5 Ways Coaching Can Help You Become the Owner Your Horse Deserves, (and the Horsewoman YOU Deserve to Be

5 Ways Coaching Can Help You Become the Owner Your Horse Deserves, (and the Horsewoman YOU Deserve to Be

The idea of personal coaching isn’t new. There have been life coaches, business coaches, performance coaches, mindset coaches, and just about any other kind of coaches you can think of for the last few decades and coaching for horse owners is also a thing. Although coaching for horseback riding is the norm, coaching in becoming a good horsewoman and horse owner is not as common, but can more profoundly affect your understanding of your horse (as well as of yourself), in ways that riding in lessons doesn’t usually touch.

#1 – Self Awareness

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know that I’m a big proponent of self-awareness. This is the key factor in making any positive change in your life, whether as a horse owner, a mother, an employee, or a successful marathon runner.

What self-awareness will do for you as a horsewoman:

  • Allow you to spot where you have stress triggers
  • Help you discover and defuse the negative voice that plays constantly in your head. Important note: I said to discover and defuse, not delete. Our negative voices have been with us since time began. While we’re not likely to ever make them go away, we can learn how to minimize their negative impact on our lives.
  • Help you be fully present with your horse so you enjoy your shared time to the maximum.
  • Open new ways of seeing and thinking about things you’ve taken at face value before, like self-limitations. If you could change the limiting beliefs you have about your riding and being a horse owner, what could your Best (Horsey) Life look like?

Better “Horse-Awareness”

Imagine you had new insight into how past experiences are shaping your current reality with your horse. Upping your level of awareness will help you to be more present with him, and to forge a deeper bond. You’ll become more aware of when your horse becomes tense, relaxes, or really likes the spot you’re scratching (although, if he’s like my horses, that one’s kind of hard to miss!)

By becoming more aware of how he sees the world, you can begin to adapt your “language” with him to help the two of you reach a new level of understanding based on mutual respect and trust. Your silent communication will become deeper, and the relationship more rewarding for both of you.

#3 Learning to Envision Possibilities

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

We, humans, live in a world of negative bias. According to PositivePsychology.com, “Negativity bias refers to our proclivity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information. (Vaish, Grossmann, & Woodward, 2008, p. 383).” Basically – we believe that if anything’s ever gone wrong in our past or has the slightest possibility of going wrong – it will.

Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you worried about something? Or the last time you replayed something unkind someone said to you over and over in your head? How about the last time you said to yourself, “Just my luck – of course this all went wrong – that’s what always happens to me!” Sound familiar?

Let’s flip that on its head for a moment. When did you last hop out of bed thinking – “What a great morning – I love the possibilities my day presents to me!”, or “I can’t believe how everything always works out in my favor?” Chances are, multiple examples in the first group of statements pop right up, while it may take a bit longer to think of even one or two times you’ve believed anything in the more positive group.

I’ll close this section with another quote: “Dreams are not reality; dreams have the power to create the reality we are dreaming about; all we need is the courage to believe in the power of dreams.”

― Amar Ochani

#4 – Learning New Skills

I hope that the dream of forging a deeper bond with your horse sounds great to you. But, I can also hear you saying, “Sure – sounds great – but just how do I develop self-awareness, or tune in to my horse more, or even learn to believe that some of my dreams are possible?”

One word – skills. You see, none of these come naturally to us, at least not as adults. When we were kids, many of us had absolutely no problem believing that we could ride every day, own a horse, or ride in the Olympics, and yet, as an adult, the ability to believe in our dreams seems to present more of a challenge. Not only is this another facet of negativity bias, it’s also a sad fact that our society doesn’t encourage dreamers. “Grow up.”, “You can’t just be a riding instructor, get a real job.” We’re encouraged to join the masses who have learned to put aside their dreams in favor of “reality”… how sad… (and who gets to decide the definition of reality for you? Hint,… the person you see in the mirror every morning!)

Now, just wishing things were different won’t change the beliefs that have shaped your entire life. It takes work, beginning with self-awareness, and learning how to over-rule your negativity bias more and more often, and learning how to “grow down”, and recapture the joy of believing your dreams like you did when you were a kid.

#5 Celebrating Yourself and Your Horse

When’s the last time you gave yourself a metaphorical high-five? If you’re like most people who grew up being told that you were “too big for your breeches”, you might not even be able to remember it.

But here’s the deal. Becoming a great horse owner is challenging. Heck, becoming a good anything is challenging – and with horses, you have a whole separate being to bond with – one who doesn’t share our language, who has a highly developed sense of self-preservation (typically using flight rather than fight), and – oh yeah – weighs a half ton or more! Simply being able to put a halter on your horse and lead him out of the field is an accomplishment – so stop looking at Olympians and beating yourself up over all the ways you don’t measure up.

The only things you should be comparing with your horsemanship skills of today, are your horsemanship skills of yesterday. If you’re working to improve, than you’re succeeding – and that, my friend, deserves a high-five.

5 Confidence Hacks for Horse Women

5 Confidence Hacks for Horse Women

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”

 C.G. Jung

While Jung certainly had a point, for many horsewomen, the most terrifying thing to accept about ourselves is our relationship with that 1,000 lb essential part of our lives, our horse.

While confidence can be elusive, especially if we’ve had a challenging or frightening event, it is a skill. It can be developed like a muscle – with light weight and a few reps first, gradually moving on to heavier weights and more repetitions. 

Here are a few tips for developing confidence in yourself, and your horse.

Don’t wait until you’re confident to show up, show up until you’re confident.

Confidence comes from action. While “fake it till you make it” is kind of trite, it’s also kind of true. I’m not advocating galloping off into the sunset across a huge field on a horse you haven’t actually ridden outside a ring, but I am suggesting that maybe it’s time to strengthen that confidence muscle just a bit. Perhaps ask a friend to hack with you from the ring to the field and back. 

Even having someone walk with you on foot can help lessen your nerves and make the experience more enjoyable for you and your horse. Bonus –  you’ll have a few minutes to chat with a friend while you’re at it!

“Self-confidence is contagious.”―Stephen Richards

We know horses are herd animals, and if one spooks, they all want to spook. Humans are the same – we can easily get into that crowd mentality that has caused young women to faint at the sight of their favorite rock star ever since there have been rock stars – actually – way before that… I love Frank Sinatra’s music, but I don’t really think of him as a rock star…

The good thing is that we can use crowd mentality to our benefit. If you have a friend who is a confident rider, try hanging around her more. Watch how she does things. Talk to her about why she’s confident. Borrow one or two of her strategies and try them on for size. 

Caveat – If your friend suggests galloping off into the sunset across a huge field on a horse you haven’t actually ridden outside a ring – ask her to back it up a step (or six). You’re trying to develop confidence, not shatter it (and possibly some bones) by doing something so far out of your comfort zone that it’s in a different zip code.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gogh

Humans can be the most contrary of creatures. We often want something madly (like being a confident rider), only to have that boringly repetitive, and often nasty, voice in our head insist that we’ll never be able to pull it off, we’re stupid to even consider it, and perhaps we should take up knitting instead of riding while we’re at it.

Remember, confidence is a skill – you can develop it the same way you can develop the skill to paint, cook, dance, or go rock climbing. The first step is to summon it to you when that voice within you says ‘you cannot be a confident rider’. Go out and do the thing – tackle an exercise that’s a half-millimeter outside of your comfort zone. And when you succeed, come up with something pithy and mature to say to that nasty voice (like nah nah nah nah nah – I did it – you lose!!), and listen to the blissful silence that follows.

“Have confidence that if you have done a little thing well, you can do a bigger thing well too.”

David Storey

Imagining confidence is a bit like summoning it, but there’s a great exercise you can do even when you’re nowhere near your horse that will help turn you into that confident rider you want to be. Visualization.

Yeah, I know – it sounds like new-agey bull-oney, yada yada yada. But, truth is, a lot of that new-agey stuff is actually backed by science, and visualization is one of those things.

In an article in The Scientific American, author Jim Lohr said:

Visualization and action are intimately connected, involving the motor cortex. Thinking about our body doing something—raising an arm or walking forward—activates the motor cortex directly.

In this article, Lohr focuses mainly on the power of visualization to affect movement, and its possible usefulness in helping stroke patients recover some of their motor function. He goes on to say, 

Imagining allows us to remember and mentally rehearse our intended movements. In fact, visualizing movement changes how our brain networks are organized, creating more connections among different regions.

Consider the impact this could have on your ability to create a more confident approach to riding. If you can imagine the physical state of being a confident rider, you can, with practice, imagine that physical state into reality.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”―J. M. Barrie

We’ve all seen the cartoons where Wile E Coyote is chasing the Road Runner and runs off the edge of a cliff. All is well… until he looks down… 

Looking down is something we’re all prone to do in one form or another. I can’t think of anyone who worked hard to develop confidence only to see it slip a bit at some later date. I don’t think you’ll “cease forever to be able to do it”, but safeguarding your confidence in the early stages seems prudent. Who knows how far Wile E Coyote could have run if he had just stopped looking down?

Confidence in women is often seen as a bad thing (at least by insecure men and other women who may be a tad bit jealous), but it’s essential to our health and well-being, whether we have horses in our lives or not.

So get out there, pick one or two suggestions from this post and start working that confidence muscle!

Want to learn even more ways to develop confidence? Download a free copy of my helpful little guide, “The 10-Minute Toolkit – A Collection of Quick, Powerful, and Portable Exercises to Help Overcome Feelings of Frustration, Fear, and Failure in the Barn & Beyond”!

Who Is The Best Coach for Horsewomen? The Answer May Surprise You!

Who Is The Best Coach for Horsewomen? The Answer May Surprise You!

There is no shortage of gurus in the world. Want to learn yoga? I got “About 315,000,000 results (0.52 seconds)” when I searched “Learn Yoga Online” on Google. The same is true of horseback riding instructors, horse trainers, and equestrian coaches – over 1 million results for “best coach for horsewomen”. Although I coach horsewomen (and showed up near the top of the first page in the Google search), I’m not going to tell you I’m the best life coach or confidence coach for you, or for any horsewoman. I’m good, and more than happy to help you get the quality of life you’re looking for, but your best coach is right out in the field – it’s your horse.

What You Can Learn from Your Horse

You want to be a great horse owner. In order to do so, you need to develop a deep understanding of 2 things – your horse, and yourself. The best way to understand a horse is by learning from a horse. Your horse will teach you his language, his likes and dislikes, his fears, quirks, favorite scratching spots, and whether he prefers peppermints, carrots, or apples (or loves all 3!) Strangely enough, the best way to develop a deep understanding of yourself is to partner with your horse as your coach.

I think Buck Brannaman said it best when he said the horse is a mirror to your soul. Horses don’t worry about the same social norms that we humans do – things like hurting someone’s feelings, only showing positive emotion, or not showing any emotion at all. Horses stay alive by cutting right to the important stuff. Like where to find the best grass in the spring, a good roll in the mud always feels better just after a bath, and the fact that peppermints come in nice crinkly plastic wraps, (truth – if I want to attract the attention of either of my horses, I just crinkle a mint wrapper or yell “Peppermints!”. Works every time). OK – so that’s not the important stuff that keeps them alive, (although it does improve their quality of life) – the stuff that keeps them alive is who, what, and when to fear; and who, what, and when to trust.

“The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” Buck Brannaman

Trust is huge for horses. Think about it – they are prey animals. Throughout their evolution, they’ve learned that a likely attack could come from a predator jumping on them from above – and yet – they let us climb on their backs. And humans are PREDATORS! That, my friends, is trust! When horses trust us, they literally trust us with their lives. They look to us for companionship, but also for a strong partnership and leadership.

So, what can we learn about ourselves from our horses? We can learn to trust ourselves. Horses follow instincts instilled in them over millennia. What we forget, is that humans have an inner knowing as well. Sadly, in most cases, it’s been civilized out of us. We’re not taught to listen to our own souls. We’re taught to trust everything and everyone except that quiet voice inside that says – “This – this is right. This is how it’s meant to be. This is who you are meant to be.”

Watch your horse. Spend time with him. Does he ever worry about how to be a horse? He doesn’t need to. He knows. We need to strip away all the trappings and reconnect with our essential selves. We need to listen to someone we can trust. Trust your horse. Trust that mirror to your soul. He knows who you are at that level. Let him show you. All you have to do is look into his eyes and believe what you see in the mirror.

How I Became A Confidence Coach for Horsewomen

How I Became A Confidence Coach for Horsewomen

I’ve been a horsewoman for my whole life. I’ve trained horses, taught lessons, boarded horses, braided horses for shows, clipped horses for the winter, given vaccines, bandaged wounds, welcomed new members into the herd, and cried my eyes out when it was time to say goodbye to one of our faithful equine partners. So many times over the last few several decades, I’ve thought, “This is what I was put on Earth to do.”

When we bought our 42-acre, 42-stall farm in CT – the one with the collapsed indoor arena (which is what put it in our price range), and stalls in the back barn black with creosote, little light,  and stall floors about 10″ below the level of the aisle, I was sure we’d be there forever. I always said just bury me in the muck heap – then I could continue to improve the farm after I was gone.  We fixed fence, fixed stalls, installed lighting, and generally made the place a workable farm. We replaced the collapsed indoor with an 80′ x 200′ steel frame building that had been a warehouse. My husband bought it from the demolition company, dismantled it piece by piece, my brother delivered it to our farm with his trailer truck, and we hired a crane to erect the frame. With a new indoor, skylights in the back barn, stalls level floors, and rubber mats, we soon filled the 42 stalls with lesson horses, horses in training, and boarders. I was doing a lot of teaching, showing, (and mucking), and I couldn’t imagine being happier. But after a dozen or so years, the relentless winters and darkening economic climate made us reconsider our “we’ll be here till we die” feelings, and we sold the farm and headed to Virginia.

In Virginia, I had a lesson program, did summer camps, and volunteered at area dressage shows. We had leased a small barn and I was happy there – until a disgruntled parent (who wanted to buy our best lesson horse) began calling animal control saying our horses weren’t being cared for. Although the State Vet suggested I sue her for slander, I needed a break, so I closed up shop and the horses came to live at home.

A couple of years later, we were managing a large private barn. We rode on trails throughout the 2500+ acre property, led guests on trail rides, and generally immersed ourselves into the care of the horses and the property. Often working 7 days a week and 10 – 12 hour days, I thought we’d be there forever. We weren’t. All 3 of us were let go when we complained to the absentee owner when one of the grounds people physically assaulted my husband. Took me a while to get over that one, but I came to see it as somewhere where I wasn’t really growing as a person, or a horsewoman, so I became OK with it receding in the rear-view mirror.

In the middle of all of this, I started writing for a local horse magazine, then another regional horse magazine, then I wrote articles for the USDF Connection, the Chronicle of the Horse, and Dressage Today. I sold some of my photos to Warmbloods Today, and I was beginning to see there were ways to be involved with horses without necessarily being outdoors when it’s 37 degrees and sleeting.

My next job came with the absolute certainty that this was what I was put on this Earth to do. I became a Therapeutic Riding Instructor, and an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. Teaching Therapeutic riding was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I was given the opportunity to have a huge impact on the lives of my students and their families. It was an honor and responsibility that I never took lightly. I ultimately left that job because I suffered a sudden onset heart issue and badly injured my knee within the span of 4 days. Trying to teach while on crutches and suffering standing blackouts multiple times a minute was incredibly stressful, and potentially extremely dangerous. After a few days in the hospital, my doctor said I needed to focus on getting better. Walking away from my students was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I was doing some freelance teaching, which I enjoyed, and still writing.  I became Volunteer Coordinator for several large Dressage shows – all of which I loved, but I knew there was still something else coming along for me. I’ve managed to become a bit more patient allowing life to unfold for me in its own time, and during the pandemic, I circled back to an idea I’d had years before of coaching horsewomen in a more mindful and spiritual way. I wasn’t teaching riding so much as teaching my students how to develop a deep bond with their horses, and confidence in themselves. I give them tools to help them manage anxiety, trust their gut, and tap into those aspects which turn us from riders to horsewomen. My efforts were focused beyond the saddle, and “Empowering Women in the Barn & Beyond” became a mission as well as a tagline.

It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20, and that was brought home to me as I reflected on my “this is what I was meant to do” areas of my life, and I realized that all of those times were what I was meant to do at that time. For as I gained wisdom and perspective from each season, it helped me become the person I needed to be for the next season and the next and the next.

As I open my mind to ways to expand my coaching business and serve more deeply, I’m being connected with people and opportunities that I never could have dreamed of a year ago. My focus is Confidence Coaching for horsewomen, and I know that whatever comes along in coaching and in life, it’s what I was put on Earth to do.

 

Bridging the knowledge gap. Can learning more make you safer around horses?

Bridging the knowledge gap. Can learning more make you safer around horses?

A little Learning…

As so famously said by Alexander Pope, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” This danger rises exponentially when horses are part of the equation. If you don’t want to be the bad example that becomes lore with your great-grandchildren, try a few of these suggestions to ensure your Horsey Life is long and healthy.

When more is better.

 There are definitely some instances when more is better. Getting to know your horse – his particular personality traits, his normal appearance, and attitude. Having that knowledge will make it much easier to spot a small problem and prevent it from becoming a large problem! 

Regular safety checks also fall under the “more is better” category.. Having a simple routine to check your horse in the pasture every day (if he lives out like mine do), can help . My simple field-check formula can be remembered as “22400 Gut”.

  • You want to check your horse’s 2 eyes, (are they swollen or gunky or extra runny?) 
  • 2 nostrils, (Is there abnormal discharge?), 
  • 4 legs, (are they cool and “tight” with no obvious lameness, abnormal swellings or heat?), 
  • 0 swelling (insect bites, tick bites and hives show up on my Thoroughbred mare much more frequently than on my 31-year-old Dutch gelding. Knowing your horse’s body well will help you identify a new swelling  – not one from an old windpuff he’s had for 8 years.
  • The last 0 is blood. You definitely don’t want to see blood; however, blood will often make the problem easier to pinpoint!
  • Trust your gut. If you know your horse really well and you know he’s not quite right, but can’t put your finger on what it is, call your vet. I’ve had horses for 50 years (literally), and I have never been sorry that I called the vet with some unexplainable attitude change – I just knew something wasn’t right. Trusting your gut (instinct) on this can literally save his life.

My 31-year-old Dutch Warmblood was definitely “not quite right” one day last fall. He wasn’t lame, he wasn’t coughing, there was no swelling, no bleeding, but something was wrong. When I called my vet, she had me check his temperature, which was 104!! She’d seen half a dozen or so horses with these same weird symptoms. All of them were sick for a few days and then just got better. 2 days into this high fever, he developed bright orange mucus coming from one of his nostrils. It was bizarre and a bit frightening – a 30-year-old horse doesn’t have as strong an immune system as a 10-year-old horse, and I was very worried. Fortunately, his recovery followed the same trajectory as my vet’s other clients and within 5 days of starting antibiotics, the fever was gone, the mucus was gone (it really was gross), and he was back to being his own incorrigible self. The moral of the story is that if I hadn’t picked up on those subtle symptoms of him being “not qI do advise (to myself as well as you) that you check it for several days over the next week or so so you have a baseline temp. That will give you the knowledge of what’s normal for him.

When do you call the vet?fever was gone, the mucus was gone (it really was gross), and he was back to being his own incorrigible self. The moral of the story is that if I hadn’t picked up on those subtle symptoms of him being “not qI do advise (to myself as well as you) that you check it for several days over the next week or so so you have a baseline temp. That will give you the knowledge of what’s normal for him.

If you’re going to the barn or going trail riding on your own, make sure someone knows where you are. Just checking in with someone is a good idea any time – (Remind me some time to tell you the story of the message that never got delivered, leading to a missing person’s search, and a State Police car waiting for me in the driveway when I got home. It’s funny now…) Better to have that safety routine. I would text my daughter when I got on a horse if I was by myself. I told her I would text her back in xx number of minutes/hours. It made both of us a little more comfortable knowing that if something did go wrong, at least I wouldn’t be lying in the middle of the field with a broken leg…

Common sense often isn’t

Have you ever read the warning labels that come on chain saws, blow dryers, and other common items we encounter during out day? If you haven’t, I urge you to go to the closest small appliance or tool at hand, and read it. On a blow dryer, “Don’t use in the bathtub” and “Don’t use when you’re asleep”… I think one of my favorites was on a chain saw advising the user to not use it near their genitals… wow… and you seriously thought operating a chain saw near your genitals was a good idea… why, exactly??

All of those warnings come, in part, because we live in a very litigious society, and the manufacturers of these items need to cover their own arses if (or should I say when) someone idiot decides to use a chain saw near their genitals. “Probably a good thing Lorena Bobbit only had a carving knife…”

 So, because horses don’t come with those handy little warning labels, my advice is this: don’t do stupid things on, with, or around horses. Just don’t. I don’t care how sweet your horse is – he is a prey animal and will react with his flight instinct if he’s frightened. I don’t care how long you’ve been ducking under your horse’s stomach to grab the girth. Unless you live in an area with no insects, remember the big horsefly that lands on his back leg will garner more attention than where your head is at the moment.

Just use your (all too often un-) common sense. Remember the chain saw warning when you’re about to take your green horse out on a trail ride alone when you know he has a big spook… 

Just don’t do it.

Stack the deck in your favor

There are things you can learn (and do) to help keep you and your horse safe and happy.

  • Spend time really learning about your horse. The more you know about him, the less you’ll be surprised by an unexpected spook or buck
  • Put a bucking strap on the front of your saddle. Doing so shows that you are one of those rare breed, a person with common sense! They’re an inexpensive way to help stack the deck in your favor.
  • Wear a body protector vest. Whether you go with  an “active” (these are attached to the saddle with a cord. When the rider falls and the cord breaks, an air canister is activated giving you excellent protection. There are also “passive” vests which are made with heavy foam blocks covered in a tough material. They’re designed to limit blunt trauma damage to your torso from a fall.
  • Wear a helmet – I’ve heard it all – you hate helmets, you get helmet hair, they’re hot, you never fall off… if Olympian Courtney King-Dye had been wearing a helmet on that March day in 2010 her life would have looked very different. But because she was riding a horse that was such a good boy, she figured she didn’t need it for what was supposed to be a brief ride. Despite being a “good boy”, the horse tripped and he and Courtney fell. She suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) which damaged all 4 lobes of her brain. 

In an interview with The Horse Magazine, Courtney recounted the series of events that unfolded that day.

My accident happened in March, 2010. I didn’t fall off, and my horse did nothing naughty. He just tripped over his own feet and fell, and my head hit the ground hard. Hence my motto: expect the unexpected. I was not wearing a helmet, and my brain sheered, or bounced around, in my skull. I was in a coma for a month. I had to relearn to do things like walk, talk and eat.).”

Don’t take stupid chances with your life. 

‘Nuff said. 

Till next time, Love Your Horse, Love Your Life, and Love Yourself!

Tired of your family complaining every time you go see your horse? Here are 3 tips to help them understand your Horsey Life.

Tired of your family complaining every time you go see your horse? Here are 3 tips to help them understand your Horsey Life.

If you are the sole horse person in your family, you may find that the flack about riding you get at home makes your Horsey Life less enjoyable. If riding plays a large part of optimizing your physical, mental, and emotional health, constantly having to deal with this conflict eat away at the joy you feel at the barn. 

I was lucky – my parents knew nothing about horses (except food goes in the front end and fertilizer comes out the back end (my dad had a huge vegetable garden).

I met my husband, James, while I was at the @TallandEquestrianCentre in the UK getting my British Horse Society Assistant Instructor’s certification. He was also at Talland working on his BHS Intermediate certification, so I don’t have a non-horsey husband.

I know I’ve been lucky, but I’ve had many horsewomen come to me close to tears because she had family members who constantly complain about her horseback riding. 

While I can’t promise that your family will suddenly become ubër supportive by tomorrow, here are some strategies to help turn the tide in your favor.

Be prepared. Consider the complaints they usually voice, and think about how you can address them. Don’t get defensive! If you know there are a few trigger words or situations, really take some time to try to understand your loved one’s side of the story. Do they have concerns for your safety? Are they upset that you don’t spend as much time with them as you used to? Or are they resisting change because it will shift some of “your” responsibilities onto them? (I use the quote marks because, as women, especially midlife women, we typically see household duties as our responsibility.   

Choose an appropriate time Don’t try to have this discussion with them right before you’re ready to walk out the door and head to the barn. 

Practice active listening. Be certain you are understanding your loved one by using phrases like, “What I hear you saying is that you’re afraid I’ll fall off and get hurt. Is that correct?” (For more on active listening, Positivepsychology.com has a great explanation).

Once you’ve taken the time to evaluate their more typical complaints, it’s time to think about why you ride in the first place. 

Explain why it’s important to you. Are you less stressed from a crappy day at work after riding gives you some decompression time so you don’t bring home that negative energy? Have you wanted a horse since you read horse books by Walter Farley or Marguerite Henry when you were a child? Perhaps you have friends at the barn and enjoy some social time, or you like the fact that riding keeps you active, and pay more attention to your fitness. The trump card? You’re just a better person when you ride. You’re less cranky, less tired (although that may sound counterintuitive), calmer, and just happier in general. You can learn a bit more on finding your “why” in this post.

If your “why” isn’t resonating with your family, it might be time to draw some boundaries. 

Setting boundaries. We hear about it in all of the self-care blog posts and instagram stories, but how the heck do you even know where to start? Make a list.

I’m not a counselor, but I’ve worked with many students over the years who had assumed positions and responsibilities with their home and family (and job!) by default (I know I sure did!)

Do an inventory of all of the activities in your typical day or week. Everything from throwing a load of laundry in the washer before you head to work, to making appointments for the dog to get his vaccines, to being the one responsible for your family’s menu. I don’t know about you, but I finally got so irritated with my husband answering, “Oh, I don’t mind” when I asked him what he’d like for dinner, I told him, “I’ve never heard of ‘I don’t mind’. You find it at Food Lion and I’ll cook it.” 

Once you’ve written down your responsibilities, take a good hard look at what you can take off your plate. Are there things you’re doing that are completely unnecessary? Are there responsibilities you can hand off to other members of your family? Can you hire someone to do some of your tasks more quickly and better than you? Are there things you simply hate doing? Get it all written down. Once you’ve evaluated how you spend your 24 hours each day, brainstorm ideas about how you can reshuffle your day, and probably make your life run a bit more smoothly.

The hardest part of  having your family complain less about your horseback riding  is likely going to be to set and stick to your boundaries. You won’t be perfect, your family won’t instantly jump in to take over unloading the dishwasher or taking the dog to the vet (or suggest what to have for dinner), but you and your family may just be able to work out some compromises that let you spend time with your horse, and your family spend more time with you. 

I hope these ideas will help you navigate the challenging waters of family expectations. Drop me a comment below if you’ve tried any of these, and how they worked out!

Until next time, love your horse, love your life, and love yourself!