It’s About the Relationship: Managing Your Horse-Time

Photo © Heather N. Photography

by Elli Pospischil

There are never enough hours in a day, are there?!?

Our lives have become so busy that it can be hard to schedule time for ourselves, which oftentimes includes time with our horses.  Between family, relationships, work, chores, and other life stuff, there seems to be never enough time for quality horse time. In fact, I find myself feeling guilty when I spend “too much time” at the barn because I don’t get much else done.

In my own experience, it feels like when I enter the gate to the barn, I fall into this black hole of time so to speak. In this parallel universe, time flies, and the next thing I know, five hours have gone by. Given that, when am I ever going to get the laundry done, go grocery shopping, prepare dinner, get the mail, wash the truck, let alone get my “real” work done? 

Then again, when I focus on my real work, I feel guilty that I am not spending enough time with my horses and progressing in our horse and human relationship.

Do you feel the same way?

I want my horses to be happy, and I want to be happy! I also want to feel accomplished and make progress with them. Most importantly, I want to do right by my horses: I want them to feel safe, be comfortable, get enough exercise, spend quality time with them and make sure they get the best possible care. After all, it’s about the relationship.

Wow, that is a long list and a lot of pressure! Great, now I feel even more guilty.  That guilt makes us feel like we are not good enough – and poof, just like that, there goes the joy in anything. Indeed, It’s a vicious cycle.

Photo © Heather N. Photography

How do we break free of this vicious cycle of scarce time and abundant guilt?

First of all, if your horse gets to live outside, in a herd, and has adequate food, shelter, and care, he or she is probably just fine.

Read that sentence again. 

Now take a deep breath. You are okay. Your horses are okay. 

Make your horse time count! 

When you do get to spend time with your horse, make it as good for him or her as for you! Whether that’s 15 minutes, an hour, or five hours – be sure to make it about the quality of the time you and your horse spend together, not the quantity. 

I like to tell myself that a 30-minute ride is better than no ride.

For a lot of horses, less is more. Quit while you are ahead, especially, when things are feeling fabulous, even if that is only a few minutes into your session. When you do end on a good note, I promise you, your horse will be an even better partner next time.

There is so much more to horses than riding!

I love to ride my horse. Nevertheless, on some days, when I don’t have the time, the energy, or the motivation, or the weather is inclement, I will use nearly any kind of excuse not to ride. 

Yet, that’s okay! 

In fact, I love to do ground play (aka groundwork) with my horses, either on a rope, with long reins, or to play with my horse at liberty! It is so much fun and does wonder for our bond and relationship.  In addition, I don’t have to water the arena, get all my tack out, groom my horse, and then put all the stuff away again – you know what I mean?

Some days, I go get my horses and simply hand-graze them. On those days, I use my horse-time to invest in quality time spent together. That way, on other days, when I don’t have as much time, I don’t feel as bad and hopefully, they won’t hold it against me either.

Photo © Heather N. Photography

Scheduling “My Horse and Me time”

I have all kinds of appointments that I block time out for on my calendar: chiropractor, getting my nails done, teaching a lesson, going to the gym, etc. Yet, why don’t I block out time for my horses?  Just between you & me, I am working on it and have a strong intention to get better at it. 

Are you scheduling “my horse and me time”?

Become a better horse(wo)man – It’s about the Relationship!

Thankfully, there are now unlimited opportunities to gain more horse knowledge: take a virtual course, sign up for a clinic, listen to a podcast, read a horse book, or join a webinar. On days that you can’t make it to the barn, invest a few minutes to read, study or listen to something that will inspire you to become better for your horse! Your horse will thank you next time that he or she gets to see you!

To me, it is more important how my horse feels at the end of our session than what we did or did not accomplish. How I leave my horse today will determine the quality of our next session.

My horse didn’t sign up for a job with me, so I do my best to make our “work” be “play” so both my horse and I find our time together as enjoyable as possible.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t set boundaries and hold my horse accountable. Nevertheless, everything I do, I do with and for my horse, not to my horse. Chances are that my horse will come back even better after having had a little break from me.

It’s all about forming a better relationship with your horse and your precious time. Ease those feelings of guilt and live a happy horse life!

Elli Pospischil of Soulutions by Elli is an independent natural & relationship-based horsemanship instructor based out of Colorado in association with Linda Parelli’s Happy Horse Happy Life. Elli is available to help horse enthusiasts form better relationships with their horses. Reach out to her with comments, confusion, questions, or concerns at: Follow her on Facebook, Instagram & TikTok @SoulutionsByElli

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