Self-care for Equestrians
How to take care of yourself when you are involved in the horse industry:
- Quick and painless disclaimer here…I’m writing this from my own experiences. I’m not a doctor, a psychiatrist, or anyone else who you should probably talk to. Just a list of things you might want to do to better take care of yourself. From my life, to yours.
- Working in the horse industry, or even just being in the horse industry, can be tiresome, exhilarating, heartbreaking, unfair, joyous, and emotional. We often sacrifice personal lives, our own well-being, sleep, money, health, and more for our horses. Sometimes this leads to that burned-out feeling, or worse. At some point, you might crash and burn. Or you might slowly start to circle a drain of despair.
Implement a plan so that you come first at least part of the time.
- Add exercise into your life. NO – the miles and miles you walk at the barn do not count. That’s work. That’s taking care of another being. Exercise is about YOU. It’s a space to clear your head, be away from the barn, and put yourself at the top of the priority list.
My loves – yoga and hiking. Incidentally, no cell phone for either activity.
- Change your diet if you need to. While convenient and tasty, no good comes from a diet of junk food and convenient things that can be dropped from a window into your car. You might even find that cooking is a way to unwind.
- Go to the salon, library, gourmet food store, museum, woods, river, wherever you like to spend time. Treat yourself to TIME in a place that you love. And maybe, just maybe, you can get a mani that lasts more than a day or two at the barn.
- Pick up a hobby. Get reacquainted with your passion. Learn something new. Take a class. Again – it’s about you, and the quality time you spend on things you love. If it has nothing to do with horses, that might even be better.
- Establish some clear boundaries. This part might be tough. I hear over and over and over that some of us are called in the middle of the night, asked to work on our days off, and generally taken advantage of. Phones have do not disturb for a reason. If your boss is the type to fire you over not being available at 2am or on your day off (barring a legit emergency, of course), time to find a new boss. For more horrible boss stories, read this cringe-worthy mess!
- Boundaries extend to your friends, too. If you are beyond tired and all you want is sofa time, don’t give in when they hound you to go out. You might also find that your friends like to gossip. Perhaps placing a boundary on gossip is a grand idea to stop being poisoned by such BS.
- Find out what you really want and how to get it. Working your tail off at a barn with no goal in sight often leads to burnout. Want to ride reiners but you work in jumpers? Make a plan and stop working in jumpers.
- Change your way of thinking. Don’t be a martyr. Horses don’t come first. YOU DO. No horse ever had his best life when his caretaker was hungry, tired, depressed, or angry. Think you can fool them? You can’t. Think you can take care of them in the best possible manner when you are pissed and sleepy? You can’t.
- Start to write things down. When your thoughts land on paper, they no longer take up space in your mind. Freeing you to take care of yourself better. It only takes minutes a day.
Write it down.
- Get professional help. There are loads of resources out there. Your doctor can help. Find a therapist. Find a psychiatrist. Go to the emergency room. Do something. It’s the hardest step to take, but once you do, there’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulders.
Some helplines and resources:
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ 1-800-273-8255 You can even visit their website and live chat.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673)
If you have issues with your employer, these resources can also help.
On a side note, please don’t send me any messages or emails saying I’m a horrible person for putting myself first before my horse. I’ll tell you that at one point in my life, I was ready to walk away from everything. Putting my horses, my job, and the people in my life and the horse industry first made me believe that I wasn’t worth taking care of. I was last, after all! I was useless, and a detriment, even. I didn’t deserve care. I was better off dead. My horses suffered as a result.
Please get help before you get to this point.