Breaks over Burn Outs

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

By Chloe Hardgrave 

Not many things in this sport are without emotion. If you have a bad lesson, you usually are upset or angry afterwards. If your horse injures himself, all you can think about is the price you are paying for stall rest and the list goes on and on. 

Besides having bad emotions, you also have good emotions. A good class at a horse show pumps you up, and causes you to have a growing love for the sport. Or, maybe your horse finally gets a movement after months and months of trying. Once again, it causes you to strive for more good days. 

Photo © Nathanael Hardgrave @itsadandysignpainting

But even with these good feelings, we sadly become so caught up in those bad emotions. They begin to blindly dwindle our stamina in the ring. Sure, the good days become your motivation, but what if you haven’t had any good days lately? What if all you can remember is falling down? I believe there is a way to defeat the bad emotions in order to bring out more of the good ones. 

The cure? Take a break. I have been extremely guilty of not doing this, and I feel like a lot of equestrians are the same. We fall into habit. Riding becomes such a lifestyle that it consumes our life. But the problem with this is burnout. We work so hard to give it our all on every horse we sit on. We pour our energy into a 1200 pound animal that is afraid of their own shadow. We spend money on their chiropractor and vet bills. It can all be too much, and we deserve a break from time to time. I had to learn this the hard way. 

Photo © Nathanael Hardgrave @itsadandysignpainting

I didn’t think I wanted a break until I found myself being forced to take one. My OTTB Johnny had just blown a quarter crack when I realized that things were going to have to change. I was stressed out. I felt like I was running on empty, constantly going around and around in circles until finally I hit my breaking point. Him busting a quarter crack was that breaking point. 

When I spoke to my farrier about the future, I understood what was going on. Johnny would not be able to be ridden for a while, and showing was no where on the horizon. So, what did I do? I took a deep breath, and allowed myself to rest. In this time, I found things I thought I lost. All the discouragement that I was holding on to from myself, my horse, people around me. I let it go. In taking a break, I learned some helpful tips that I would like to share. 

Photo © Nathanael Hardgrave @itsadandysignpainting

Try not to take stress from your “outside” life and bring it into your “equestrian” life. In turn, do not take the stress from your “equestrian” life into your “outside” life. I was finishing up sophomore year and adjusting to the pandemic while dealing with a green thoroughbred. Without any mindful separation, all of this combined caused me to be stressed out in both the barn and my house.  

I also learned that there is a time for riding and a time for resting. Some equestrians want riding to be their career, and there is this tendency to think about the barn and horses 24/7. But finish your day when you get home. Don’t stress about the barn or your horse while you have dinner with your family. Enjoy the time to relax and rest. 

Photo courtesy of Chloe Hardgrave

Finally, I learned to stay in my own lane. I realized I didn’t have the time nor emotional strength to worry about other people. Worrying about your peers causes you to burn out and stress about things that you should not even be stressing about. If you stay in your own lane and not take the stress from other people on your shoulders, you will last a lot longer and be a lot happier with your own success! 

If you’re feeling burned out from the barn, you deserve a break… so take it! Whether that means giving your horse a turnout day to just spend time with them and regain the love for the sport, or being forced to take a break due to an injury or difficulty. Remember that you deserve it, so sit back, relax, and don’t stress about the show. 

Chloe Hardgrave is a sixteen year old C2 Pony Clubber and show jumper from Southern California. Her partner in crime is a OTTB named Johnny aka “Walk the Line”. She believes that horse back riding is so much more than just riding, it is making a bond with a horse and trusting them to carry you through any obstacles you may face in the ring, and working hard to achieve your goals. You can follow her on instagram at @see_chloe_ride