I am on a schedule where I feel like I will never see my horses in the daylight until saturdays. Since the barn is on your way home. I would take my riding clothes with me to work and change at the office or in the tack room at the barn. If your barn owner is ok with it, I would ride sometimes at 1 or 2 am! Some barn owners liked having someone there to check on the horses in the middle of the night. I used to offer to throw the evening feed to them if I knew I would make it off of work in time.
To help reduce the smell of barn in my car, I used to stash my riding boots and barn jacket in my tack box and then keep a clean pair of breeches in the trunk of my car.
I work 12 hour shifts, which in a way is easier to deal with than 8 hr shifts because you "screw up" fewer days with work and have more days off. (I've worked both over the 25 years I've been doing shiftwork). My work is an hour commute from home though, so that makes dayshifts 14 hour days, so those days are just a wash out. Work either 2 days/3 nights, or 3 days/2 nights. Am usually able to ride on the "long change" (that's the 24 hrs between the days and nights), and sometimes in the afternoon on the nightshifts depending on how long I sleep in the day (which seems to get shorter and shorter as I get older). I have two places I ride, one 2 minutes from home (neighbour's horses who need work as badly as I need to ride) and the other is at my trainer's in the same town where I work. If she's (and the horse) are free on my "long change" I'll usually try to ride there that afternoon and am fortunate enough to have shower facilities at work so just go there and shower. A few times when I've been rushed, I've just done a quick wash up and thrown my hair in a braid. Since it's nightshift, and I don't deal face to face with the public (and my co-workers are pretty forgiving as long as I don't actually smell like horse) I can get away with that every once in a while. No indoor either place, so everything is weather dependant.
The real key is to maximize your "horse time" on your days off (which with my schedule I get 4 or 5 in a row) if you get good weather that means letting everything else go, housework, laundry, whatever else was on the agenda. It helps to have a DH who is cool with this, which mine is so far (although I just took up riding again in April and he's still pretty excited/encouraging about it -- we'll see what happens a year down the line ) You can always do laundry, vacuum, etc on the rainy days - no one has ever died from a "slightly" dirty house.
All easy for me to say from the other side of the job spectrum than OP is however, now that I'm an empty nester and (hopefully) only 5 years away from retirement. Hope you work things out -- it's worth the effort!
I managed when I was working nights. I would go mid-afternoon after waking up and then go straight to work. My work has showers so if I felt I was too stinky even after changing into clean work clothes I would just shower. Right now I work half a day in the afteroon. In the winter it kind of sucks because I get out of work at 630 and it is pitch dark by then. Plus most trainers in my area seem to only due lessons around 4pm. I did find somebody willing to work around my schedule, thankfully. Right now I just get up early in the morning and go ride before work.
Maggie Bright, lovingly known as Skye and deeply missed (1994 - 2013) The Blog
You can ride on all of those shifts. All you need to find is a place to shower and change at the barn, between barn and work, or at work. Lots of people make this happen without issue- you just have to commit to doing it for a month or so until you get into the new pattern, then it gets easier.
I'm a lawyer, so I work when there is work to do, with little predictability. Recently, I've been working 9:30 am to 11:30 pm. I still make myself get up at 6:30 and ride before work, because it isn't so bad once you make it a habit. I shower at work every day.
I'm a shift worker and a mom. It's hard. But like others said, you have to ride when you can, not necessarily when you want to.
First, I'm lucky that during the winter I board at a place where the owners don't care when I come. I have done rides as late as 11pm. Not exactly ideal, but there are advantages. I enjoy the absolute peace and quiet of the barn at that hour, and with the exception of my neurotic TB, I find the horses are more calm late at night. Probably circadian rhythm.
The problem I often run into is that I don't have daycare or a sitter for the kids when I work the day shift and need to ride in the evenings. So in that respect it's actually easier when I work nights, so I can ride during they day when they're at school/daycare. I feel guilty sometimes because I could be spending more time with the little one, but I balance my riding time with mom time knowing that it makes me a better mom if I'm happy. Sometimes I ride late after I put the youngest 2 to bed (and hubby is home from work). I don't do it all the time because I like to be able to spend time with hubby too, but again, you just have to look for the silver linings, and not focus on the negatives all the time.
And my daughter rides too so sometimes I take her to the barn with me. Even though everything takes 2x as long when she "helps" me, it's still good use of the time, making memories.
It can be exhausting, but there's nothing better than a good deep sleep that happens after you fall into a ragged and drained heap after a full day of parenting, working and riding!
Can you relocate the horse? Have a travel kit to change at the barn and get ready for work?
Personally, I think it sounds like there's more than enough time to ride -- it sounds more like you're unwilling to work with the circumstances or maintain the motivation than "can't".
I work 12 hour shifts, many ON CALL, with a 90 minute commute. Days (0700-1900), afternoons (1100-2300), and nights (1900-0700)... plus that 90 minute commute.
And I still squeeze in rides. Without an indoor, mind you. Occassionally I miss a day or two, but you make it work. If it's what pays for the horse, it means you should get to enjoy it too!
Even if during the bad weeks you only make it out there once or twice and then ride on weekends, that's still 3-4 rides a week! Also, if the money isn't a concern, is there a horse-starved teenager at your barn willing to pick up rides, or lunge?
Thanks everyone - didn't realize there were so many shift workers here!
Unfortunately I'm not willing to move the horse, the barn at is the absolute best barn I have been to and I have zero complaints, so I can't really justify moving him. It's an adult barn too so no kids to wrangle into helping me, which makes things a bit more challenging.
There's really nothing between the barn and my work - they're both kind of in the middle of nowhere so showering won't happen unless it's in the bathroom sink I am most worried that I just won't be able to get motivated to ride after nights and afternoons. I have insomnia and am not the best sleeper, so I may be more focused on going home to bed rather than going to ride... I do that now and I'm just working part time
I am going to talk to my trainer and see what he thinks, and maybe he can help find someone to take on some of the riding