Is it Burnout or the Wrong Path? Changing My Dream to Become a Professional

Photo courtesy of Falvey Brennan


“I am over this, I’m just burnt out and can’t do it anymore.”

I have heard these words many times from the mouths of my friends on the circuit. I’ve even said them a few times myself. But what causes us to feel this way? Is it the long hours, the early mornings, the pay, the schedule? Or maybe perhaps it is us? 

I was once an eager junior who was dedicated to making it her goal to become a professional and make a career out of it. Post high school, I took a gap year and got a working student position working on the circuit for a successful operation out of the North East. I thought it was the perfect path to my dream of becoming a professional. Deep down, I had no intention of ever going to college because I “knew” this was going to be the right path for me. If you had told me back then I was going to be going to college, I would have said you were nuts!

Photo © 2020 Alison Hartwell

For eight months, I worked mostly on the road getting up on average at 5am every morning, give or take an hour or two (mostly take!). I did all the usual barn chores, a lot of lunging, rode some talented and lovely horses and worked hard. There was not a day that I did not leave without being covered in dirt, sweating and exhausted, but I loved it…for the most part. 

When summer rolled around, I started to feel it, that “burn out” I mentioned earlier. Eight weeks on the road bouncing from show to show, state to state left me with a pit in my stomach that ate away at me. Is this it? Do I want to give it all up and go to college? I realized that yes, I did. I changed my entire life plan, but why?

I think we need to step away from calling it “the burnout,” because it is not always that. The truth is, sometimes we find ourselves trudging along a path we thought we wanted but it doesn’t turn out to be what we genuinely want to be doing. All I wanted was to be a professional and get to ride and show amazing horses. Why not? Nobody told me I couldn’t. 

But when I started down that road, I found I had to be honest with myself and figure out what I really wanted. I wanted horses in my life. I wanted to ride and show, but at the end of the day the path to becoming a professional was not something I was cut out for. It took me that summer working to realize, and I am not afraid to admit it. 

Photo © 2020 Alison Hartwell

I have always admired those who have completely committed themselves to life on the circuit and have made all of the sacrifices necessary. However, those are not things everyone is willing to do. I think people need to not feel ashamed about that! 

Today, I am an amateur with my one perfect (to me) horse, I fully embrace it!  I truly enjoyed my experience as a working student, and will never regret it. I made life-long friendships that I will cherish forever, and gained an enormous amount of knowledge. But at the end of the day, I needed to be honest with myself and what I really wanted. Kudos to all of those who chose this as their career path, I have immense respect for all of you! 

Falvey will graduate Summa Cum Laude from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. She is currently bringing along a green hunter and will begin her career in the corporate world soon. 

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