A while back I scheduled a two-day clinic, which then had to be cut to one day. And somewhere between then and now I forgot to add lesson times back to my nifty e-scheduling system, which meant my students didn’t know I was going to be around. And on Friday night, I went to make my schedule for the following day… and found I had nothing to do, other than ride a few horses. It was too late to call anyone to ask if they wanted a lesson for Saturday.
I could have been miffed at the lost opportunity to get my students ready for next week’s show. Instead, I saw it as a message from The Gods: Get thee out of Dodge.
(Sorry, students. Well, except I’m not, really.)
It could not have been a more beautiful day, and after riding in the morning and taking a client’s horse off the farm for the first time (she was perfect; I love her; OMG), I popped into D.C. to meet up with one of my dearest friends from high school, where we were the Worst Museumgoers Ever, chatting about old times and paying no mind to the exhibits, and then getting coffee and people watching, and it was just darn great.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m bad about doing this, about just blowing it all off for a day, dressing like a civilian, and doing something other than Horses or Talking About Horses. I think I get about a C, middle of the pack, for having Things I Do Other Than Horses, with the triathlon stuff and the running stuff before that and the karate stuff before that.
But we trainers—and, to an even greater extent, the working students and grooms of the world—are notorious for not having A Life. And when you look at the burnout rate in this line of work, and even more so in the line of those grooms and working students, it’s impossible not to connect the two.
But it’s a conundrum, no doubt. I know exactly how many lessons it takes to afford a farrier appointment, or how much I have to teach to justify a lesson with Michael. And I know the opportunity cost of every dinner night with my girls, of my friend Eliza’s wedding two years ago, of the trip I desperately want to take to Seattle to visit my splendid little brother.
How does one strike a balance, between getting an education and an income, between working for a living and working for life? I don’t know, and if anyone I do know has the right formula, they’re not telling.
This is all before I even think of trying to put a man in my life. I’m a bright, naturally blonde, 28-year-old extrovert, but I’m already married to this job. Sure, I do the Eharmony and Match.com thing, and I meet really nifty men who, on Date One, are fascinated by my work. They think it’s amazing that I’ve turned my passion into a career. How cool! You’re awesome. And I’m really attracted to that passion, he’ll say.
Until week 12, when it’s: How come you spend all this time at the barn? (Answer: because I like horses more than you, bubba.) Doesn’t it bother you that we don’t see each other more? (Not really.) I don’t think this is going to work out. (No kidding.)
Why don’t I try to meet a man who’s involved in horses, my non-horse friends ask. Ahhhhahahahahahaha, I guffaw. But honestly, even if there was one out there who wasn’t gay or already married to someone way hotter than me, I’m not sure I could hack it. I’m a competitive, Type-A jerkface. Two of my favorite students are married, and they have two rules in their relationship: Don’t touch my tack, and no unsolicited advice. I’m honestly not sure I could keep my mouth shut.
And what about a vet or a farrier? Again, there’s a supply-demand problem, but I also think that the cobblers’ children often go without shoes. I just get squeamish about mixing business with pleasure.
It’s not like I don’t try. I do make the time, I really do. But I can’t make 7-nights-a-week time; it’s just not going to happen. And the reality of the job is that it’s a lot of weekends, too. At the end of the day, dating us horse girls just ain’t easy; the fellow needs to be comfortable with the idea of being a mistress.
So what do I do? I work a lot. I do triathlons. I join the local Road Runners club, go bowling with my friends, and give serious thought to a cooking class. I save up my Frequent Flyer miles for a trip to Seattle to go beat up my little brother in person. And I keep going on those dates, hoping to meet someone who can respect the horses and my great, blinding passion for them.
And when I bungle the scheduling system and am blessed from on high with a merciful taste of freedom, I grab on with both hands.