March 26, 2015

Mom + Horses = ?

From time to time someone asks on FB if being a mom of a little one prohibits them from being able to participate in endurance. While it seems like a silly question to some, mostly to those who are not a mom or whose children are grown, there are very real reasons behind asking this question.

With a full time job and a near 2.5 year old I am right smack in the trenches on this one. Here are some things that I have learned along the way:

  • It was much, much easier to ride with an infant than a toddler
    • I'm sure on some level Wyatt cared when I stopped at the barn after work instead of coming straight home or spent a few hours on a Saturday riding in the sunshine instead of watching him nap, but it is nothing like when he looks straight at me and asks me to stay home with the perfect amount of guilt and sadness in his voice. Plus he is way more fun now that he is playing, laughing and talking and I find myself not wanting to spend the time away from him whereas infant version just napped and ate.
    • My advice: get a great base on your horse when your kid is an infant.

  • I learned to love riding at dusk
    • Infant Wyatt went to bed at 6pm and woke up at 530am. Every night. That meant that the hubby and I had our evenings free and we would spend them alternating between me riding and him getting to run. I truly learned to cherish those warm summer and cool fall evenings riding Gem against a darkening sky. It also meant that winter was exceptionally tricky since it was dark long before I was able to ride, but I just switched gears to running instead during the week and riding on the weekend giving Gem a bit of a holiday through the winter. Toddler Wyatt goes to bed at 8pm and gets up at 6 am. I'm still trying to figure out how to make it work.
    • My advice: Figure out your baby's natural schedule and either become a very early morning person before he wakes up or a night owl after he goes to bed.

  • Riding solo became my new norm
    • When the only time you can ride is at sun up or sun down, you quickly realize that you aren't going to ride with anyone else most of the time. All my riding friends invite me to meet them at the trail head at 10 am or 12 pm which just really doesn't work for me. In the summer I like to be on my horse by 7 am at the latest. Part of that is just how I was raised - we always rode out at sun up to beat the summer heat. A big part of that is Wyatt. If I am on my mare by 7 am, even with a long conditioning ride I can be back home by lunch and still get to spend most of the day with him. I tend to pick one day a month or every other month to spend riding with friends for both my sanity and that of Gem, but mostly we are out there before anyone else shows up or long after they have gone home.
    • My advice: Either find friends who don't mind getting up at 5 am or be prepared to enjoy the bond between you and your horse solo

  • Lots of rest is a vital part of conditioning
    • Or at least that's what I tell myself because in reality while people are posting their 5 day a week work out plans on FB, I get to ride 1 day a week all winter and 2-3 after daylight savings time hits. Even with daylight savings time only 1 of those days is logging any real trail miles at all and the other 1-2 are doing speed work outs at the barn for an hour.  And I have become fine with that because Gemmie has shown me that she can still do slow 50s (talking in the 7-8 hour ride time range) with this condition plan at this point in time.
    • My advice: Be confident in your horses abilities and that what you are doing will be fine as long as you ride in competition the way you condition. Don't ride only 1-2 days a week and plan to go out racing and top 10. If your horse needs more miles than you can provide: find someone to lease her or help condition when you can't.

  • Be creative with your conditioning
    • This goes along with the above, but I have found that while I can't put in as many days a week or miles I can help her by getting creative and making the time I do have work. Such as: I do Hunter Paces when able which while not the same as an e-ride, they do provide great conditioning and the hubby and Wyatt come along and enjoy playing around ride camp and eating the lunch while I ride. It allows me to ride and still see Wyatt having fun getting out and exploring. I also force us to do hill work which gives me more bang for my buck on short ride days.
    • My advice: Use what time you have wisely. Go to Hunter Paces, do dressage work, do small jumps, hill work, speed intervals. Mix it up and keep it fresh while still providing a good work out.

  • Learn to let go
    • There are lots of times when I am out riding that I wish I was out hiking with Wyatt instead. Likewise there are times when I am out hiking that I look longingly at those trails and picture myself cantering down them in the sunshine. Its all a big give and take and lets face it, he will only be small and actually want me to a be a big part of his daily life for a short period. Missing one or two rides to be with him is a gift not a problem. I take it day by day and week by week.
    • My advice: Keeping a good eye on your priorities makes it a whole lot easier when you scan FB and read all the cool miles others are logging while you sit and read a bedtime story to your little one. Those trails will still be there when your little one is off hanging with his friends instead of begging you for one more story and in the end that is way more important.

  • If you do it right, he just might want to go with you
    • Wyatt has gotten to the point where he loves sitting on Gem and Dusty will lead us around running alongside to get Gem to trot and canter while I have a firm hold on him in the saddle. He laughs and giggles and begs for more. I love it. If I play my cards right and things fall into line, hopefully some day he will want his own ride and can go to e-rides with me. That would be bliss. For now we are planning on taking him camping for the first time in July for the moonlight ride. I hope it works out.
    • My advice: I don't really have any. Don't shove it down their throat, but don't avoid mixing the two lives either and maybe someday you can ride side by side across the finish line of a 25 or 50 mile ride. 

  • Other hobbies don't exist
    •  Everything else I have been interested in doing such as running, yoga, zumba, scrapbooking just can't happen right now. With limited time outside of the house any day not spent at the barn is just that: a day not spent at the barn. So taking a zumba class means I don't ride that day and my 2 rides is now 1.
    • My advice: Kiss those other hobbies goodbye

  • Actual competition rides are less than I want
    • I'd love to go to an e-ride every other month. That would be perfect for me and my goals with the sport. I can't make that happen. A single ride costs me a ton of time: there is all the conditioning to get her to peak at the right time, the week before I go out every day to give her vitamin mashes and then the actual ride takes up the entire weekend. It all adds up. I just can't do it. So I go to 2-3 a year. If Wyatt gets to the point where he enjoys camping out at ride camp, then this opens up the door to more rides in the future.
    • My advice: Be thankful for those rides you get to do and enjoy the time you have.

  • After a ride Gem and I part ways for a while
    • This isn't solely due to my family life. In truth after a ride weekend, I'm more than happy to put Gem out for a week or two and ignore her existence. With my family life, I feel like I have taken too much "me" time at an actual e-ride and so those two weeks end up being a month of really not doing anything beyond a quick stop in and say hello on my lunch break type of thing.
    • My advice: hmmm...try to keep your bank accounts in balance. If you put too much into the horse account and pull out too much from the family one it will catch up to you. An e-ride puts a lot in the bank for the horse and takes a lot out of the other, so once you are home spend time replacing what was lost.
Like all things in life, you can make it work if you want it badly enough. I am glad I have Gem and endurance in my life to keep a sense of self and accomplishment outside of making it through another temper tantrum without losing it. Honestly though, if I didn't have Gem prior to Wyatt I wouldn't be jumping on that bandwagon now, but having her already makes it easier to go. I absolutely 100% adore being a mom and would not give that up for anything in the entire world, so Wyatt does play heavily in all my decisions to ride or compete.  I hope this helps someone out there to realize you can do it, it just won't look the same as everyone else's way.

5 comments:

  1. I don't think I could have made the balance work when my son was little. Luckily, I got back into horses after my son was a teen and had his umbilical cord firmly connected to Xbox. I will never be able to share my love of riding with my son, but on a good day, I can pry his fingers from his controller and guilt trip him into riding his bike with me.

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    1. It is getting harder and harder the older he gets. Once he is old enough to do sports, I will be happy to get my one 50 in a year for my decade team award unless he gets involved in riding or just loves coming camping with me.

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  2. I found your blog via Dom and as a Mom to a nearly 3 year old, this had me nodding in agreement at everything you said!! I hope you don't mind me following :)

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    1. Welcome :) I'm glad to hear from another mom!

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