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Making Life Choices that Make Being an Equestrian Possible

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  • #21
    Yes. I think a major choice was- go pro in horses and ride others or go pro in something else and ride yours. I chose the latter- I also chose a business that had time flexibility. Does it mean I get up every day thrilled to go to work? No. But its something I can do well and feel good doing and it affords me my true passion. So all in all, thrilled with how life turned out

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    • #22
      When I graduated from undergrad I moved to Texas specifically because there are SO many horses here. My parents both rode, so horses as a lifestyle were a given. I wouldn't say I "changed" things because of horses, but I absolutely chose where I live because of horses. My husband and I are child-free for myriad reasons, so that frees up $ and time for focus on horses. I'm SO lucky in that my husband is beyond supportive of my insane hobby and even helps with barn chores. He is literally the perfect horse husband; he will do chores, build things, fix things, hold horses for the farrier, help with vetting, etc. but he has no desire to ride and he's gone to one horse show in the 15 years we have been married.
      I have definitely made some questionable choices because of my obsession with horses and am tapping the brakes right now on showing to catch up. LOL! I would always advise FOR it, but you have to go in with your eyes wide open. Horses are expensive and you either have to have the $ or the ability to say "when" and deal with the consequences in dire situations sometimes.

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      • #23
        So very many things!!! I too went to law school because of my horses.

        Well... first I only applied to colleges within a day's drive of home because I wanted to be able to see my retired horse regularly. Second, I only applied to schools with equestrian teams because my horse was retired and I couldn't afford another to ride. Then, I went to law school to be able to afford to do horses the way I wanted.

        After school, I chose a big-law job (i.e. money), but in a suburban office. I got market comp, and was able to live with ride within 15 minute of work. I spent my entire first bonus on a schoolmaster for myself. It took work to arrange it, and luck to make all the pieces fall into place - but I was able to ride 6 days/week even in my first year of big-law (excluding occasional weeks of chaos). I still work many, many hours, but I have flexibility too. I fly to Wellington tonight and will work remotely if necessary tomorrow. I even filed an appeal brief from my tack trunk at championships one year.

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        • #24
          Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
          So very many things!!! I too went to law school because of my horses.

          Well... first I only applied to colleges within a day's drive of home because I wanted to be able to see my retired horse regularly. Second, I only applied to schools with equestrian teams because my horse was retired and I couldn't afford another to ride. Then, I went to law school to be able to afford to do horses the way I wanted.

          After school, I chose a big-law job (i.e. money), but in a suburban office. I got market comp, and was able to live with ride within 15 minute of work. I spent my entire first bonus on a schoolmaster for myself. It took work to arrange it, and luck to make all the pieces fall into place - but I was able to ride 6 days/week even in my first year of big-law (excluding occasional weeks of chaos). I still work many, many hours, but I have flexibility too. I fly to Wellington tonight and will work remotely if necessary tomorrow. I even filed an appeal brief from my tack trunk at championships one year.
          Haha this is validating - in some ways big law is all consuming (ok, in a lot of ways), but the money is legit. My bonus last year became a horse!

          I should add, I also moved to the US from Canada because they pay lawyers twice as much here (and I found out working at a big firm in Toronto is literally the same job as a big US firm, for half the pay. What a scam! Though I miss the healthcare). So in a roundabout way, I also became an immigrant because of horses. HORSES!
          Mr. Sandman
          sand me a man
          make him so sandy
          the sandiest man

          Comment


          • #25
            So funny to see lots of other attorneys here! I wouldn't say I went to law school specifically so I could afford horses, but it's definitely a huge plus.

            I took a long break from horses in college and law school, and got back into riding after I got married in 2016. I wish I had thought about going to a college with an equestrian team so I didn't lose so many years in the saddle. However, perhaps the break from riding allowed me to be so excited about getting back into it in the first place. I had 2 horses growing up, but I bought my first "adult" horse in May of last year for my 30th birthday.

            DH and I have also chosen the child-free life for a variety of reasons, so that helps with the money side of things. Again, it's nice to see so many people here who have done the same thing, as it sometimes feels like I am the ONLY person without children. LOL. My horse is my child.

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            • #26
              Originally posted by EsqEquestrian View Post
              So funny to see lots of other attorneys here! I wouldn't say I went to law school specifically so I could afford horses, but it's definitely a huge plus.

              I took a long break from horses in college and law school, and got back into riding after I got married in 2016. I wish I had thought about going to a college with an equestrian team so I didn't lose so many years in the saddle. However, perhaps the break from riding allowed me to be so excited about getting back into it in the first place. I had 2 horses growing up, but I bought my first "adult" horse in May of last year for my 30th birthday.

              DH and I have also chosen the child-free life for a variety of reasons, so that helps with the money side of things. Again, it's nice to see so many people here who have done the same thing, as it sometimes feels like I am the ONLY person without children. LOL. My horse is my child.
              I’ve also decided to go child free, also for a lot of reasons. All my mothering hormones are completely fulfilled by doting on horse babies (who will never need to go to college!)
              Mr. Sandman
              sand me a man
              make him so sandy
              the sandiest man

              Comment


              • #27
                I'm a partner at a large law firm. I'm sort of the typical adult amatuer, I have my horse in full training, ride 3x a week when I can, and show 5-7 shows a year. My daughter rides too and has her own horse. I used to be a superstar at work, top hours, top $$ etc. When my DD started riding I wanted to do it with her. I have scaled back from being a super star to a good employee and solidly performing partner. I could work more and earn more money but I choose to ride, show and spend time with my DD. There are times its hard. I don't make enough $$$ to show a ton and cannot take that much time off work, but earn enough to be able to know how fun it is. I wouldnt change it at all. Riding is the one and only place I can get mental clarity and be in the moment--no worry about job, kids, husband, bills, ortho, clients. just me and my horse.

                Comment


                • #28
                  Originally posted by EsqEquestrian View Post
                  So funny to see lots of other attorneys here! I wouldn't say I went to law school specifically so I could afford horses, but it's definitely a huge plus.

                  I took a long break from horses in college and law school, and got back into riding after I got married in 2016. I wish I had thought about going to a college with an equestrian team so I didn't lose so many years in the saddle. However, perhaps the break from riding allowed me to be so excited about getting back into it in the first place. I had 2 horses growing up, but I bought my first "adult" horse in May of last year for my 30th birthday.

                  DH and I have also chosen the child-free life for a variety of reasons, so that helps with the money side of things. Again, it's nice to see so many people here who have done the same thing, as it sometimes feels like I am the ONLY person without children. LOL. My horse is my child.
                  Add one more attorney!

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                  • #29
                    And another PhD

                    I rode and half-leased and showed on my parents’ dime when I was an ungrateful kid/teenager, but once I got to college, I was on my own financially—hello student loans and goodbye horse hobby.

                    I took lessons sporadically in college and grad school in NC whenever I could do so and still make rent, but basically accepted that horses were out of my budget until some vague, grown-up future where disposable income was a thing.

                    After grad school I moved to CT for a postdoc at a big Ivy. It took about 6 months of still making peanuts, accruing interest on student loans, winning teensy research grants, and being too broke for hobbies for me to realize that if I was this disenchanted with academia even at YALE ffs, that maybe the ivory tower wasn’t for me.

                    I left the postdoc and moved out west for a job in tech, and the big salary that comes with it. 3 years, a comfortable emergency fund, and a boatload of debt repayments later, I realized I actually am not a poor grad student anymore, and could afford to start riding again.

                    So I waded back into the equestrian money pit by taking lessons, and am now looking for a lease of my own. The jump in cost from lessons to leasing/ownership is staggering, even for a well-paid, childless, almost-debt-free person like me, and I bow before equestrians who make it work with way less. And I’m finally really, truly grateful for what my parents paid for all those years ago.

                    I think that grad school and student loan debt instilled a (crushing) sense of frugality that I would not have learned otherwise, and that that frugality is what makes it possible for me to be an adult re-rider. I drive a car I paid $12,000 for, I rarely buy things that aren’t on sale, and you better believe my Stay-At-Home Dog Dad gets an earful about the utility bill every time he leaves the space heater on overnight in an unoccupied room. But I also can afford the luxury of being frivolous with my horse hobby budget. Replacing my ill-fitting 20-y.o. saddle with something fancy? Happy birthday to me. Lease/board/train a horse just for more practice time? Holy cripe, but okay, sure. Fly in premium economy? N.O.P.E., who do you think I am, Bill Gates?

                    I don’t always make questionable spending decisions, but when I do, they usually involve Venmo and a horse emoji.

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      mollymoon . Yeah, I had the same Yale postdoc experience. The amount of opportunity, money, networking help, great students, fascinating, able colleagues, and research and travel money....(did I mention the money?) available at that Ivy were amazing. And I had come from other brand-name universities. But! You had to want that very urban, elite life that comes with a fancy university that attracts faculty who, by and large, grew up in a fancy version of "urban" or aspired to that. I brought my aging horse with me to New Haven (well, Bethany and then Middletown), but I really didn't get to see him, care for him myself or ride him the way I think a horse requires.

                      And so I think the "I got to Yale and didn't like it, FF'sS" thing was a fantastically useful, important life lesson. I could not do right by both sides of my life. And that would not change if I stayed in that career since, at that point, it looked like I was doing academia right. If you are doing something right and it sucks, you need to change what you are doing. That whole "Meh, I'll sleep less, keep the hard-core A-job and do an A-job on my B-job of the horsing" that had worked since high school finally couldn't work anymore when I was at the young professor stage of my career.

                      I really, really enjoyed the whole intense, committed, high-quality academic phase of my life. It's like taking your mind to Grand Prix to see what you can really do. And all I had to do was accept being poor for that time. But I had grown up that way, so a paid-for PhD seemed like a good deal.

                      But long before, the horses had taught me a whole lot about how much time and genuine desire and emotional energy you must reserve for relationships. I hated owning my lovely gelding the way I did in New Haven-- seeing him fewer days per week than I ever had. My new way of "being his person" looked like what I had seen a few other horsing profs do: They boarded their horses took lessons and had goals. They usually had a pro doing some of the riding. But they didn't value the daily care or relationship that I think you get from caring for a horse yourself. And they didn't think they were missing anything. They loved their animals, but they always talked about the horse in a harried way-- he was one more meeting they had to squeeze into a day. Because I had lived on farms and been a pro groom, this wasn't my idea of having a relationship with a horse. I didn't want to choose a life that put an animal I had chosen and loved into an item on a To-Do list. And I can't imagine what it would be like to be the horse who was just ticked off a list.

                      I saw lots of academics' kids and marriages being the kind of "adjunct" part of life for the profs I knew. Already seeing how I thought I was cheating my gelding by not being around for him, I doubled-down on my initial notion that if you signed up to be in a relationship, you had to want to do that on in a very daily and non-self-centered way. I am so glad that my horse (who was absolutely cared for at his barn) taught me this rather than having a child I had raised badly teach me this. And I think I learned it early because of the dailiness of horses I had known about since before high school.

                      This career could have worked-- I could have met my own standards for horse ownership and a decent experience with horses-- if I had gotten an appointment at a university big enough to have an opening for someone in my specialty field (and teaching the subjects I did) that also was in the country. And then I would have needed to live on the farm with the horses since the commute to a barn had proven to be a major obstacle. All this meant that I would have to have the money to buy that big property right out of the gate. Not only did I not have access to that kind of money, but the odds of lining up all of these pieces together were vanishingly small.

                      I can see why those of you who can Lawyer It did that-- y'all get paid better and you can (usually) find that job somewhere close to the countryside (again, if you are paid well enough). Or if you get Really, Really Paid Enough as in Tech and/or can work from home, your choices get even wider.
                      Last edited by mvp; Feb. 15, 2020, 10:16 AM.
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat

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                      • #31
                        I waited and waited and waited. Rode in HS and College. Then put it on the back burner for life and to raise my son. I knew that there was no way I could continue riding and that was that. I always missed it, but my job as mom and wife was the most important thing for me. I started up again when he was a senior in HS. It had been roughly 26 years. I found my current trainer and she helped me find my forever pony. Now, 13 years later I am blessed to still have my forever pony, although we both are slowing down a bit. But this is O.K.! I now have a beautiful granddaughter and I see my life changing yet again. One thing is for sure, there isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful for having that jughead of a pony in my life and also my trainer who I've watched grow up into a wonderful rider and friend. I can't put into words how blessed I have been and continue to be.
                        Some days the best thing about my job is that the chair spins.

                        Comment


                        • #32
                          I'm another attorney although at this point when people ask me what type of law I practice my answer is "as little as possible."

                          In my younger days the life choices I made to ride included
                          -moving across the country to more affordable areas several times
                          -full time desk job as an attorney
                          -going pro so I could make additional money teaching and training
                          -between all of this, working, teaching, or training about 70 hours a week

                          I'm tired now. I no longer want to work 70 or even 40 hours per week. I want time with my friends, time to read books, and time to participate in cultural and charitable activities. I could easily submit my resume to a recruiter and land in a six figure job, but I just don't want to work that much.

                          I'm spending my time now making my own schedule, developing a passive income portfolio (airbnb, rental properties) and building self employed consulting/attorney gigs which are all cloud based so I can do them from anywhere.

                          My plan in the next twelve months is to get active work down to 20 hours a week max, all cloud based, so I can take the dogs on an extended road trip out west, spend a few hours in the morning working at a coffee shop, email or call whoever needs to emailed or called about the houses, then take the dogs for a hike, and then read/see museums/catch the local band in the afternoon and evening.

                          I sold my competition horse years ago to buy my first rental property, and my keep horse died in 2018. I ride and train a friend's ottb now, and it's nice to just ride 2 or 3 times a week.

                          Perhaps one day I will get a project again, but owning a horse is essentially a part time job that ties you to a geographic location. (Have to go to the barn 4x per week, after all.)

                          Before, I did a lot of sweat equity to afford the horses and if I bite the bullet again it will only be if I can easily afford full training with excellent professionals. I'm more than happy to do my own hands on care and riding, but I want excellent professionals easily on hand so I can take loads of lessons and dont have to guess around on my own 90% of the time.

                          So when the rental properties bring in enough to pay for themselves, my base expenses, and my reasonable just-for-fun expenses, (none of which are high, as I live in a low cost area where you can own three multiunit houses for about $1500 a month in mortgage/taxes/insurance), plus additionally maxing out my simple and roth IRAs, and then AFTER all that also $1-2k a month to throw at a horse on top, (and I also make peace with another 20 hour a week commitment), then perhaps I will own a horse again.

                          It's really only 4 or 5 more rental properties away, money wise, and I by now have a repeatable process to get one house after another, but I'm in zero hurry and plan to mosey around some national parks with the dogs and some good books along the way.
                          Last edited by meupatdoes; Feb. 15, 2020, 12:56 PM.
                          The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                          Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
                          Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                          The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

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                          • #33
                            Hm. It's kind of difficult to say for me, really, since I'm still in the middle of working it all out, but...

                            I actually did go to my first-choice university, but I'm rather odd in that I had no desire to leave my hometown to go to school. I lived on campus my first year, in an apartment my second year, and then moved home when I was a junior and commuted because my only yearly expenses were room and board and my books, courtesy of the fact that my dad was an assistant professor at my uni and I consequently got free tuition (as well as a small academic scholarship), and it was significantly cheaper to just live at home and pay to park when I was down on campus for class.

                            That choice had less to do with riding and more to do with me wanting to stay where I grew up, but it did have the side effect of making it possible for me to continue riding through school and also stay with the trainer that I was with at the time. I did admittedly pay for my lessons with a mix of loans, money from a part-time job, and savings from the internship I worked the summer before my senior year, but even between that and room and board/parking expenses, I still graduated with less than a year's worth of tuition in debt that I needed to repay. I was also very lucky in that my uni is a very good school and one of the biggest research institutions in the country, so I got a great education out of the whole thing.

                            Having free tuition meant that I had the opportunity to major in both the practical thing and the thing that I was passionate about. I have a degree in anthropology, which is the academic love of my life, and I also have a degree in accounting, which was the thing that I majored in because I knew that it would allow me to afford horses and I'm pretty good at it. I interned at a large public accounting firm and then started work as an auditor at the same firm the fall after I graduated. I spent the summer taking the CPA exam and took my last section of it about a month after I started, then got my official license about a year later (due to work requirements necessary for obtaining your license).

                            I was right in that it let me afford horses - I bought my first horse last year because of it - but it's also incredibly difficult to juggle both (at least in my office). January through April, I work 50-60 hours a week (closer to 60), including working Saturdays, and am lucky if I manage to make it out to the barn twice over the weekend due to both time constraints and general exhaustion. The rest of the year, I may be working normal hours, but some of my clients are in places where it's over an hour commute just to get home, and then another forty-five minutes to the barn (and moving my horse is non-negotiable, as he's at a friend's place and it works really well for us), so time to ride can still be borderline nonexistent. I also just... don't really like what I do all that much, time commitment aside.

                            I'm currently in the process of looking for something new, so that I can move on once I wrap up my last busy season client in April and hopefully have something vaguely resembling normal hours every day. I'm planing to stay in finance for at least a few more years so that I can pay off the rest of my loans/my car and get some money in the bank, but my goal is to go back to school and pursue anthropology. I don't know that I'll be relentlessly pursuing a career in academia, as there is actually a niche in the business world for anthropologists (and it pays better), but I'm a little tired of feeling dead inside in my current job and the risk that is going back to school has become a lot less scary in the last ~eight months. My hope - my plan - is that I'll be able to keep my horse through school, but we'll see how it ends up working out.

                            Long story short, this all boils down to what I tell people all the time: there is absolutely no point in me having a job that lets me afford my horse if that same job prevents me from having the time to go see him. I'm not upset that I put myself in a position to get my CPA license, because that will never go away as long as I keep up with the continuing professional education requirements and it'll always make me employable, but I don't know if it was necessarily the best way to put myself in a position to afford the whole horse thing. Such is life, though, and now I'm just trying to mold that professional training into something that I find less psychologically exhausting and that is more flexible so that I actually have time to see my horse all year.

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              Several posters have brought up an interesting point. There’s a balance between time and money, and the dream for one person would be a nightmare for another.

                              I had the grades and opportunity for med school. But several summers working in a GP clinic, and a hospital made it clear to me that I did not want to be a doctor with a horse. The busy, unpredictable schedule would make getting to the barn 5 days/wk and showing on the weekends nearly impossible. And as someone else that worked as a pro groom and grew up on a farm, I’m not ok with seeing my horse once a week.
                              I opted for the well paying healthcare job that came with a regular schedule.
                              Nothing against those who can afford full training and a pro to show their horse for them. That’s just not what the sport is for me. That’s not how you become a good horseman or horsewoman.

                              Comment


                              • #35
                                Such a fascinating discussion.

                                I also pursued a career in healthcare but on the tech side of things. I have been in product development, marketing and sales and had a number of C level positions at name brand employers. I spent many years doing the corporate climb, riding in the late evenings after work/commuting, and now enjoy having my own place where I have a couple of really nice horses to ride and show, as well as the opportunity to afford my oldsters the cushy retirement they deserve.

                                Looking back, although the years I spent trying to fit riding and showing in around the demands of a busy corporate job were tough, I am grateful that I've always been able to keep a horse and continue to pursue my riding education. My DH is fortunately happy about our farm and enjoys everything that goes along with the farmette lifestyle.

                                I did deliberately steer my career to the tech industry because having the ability to work from home (or anywhere with a decent internet connection) was important to me. It also pays well and is and challenging enough to be very interesting and rewarding on a personal and professional level.
                                **********
                                We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                                -PaulaEdwina

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                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by GoodTimes View Post
                                  Several posters have brought up an interesting point. There’s a balance between time and money, and the dream for one person would be a nightmare for another.

                                  I had the grades and opportunity for med school. But several summers working in a GP clinic, and a hospital made it clear to me that I did not want to be a doctor with a horse. The busy, unpredictable schedule would make getting to the barn 5 days/wk and showing on the weekends nearly impossible. And as someone else that worked as a pro groom and grew up on a farm, I’m not ok with seeing my horse once a week.
                                  I opted for the well paying healthcare job that came with a regular schedule.
                                  Nothing against those who can afford full training and a pro to show their horse for them. That’s just not what the sport is for me. That’s not how you become a good horseman or horsewoman.
                                  It is very true.....Horses take money and time....and often to earn the money, you lose time. It really is a personal choice. I worked 70-80 work weeks my first years out of law school...and still typically work 60+ hour work weeks. I work pretty much 7 days a week (not full days though).....but am well compensated. I too was a former pro groom and like to see my horses everyday. And in my first year of working I did full care for my horse. It becomes what you are willing to do. For me....I had to board at a farm with an indoor and that let me ride at odd hours. I found that riding at 4am usually worked best as then I got my ride in And there would be someone in the barn to find me if I fell—-yes, I thought about that. (but I rode at 10pm at night too). I did have to step back...as I was riding at a higher level in eventing and just couldn’t get the time in the saddle and then the extra fitness work in. I could get my horse fit but not myself (riding alone is not enough). So I sold my top horse and went back to green beans...as green horses take less time. I’m kinda of back there again. I love the process of training....so I ride the youngsters and get them up the levels in training and then let a professional show them as I just don’t care about the competing a much. My point...it really is hard to do it all....and you have to make choices. Every time I choose to ride, that is typically time I could be doing something else (like sleeping). There are only so many hours in the day. Because unfortunately, the jobs that pay well...typically require hard work. But what each person is willing or able to do is very different. Not every one would or could work the hours that I do....I don’t regret my choices, but when parents ask me to talk to their kids and say hey look little Suzie...she has a career and her own farm and rides....I don’t sugar coat things.....It doesn’t come easy and I’m doubtful that little Suzie will have what it takes. But I made the decision to pick a career that I found interesting enough (if you don’t like it, you will not do well) and that Would pay me enough.....and that is the key. I took a practical look at my education and direction to take, invested in myself and then worked my tail off. But my path isn’t the path for everyone....there are other choices as shown by this thread. I think you see law coming up more often just because that is generally a flexible degree, and it is one that pays very well if you can land the right job. But I do wish we could figure out how to create a 36 hour day.
                                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by GoodTimes View Post
                                    Several posters have brought up an interesting point. There’s a balance between time and money, and the dream for one person would be a nightmare for another.
                                    ...
                                    Nothing against those who can afford full training and a pro to show their horse for them. That’s just not what the sport is for me. That’s not how you become a good horseman or horsewoman.
                                    Totally agree with both points, even though I’m coming from the opposite side here.

                                    I chose a job where I’m afforded a lot of autonomy in how/when/where my work gets done, both because that’s how I like to work, and because it gives me the flexibility to do things like leave the office at 2pm to go take a lesson. Of course that means that sometimes I do work during “off” hours to catch up, and that sometimes I have to reschedule a lesson because there’s a meeting I have to attend. Those choices work for me because I don’t have kids and I can afford the “luxury” of having my trainer take care of things at the barn.

                                    I say “luxury” because sometimes I would prefer to do all the barn chores that give you more time with horses and knowledge/experience managing them. But as an AA with other competing priorities, I can’t or don’t want to commit to doing those things ALL the time, so I have to pay someone to do the hard work for me a lot of them time. The flip side of that “luxury” is that sometimes I feel stupid about horse things and useless around the barn. It’s not ideal of course, but I’m happy to sacrifice things I value less (e.g., money, my ego) for the privilege of having a horse hobby.

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                                    • #38
                                      Originally posted by Jarrn View Post
                                      I definitely regret it because I'm much further behind in school than I should be (30 getting my masters).
                                      Hey - I just wanted to say don't beat yourself up on this. You're never too old to go back to school and 30 is still plenty young to get a return on your investment in your masters. Don't let society dictate what the "correct" timeline is for reaching milestones like this. The timeline you're on is the right one for you. Give yourself credit for going back to school and getting it done - that's a huge accomplishment! - Signed, someone who also went back for their masters at 30.

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                                      • #39
                                        It is all about time vs. money and the balance between. Just like with children or pets, you have to decide how much you want to do yourself vs. how much you are going to pay others to do for you

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                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                          Absolutely. And looking back, I have done that all the way along.

                                          I was one of those "nose pressed to the glass" poor kids who would do any amount of work in order to ride. I'd also ride whatever I was given, so I learned a lot about how to forge good, safe working relationships with a lot of horses early in my riding career.

                                          When I was in 8th grade, I went to work for some friends of my father's who had a barn with the owner's horses and an on-site pro who was making investment jumpers for them. That turned into me living there every summer and weekend until I went to college.

                                          God threw me a bone and gave me admission to the best university on my list which was just over the hill from their barn, so I continued to ride while in college. But I was prepared to go to the East Coast for college. I didn't have a plan for horsing there, though I think I vaguely thought that I'd again just find someone to work for. At the point in my life, I didn't see how I'd just do the normal thing of buying my own horse to ride since that had not yet been possible for people as poor as me.

                                          My dad died my junior year in college and with the tiny pile of life insurance money he left, I bought an OTTB, PDQ.

                                          When I graduated from college, I got a starter job, bought an investment horse and got "in the family way" with the OTTB mare. I couldn't afford all those horses (really), but it was the first time in my life that I didn't have 24/7 homework and disposable cash (it would appear). After all, I had been so poor for so long that I was happy to live paycheck to paycheck and have time to ride without "looking over my shoulder" and thinking about all of the life-improvement stuff I should have been doing. Notice that I didn't get married, pregnant and mortgaged (to a house and to another person's life/career).

                                          That starter job and paycheck-to-paycheck lasted a year and a half or so before I applied and went to grad school on the other coast. Of the PhD programs that would have worked in all the ways those have to, I picked Cornell because I could bring a horse. I moved from CA to NY and left the two mares and colt in CA. I sold the mares ASAP, but it took a year. Notice that I still had not guy or kid to be accountable, to. This was for the horses in part, but it was also so that I could pursue the job ops (paid-for PhD).

                                          I had been raised to know that I had to have a real job (family or not), so I think that taking that first job with horses during high school, which really kept me out of the normal high school experience, prepared me to be willing and able to change my life and be ready to pursue the next best opportunity that came. That helped once I was a young academic because you have to be willing and able to go to where you get a job. Again, that industry assumes your spouse (probably your jobless wife) and kids will be dragged along. Some people can't imagine moving across the country or leaving relationships and family, no matter what. I started doing that in 8th grade, thanks to horses.

                                          The bottom of the academic market started to rot out after the 2008 recession, so I looked for an exit strategy. Also, my field had the best jobs at high-end universities (the ones that could afford an "extra" department like mine), and so I found myself looking down the barrel of living in major cities. Also, professing in a tenure-gaining way means a 60+ hour work week, so putting these together, it became clear to me that I'd never see that wonderful view of the world between two horse ears for a good decade. And I'd have to hang with people who liked "high culture" instead of the smell of a horse and the meditation practice of cleaning a stall, and the experiential authenticity of trying to live in your body and emotions as you sit on a horse and have a physical conversation with him. There was nothing about my academic life that spoke to this horse-given half of it, and I didn't want to give up what I got from the horse half of my life.

                                          My last post-doc was in Corvallis, OR, back on the West Coast to a day's drive from family and, in theory, a horsey place. I learned to do investment property while I was there. But the horse scene was absolute sh!te compared to what I had scene in the SF Bay Area and then in NY and CT when I had lived there. I tried hard to figure out where on the West Coast I could live and ride, probably buying a farm. I was priced out of everywhere with good-quality horse infrastructure (as far as I know).

                                          So I picked up and moved to Aiken, SC in order to ride until I'm too old, ugly and unsafe on a horse to do that anymore.

                                          And here's the thing: When I can't ride anymore, I'll completely bail and have a last chapter of my life doing other, more cosmopolitan stuff that I did not do while I was tying so much of my life to the dailiness of horses. I will descend into complete Crazy Cat Lady status, but by all outward appearances, I'll be a normal urban old lady.

                                          I have no idea if I'll have a long-term boyfriend by then. I will never be married, as it seems unnecessary and probably financially unwise. I'm glad I didn't have kids. So much of what I have been able to experience and do would not have been possible if I had chosen the role of wife and mother because you can see how much of my moves for career and horses would have required an impossible amount of docility from another adult who would have his own life and career to build.. and then the children would have exerted their own constraining requirements.

                                          IMO, you can't have everything. Or, at least, you can't do everything well, at the same time unless you have a great deal of money to support that by buying help (and perhaps compliance) from other people. But so much in life is a trade-off in that old, "Work to Live, or Live to Work" way. Because, early on, I could do my non-negotiable A-job (getting into a Serious College) in high school, and my B-job (learning to ride at the highest level a poor barn rat like me could), AND because it was possible to do both of these serious-but-kiddie jobs (if you had focus and a work ethic), I got an early experience with being able to choose what would make me happy. And I just kept choosing that, one move at a time.
                                          Absolutely this. You make choices every day that move you down your path. And the beautiful thing is that life moves in stages. You can have your horsey stage and then take a step away, then take a step back. The beautiful thing about this sport is that you can choose how involved you want to be, from weekly lesson taker, half leaser, full owner, etc. etc. The important thing is to reassess regularly, look at the average, not the highs and lows, and be true and honest with yourself. Then you will live a life with minimal regrets.

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