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!