First things first, working in a 9-5, maintaining friendships, relationships, a healthy diet, fitness levels, a decent sleep routine, prioritising self-care and down time, keeping your mental health in check AND owning a horse is not easy. It requires effort. A lot of it.
And the reality is that there will be times when one or more of those scales slip. Sometimes you'll be able to keep up with your social life while owning a horse, but it often means your sleep schedule is a bit iffy. Sometimes your diet is great, you've got a great fitness routine and your horse is fit too, but your social life is a bit on the quiet side.
The big thing about owning a horse and working full time is that you have to really want the horse. And you have to be willing to work hard and put the effort in in order to have it all.
But it is possible. It just involves a lot of organisation.
Here's what it's really like to own a horse and work full time:
A lot of early mornings and late nights
If you’re going to have a horse and work full time, you’re generally going to have to accept that you’re going to have a lot of early morning alarms. I’m up at 5.15am every day before work to make sure that I can turn my horse out, and then get home to get ready before beginning my commute to work.
I then head straight to the yard from work, so I often don't get home until about 7pm (on the days that I ride).
I never regret spending my first waking moments enjoying the peace and quiet of the yard with Beano. But, honestly? There are definitely times that I want to do nothing other than cry when my alarm goes off.
It sounds like such a silly tip but I've personally found not snoozing my alarm and just getting straight out of bed helps, as I don't feel as groggy as I do if I snooze my alarm several times. I also try to prep as much as I can on my days off; I make sure that Beano's feeds are made ready, I try to have a few haynets ready made and decide what rug (if any) I'm going to put on Beano the night before, so I have less to do in the mornings.
Read more: Time saving tips for horse owners
Accepting help from others
I am the worst for wanting to ask anyone to help me look after Beano, largely because I like to know it has all been done right and that he is ok.
But from time-to-time, it’s necessary to admit that you (and I) need a bit of help if you’re trying to fit in owning a horse around work.
I am lucky to have a friend who brings my horse in from the field each evening so that he can still go out in the field but isn’t left out alone, as I’m one of the last to arrive at the yard after work. I’m also incredibly lucky that my mum is often keen to step in and help with caring for Beano from time-to-time. It’s little things like these which can make the world of difference when my schedule gets a bit tight.
Considering different types of livery
If you work shifts, or long hours, considering a different livery package might be the best option for you. I personally have my horse on an Assisted DIY package because generally, my hours are the same each day and I live locally. Working full time and owning a horse is a huge commitment, but having your horse on an assisted DIY package can definitely take some of the stress off - even if it just means having someone there to help with farrier or vet visits!
If you know that you’re going to struggle to visit your horse twice a day, every day, before and after work, considering Part or Full livery might be the easiest way forwards for you. Having your horse on a livery package that offers you more assistance, even if it is just one end of the day, will definitely making owning your horse a bit more management for you.
If you’re going to keep your horse on a DIY livery package, like I do, and still work full time, you’re going to need to get organised. I try to get all of my jobs done in the stable first thing in the morning before I go to work. Then, when I get to the yard after work all I’ve got left to do is ride, give Beano his dinner and pop him in his stable. It means I have to get up slightly earlier but it makes my evenings less manic.
This past year owning a horse and working full time has been far easier than normal, as I haven’t had to fit in much of a social life (thanks Covid-19).
However, in normal times I try to plan my week out in advance. I sit down on a Sunday evening and work out which days I want to catch up with friends or family, any work deadline that I have that will mean I have to work later, and any other commitments I have, such as going to the gym.
I then try to plan Beano’s exercise schedule around that. On days that I want to socialise, I either give Beano the day off or lunge him quickly. That then means on days I have no other plans, I can enjoy a good hack without feeling as though I’m clock watching. Sometimes this changes, depending on how my week is going, but it definitely helps to try to have a plan set out before the week begins.
Owning a horse when you’ve got a full time job is definitely hard at times. I’m often tired and always feel as though I’m spinning a million plates. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love owning a horse; having Beano means I have to get out of the house every day no matter what the weather and there really is no better way to de-stress than by going for a hack after work. Overall, owning a horse and working full time is definitely possible, you just have to really want it to make it work.