Barn (and Life) Time Management: Tips for Juggling It All


Horses are nothing if not time consuming. Add in some kiddos and a spouse, and some days it’s all I can do to brush my teeth. Truthfully, most days I used to (sometimes still do!) feel like an octopus on roller skates; trying to accomplish a million things, and doing a pretty crummy job at all of them. But with a new year here, I’m resolving to improving my time management skills in the following ways. 

The number one way to improve time management is knowing which balls are rubber and which ones are glass. Let me explain. We are all juggling about a million balls in the air at any given moment. So, know which ones are glass and will shatter into a bazillion unrepairable pieces if they’re dropped. Also know which are rubber and will bounce to be picked up later when you have more time. To me, family is definitely glass. Equine emergencies—also glass. Riding the baby horse (who has just been clipped) on the first day that it’s 32* and windy… rubberiest rubber that ever did bounce. The point is, once you know what things you can let go of, make like Elsa and let it go. 

As a society, we have placed such an emphasis on the importance of being “busy.” But know this: no one has a monopoly on “busy.” We are all busy. When someone says they are “too busy” to ride their horse, or too busy to meet for coffee, what they are actually saying is “I choose not to make time for that.” But here’s the kicker—that’s okay!

It’s okay to choose to make time for school or work or sleep or a morning alone in your jammies. We all (every single one of us) has the same 24 hours in a day. I know that when there is something that has to get done, I will figure out a way to make it happen. Some days, I choose to clean the house and do the laundry, and I end up not having enough time to also go ride. Some days, I know I have a ton on my plate and I choose to get up at 4:00 am and go ride so I can be home to get kids to school and still do the laundry and clean the house (and some days I choose to sleep a little more). Once you embrace the mindset of not being in control of how much time you have, you can let go of the guilt of not getting everything done. It’s okay to choose whatever is important to you in that moment, but you get to take control over having the choice.

But what happens when you have an unexpected situation arise? You’ve planned how to use your available time but someone asks for a last minute favor. Well, is this “new ball: glass or rubber? Will the favor take away time from something else that is glass? Can you choose to make time for it, without sacrificing one of your glass balls? 

If you are anything like me, the art of saying “no” is a hard one to master. I’ve found it helps to make myself some rules in advance so I am ready when asked to do something that genuinely just will not work in the time I have available. For example, after a particularly stressful time helping with the school charity auction, I decided that I was only going to volunteer my time when I was actually with my kids. Need a chaperone for a field trip? I’m there! But I’m not shelving library books while she is at recess. Of course, there is anything wrong with that, but I am choosing to not make time in that way. My child appreciates when I do things with her, but she could give a rip that I was up until 3:00 am entering auction items in a spreadsheet. 

But PonyMomAmmy you say, what about the days when I legitimately have to get done more than there is time available to do? Consider giving yourself the gift of available time by buying some of it back. Can you have someone clean your house? Find a sitter so you can go to the barn alone? Trade childcare with a friend? Have the trainer or a barn mate hack your horse one day a week? I have found the grocery delivery services to be a life saver (and I swear I save money because I am not grabbing that pack of brownies on the way to check out). 

The secret to making buying back your time worth the expense is that you have to use the newly created time, to do something that gets you towards a goal. Your goal may be getting your green bean ready for circuit, in which case get yo’self to the barn. But your goal may be to spend more time with your significant other, so have someone else ride your horse and go out to dinner with your main squeeze.

When it comes to deciding where all of my time goes, the best tip I’ve found is to do a good “brain dump” once a week. I give myself around 30 minutes to write down everything I can think of that I need to do. Everything. Things like doing a bathroom remodel (this is definitely not happening for the next few years at least, but I dutifully add it to my list every week) to buying toilet paper (that needs to happen like right now), and anything and everything in between. Then I rank everything on my list; group A needs immediate action – these things need to happen in the next 48 hours. Group B needs attention in the next week or so. Group C is the group of “someday” tasks. It takes no more than 30 minutes but it gives me a great outline for my week and I know how to allocate my time. By allowing myself to write down everything I can think of, if frees up that brain space to actually get things done.

My tips for time management are truly less about the time (because again, we all have the same 24 hours in a dat—I can’t change that), and more about owning your decision for what you do with your time. 

It took me over two weeks to write this…why? Because I chose to make time for other things, and that’s okay. None of us can change the amount of available time, but we can change the mindset of how we view it and that is pretty empowering all on its own.

About the Author: Ponymomammy juggles her roles of mother (two human, two ponies, and three doggos), wife, and perpetual amateur in Camden, SC. When not shuttling kids, or riding, she can be found feebly attempting to clean or cook, usually in dirty breeches from an earlier hack. Both she and her daughter enjoy showing on both the local, and A rated, show circuits.
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