Parenting from the Saddle: Equestrian Moms Use Creativity for Barn Time

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Heather Wallace and her daughters
Author Heather Wallace at the barn with her three daughters. Photo by Jesse Conway Photography

As mothers, we can find it difficult to balance work and family. We often put everyone else’s needs first and think about ourselves last. But when those mothers are equestrians, the passion is still there, and it’s one more thing to juggle. It can seem impossible to get the time we need at the barn. So, how can we as equestrian moms manage to balance it all? Very carefully.

Some equestrian moms take time off from horseback riding to have children, others start spending time with horses as a way to have time for themselves, while others spend quality time with their children and horses together. Regardless of the “why” you are involved with horses for a mother, the “how” is more important.

Set Aside Time and Stick To It

There are only so many hours in the day. When do you have a little quiet time, if any? Set aside time in the morning before the house wakes or in the evenings when you have spousal support or a play date organized.

Connie DeMaio and her daughter - equestrian mom
Equestrian mom and business owner Connie DeMaio and her daughter at the barn. Photo Courtesy Connie DeMaio

Connie DeMaio, co-founder of Redingote Equestrian, has learned the hard way to adjust expectations. “I am a mom, wife, business owner, realtor, horse trainer, and my home is also a small boarding facility,” she says. “My daughter Rose is now 3-years old. I struggle to find time to ride my horse but learned if I want to enjoy time in the saddle it is up to me to make it work. I used to squeeze in riding time while she napped, but now she doesn’t nap anymore! Recently, I have been waking up at 5 a.m. to ride, which has been great! I feel like my day is much more productive. But who knows how long that’ll last? It’s all up to my daughter’s schedule.”

Many of us can relate. When we figure it out, suddenly something shifts, and we have to change our routine. Finding the time to be alone with our horses is one of the most difficult things. So, what happens if we have to bring our kids with us?

Find a Child-friendly Barn

The barn environment is incredibly important for an equestrian mom. My first barn was so child-friendly I was encouraged to bring my daughters with me to play with others. When I moved my pony, I was told children were welcome when it was not really the case. I found out the hard way that bringing them with me created tension and disapproval from the barn owner. So, we moved facilities again. My children are a big part of my life, and they are all horse girls. It was important they felt welcome.

It’s a given that if you are an equestrian with children that you would want them to be accepted wherever you need to bring them, and the barn is no different.

“For us, the key was to find a kid-friendly barn with caring instructors and a supportive community around it,” said Amanda Bracewell Gallatin. “When I am riding, there is usually another child around for my daughter to play with in the field or barn.”

Equestrian Mom Amanda Gallatin
Amanda Gallatin and her daughter enjoying time together at a horse show. Photo Courtesy Amanda Gallatin

Look for a barn that teaches lessons and has a summer camp for kids, which is more open to young people and can mean having playmates. Although, parents can’t rely on there being other children to keep them distracted, and age-appropriate supervision is always advised.  It’s important to note that many private farms or boarder-only facilities are often intended for adults.

Children should also learn the rules of the barn and to be safe at any equestrian facility. While I was a working student at my equestrian facility, my children learned that the barn owner and trainers were authority figures, and they were in charge. They also learned valuable horse sense.

“She is my special groom—brushing, applying fly spray, fetching tack,” says Gallatin about her daughter. “She also loves to play photographer and has gotten very good at taking pictures and videos of my ride that I can critique later.”

Get Your Children Involved

Including your child in your hobby can mean building horsemanship, empathy, and a strong work ethic while spending quality time with them. Yes, your focus is divided, but only while your children are young. Children can learn life skills and how to carry themselves in another setting away from home.

“I try to make it out to the barn for a bit every day, and I take my son with me,” says Leslie AJ Baumann, who is a graphic designer and author. “We do a lot of our school work there since it’s a fun setting. Then he enjoys some outdoor playtime and birdwatching in the pasture.

Boy reading in the arena
Lesley AJ Baumann’s son, Alex, quietly reading in the arena. Photo Courtesy Lesley AJ Baumann

“When I’m riding, I like for him to be in the arena with me,” she adds. “He keeps himself quietly entertained in a safe place. His current favorite activity for this time is to sit on the cart in the center of the arena while reading Captain Underpants books”.

Sit your child on the mounting block, hand them a camera to photograph you, or bring a favorite book of theirs. Don’t underestimate the power of time spent outdoors on their mental health. This can help them learn to sit quietly.

Remember, while it may be hard to balance work, family, and horses, it is not impossible to do that and be an equestrian and a mom. It just takes a little planning and a lot of patience. Soon your child will be growing up at the barn. Maybe they will be the future of the equestrian sport, or at least, learn valuable tools for adulthood. Most importantly, you get to spend time doing what you love!

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