It seems on the outside a very easy return for some high profile equestrian competitor mums that seem to jump back in the saddle with their new babies or toddlers in tow. However, how difficult is it really to juggle motherhood with an equestrian career or hobby?
How does the “every day” day rider manage being a mum and a horse rider too? Many professional horse riding mums will no doubt have a foolproof support network behind them enabling them to ride, school and maintain their horses and career. It may be like them you are lucky enough to have an equestrian family who wholeheartedly supports your hobby, looking after the next generation of horse riders while you gallop off for an afternoon’s ride. I have read many blog posts over the past few years where new mums have had to make a heartbreaking decision whether to carry on with horse ownership or simply put their beloved hobby on hold while motherhood takes over. If you decide to battle on with having a horse then the so called “juggling act” becomes an impressive display from La Cirque du Soleil!
Having horses is exhausting at the best of times and also a huge financial commitment. Factor a baby in the mix and any normal person would question why you would have a horse in your life! Well, it’s because we love them and to give up on our horses would be the absolute last resort. So what is the answer? What if you had to fit in working as well? It would all seem an absolute impossibility, surely? These mums are out there and struggling to keep all the juggling balls in the air! Trying to beg, borrow and steal childcare becomes an art and craft. When a few hours has been given then it’s a frantic dash to the yard, muck out, groom and then off on a high speed hack that Frankel would have been proud of…To get some equestrian help could be the answer but it can be difficult to try and find someone trustworthy and reliable to share your horse in time and money.
I decided to enter horse ownership when my boys were six and seven. Sadly I seem to be the only member of my family with the equine gene, with most of my family not sharing in my passion. This meant that I was on my own in pursuing this hobby and taking up the reins. It was a huge decision which I did not make lightly as I knew the arrival of my horse would make a massive impact on our family life. How was I going to fit in this 17.2 money machine and time taker into our already hectic routine? With two small boys and a business to run, I look back now and I must have been mad. I managed it but only just, with Olympic sprints to the yard after work to muck out before rushing back to put a thrown together dinner on the table. My boys (who did not share my equestrian enthusiasm) spent many hours in the car parked at the yard when it was pouring down with rain in the holidays. The little money I had left was spent on magazines and games to entertain them and to stop their moans that they were, yet again, at the stables…
I did feel guilty about it, especially exhausting babysitting favours when I had to sort out childcare in order to work or ride my horse. I also felt guilty about the amount of money that was spent on my hobby. It wasn’t just only the weekly requirements of hay, feed and livery it was also unexpected vets bills, rugs that needed replacing or saddles that needed reflocking…. Was I being selfish? That was a question that I did ask myself and I imagine every horse owner mother struggles with. But was it “the battle of the sexes” question, did the husbands or partners give up their hobby when the babies arrive? I imagine most did not. Controversial as it sounds, most women are expected to almost give up their identity when becoming a mother. You become “Ben’s mum or Molly’s mum“ losing some of your individuality. By having some time away from motherhood and work doing the hobby that you love, works wonders psychologically for any frazzled mother.
So us everyday horse owners who happen to be mothers too will battle on with our guilty pleasure. The years do fly by very quickly and my guilt has passed. My boys are now adults enjoying their own hobbies. They sometimes ask after my horse, but it’s a rare occasion. I now have time to enjoy my hobby without syncing diaries with the school, work or my boy’s hectic social life. I have no regrets about fitting my horse into our family life. It has been extremely tough but worth it. You can continue to be a mother while being a horse owner too; it just needs some clever time and financial management and perhaps a crèche being opened at your local yard!
by Samantha Hobden http://www.hay-net.co.uk
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