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Finding the right balance when owning and working with horses

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There are many people out there who find that merely working with horses day in, day out, isn't enough equestrian time. So many grooms demonstrate their passion for horses by owning their own in addition to working full-time in this extremely demanding line of work. So what does it take to find equilibrium between owning and working with these magnificent animals? How does the successful groom manage to do it? Getting the right work/life balance is a contentious subject among people with equine jobs, which begs the question why people choose to both own a horse and work with them all day.

Here are the main reasons why passionate grooms choose to own a horse as well:

1. Having personal riding ambitions

There are very few equestrian jobs where one is able to school, let alone compete, the employer's horses. In many jobs, especially involving elite showjumping/dressage riders, the perks can include accommodation, wages and travel to some of the biggest international shows. But the opportunities to actually ride are few and far between, besides the occasional sedate hack or equine leg stretch.

2. A horse is a pet

There is a significant distinction between working with horses and owning one for yourself. It can be refreshing to take the pressure off and simply enjoy spending time with a horse, caring for it and riding it the way you want to rather than how you are instructed to. And the psychological benefits of taking a happy hack in the nearest moorland on your day off are well worth it.

3. Rescuing a loved animal

Sometimes a horse is no longer wanted by others due to age, lameness or issues with behaviour. But if you've been working with it, you may have developed an attachment that won't allow you to see that horse come to any harm. The result is that you end up taking on the horse's care for yourself - a sentimental gesture that many hard-nosed grooms don't like to admit to!

But have you thought it through?

If you choose to own horses for yourself, you make your day even longer, with little spare time for family and friends. That is your choice, of course, but if you start getting tired and run down, you may become unhappy, and it can start to have an impact on those around you. Another consequence is that you struggle to give your very best to your work, your own horse, or both! It may seem like a pessimistic view of owning and working with horses, but it's a worst case scenario that you'll need to take steps to avoid.

If you already own a horse, you need to work out what your priorities are before beginning the process of applying for an equine job. If your main priority is competing your horse, ensure you take on a job that won't clash with your competition goals. If, however, your ambitions lie in accompanying an employer as competition groom with numerous international trips, you must ensure you have cover in place to care for your horse.

Perhaps you are looking to take the next step in a career ladder to a managerial role in a larger company. Will you be happy to push your horse back in order to focus solely on doing the best job you can? Is there cover in place, and will caring for your horse provide the relaxing downtime you need from work? It is vital that you think about these things for your own wellbeing, or you will struggle to build demonstrable longevity in your equine jobs for a healthy career.

Thinking about your options

Having taken a good, long look at your priorities and ambitions, you can consider the practical side of which type of housing situation will work best for your horse. Your options are as follows:

Full boarding as part of the crew

This way, your horse will reside with you at your place of work. This may include forage, feed, bedding and stable turnout as part of your salary package. All the care and exercise needs of your horse can be done during your working time, alongside the employer's horses. The benefits of this setup are:

  • At the end of the work day, you can relax.

  • You can get extra advice from your employer and colleagues.

  • Your hose may be able to come along to training events.

  • Your horse will benefit from quality facilities.

Half boarding and not part of the crew

This option means your horse resides at your place of work, but its care and exercise must all be managed in your own time. The benefits of this include:

  • You can ride and care for your horse without supervision or judgement.

  • You can experiment with some of the techniques learnt during the workday.

  • It gives you activities to do during your downtime.

  • It can be a nice way to socialise with others in the yard.

Boarding elsewhere

This means your horse is not allowed within the sight of the crew. The benefits of this option are:

  • You can choose somewhere with the routine and facilities that suit your horse.

  • It can be nice to get away from the yard during your downtime.

  • You can explore some new areas for hacking.

  • You can meet people and socialise outside of the workplace.

  • Disruption for your horse is kept to a minimum.

Though it is challenging to own a horse when you work in an equine job, it can certainly be done. There is a special bond you develop with your horses, and this is the main reason people get into the job in the first place. If you are fresh out of school or new to working in the equine industry, and you own your own horse, you need to think carefully about the things covered in this article. If you need help finding the right option for employment that will work for your needs, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help you identify your criteria and identify prospects for your own career. Contact us today and get started finding that ideal balance between owning and working with horses.