. There were 3 ‘groups’ of topics depending on how much time I found myself at the yard
You see, once I began to truly embrace horse riding as a parent, I realized that there was value in the smaller pockets of time in my life. 10 minutes alone took on a whole new meaning for me! So, I began to plan accordingly!
My list had things I could do in 15, 30, or 1 hour or less. Each of those groups had riding, groundwork, and stable management items on them
By doing this, I found I always had something meaningful to do, even if my plan changed at the drop of a hat. It also allowed me to make the absolute most of the time I did have with my horses. Get a list of 80+ Topics to do with your horse HERE
3. Get Support & Set Boundaries
Support can be a tricky one, especially when young children are involved. It can be as simple as asking a grandparent to watch the children one afternoon a week, to paying a babysitter. Support can also come from your partner or the child’s other parent.
What I suggest doing is creating a list of all the ways you can free up some pockets of time for yourself to ride your horse, from the easiest to maybe some less ideal or likely situations. Then begin asking…
I also found that making my horse riding a ‘non-negotiable’ really worked for me. Seeing it as an important appointment that I couldn’t just cancel on a whim. This helped me to prioritize a little better, which often meant creating stronger boundaries.
You can create boundaries for both yourself and those around you. And keep in mind, your boundaries will only be as effective as how well you decide on them, communicate them, and enforce them…
4. Involve Your Children
This might not always go to plan, especially if you have this perfect picture in your head as I had before children! However, if you are realistic and patient, this can really be worth your while. Be realistic with your expectations of each visit to the yard with your children. They will most likely want it to be all about them and their pony, so allow for that.
Plan activities that you can do together so you can spark curiosity in your child. Think about things that are safe and also a little mentally or physically challenging for them
Remember, this won’t be the day that you will get a huge amount of focused, uninterrupted riding time in! However, it might just be a stepping stone for your child to begin becoming an independent equestrian in their own right.
It’s also worth remembering that as your child grows, they will have their own opinions, likes, methods, and beliefs about horse riding – and they might not always line up with yours!
Try not to crush their enthusiasm by dictating the terms of their relationship with their horse. Rather see your role as a guide. At the end of the day, they are on their own journey as a rider. Encourage rather than cut down and stifle.
5. Be Patient… This Will Also Change
My final piece of advice is to simply be patient. And, most of the time, accept the situation you find yourself in. Horse riding as a parent can either be one of the things that will propel your riding and your development forward. Or see you being endlessly frustrated and annoyed with your current circumstances.
Be honest with yourself; some days your responsibilities as a parent will mean that you won’t get to do what you wanted to with your horse
And that is okay… I like to think of my life as a series of seasons. Different areas are in different seasons at any one time. And this means that when I’m experiencing summer and growth in one area, there will be winter and hibernation in another.
By getting truly clear on your priorities, and your values, and then creating goals that align with those, you can make horse riding as a parent work for you and your family.