It’s late afternoon on a balmy Saturday, the farm is busier than you’d expect for such a hot August day. But the barn aisle is breezy enough to make stable chores tolerable and riders are smartly enjoying the shade of the covered arena. 

I returned from a rare weeklong trip fully expecting a little bit of chaos or discontent. Yet to my delight,  our boarding clients at the farm this afternoon are full of welcomes home and encouragement for taking a break. The barn is neat and orderly, the hay and feed is overflowing yet organized, and most importantly the horses are happy and gleaming. 

{Insert sigh of relief here}

We’ve all seen the blog posts about barn ownership woes, but here’s the thing; as much as you hear or read about it, you can never really understand how nonstop farm work is unless you live it. 

I can tell you that I lay awake at 4am thinking about nutritional changes for your horse, or that instead of chatting with my hubby during our few moments of solace while walking the dogs, I stare at the paddocks wondering if a horse will settle. You might see said hubby dragging the arena and hand raking edges at 11pm the night before a clinic because riders finished late… but until you’re the one laying awake researching grain in the middle of the night or holding your personal life together with a thread because you don’t have the brain power for anything outside of horses, you can’t fully understand how epically all-consuming farm life is. 

I don’t write this seeking sympathy, simply to illustrate that at some point, your horse care team needs a mental reset. They need to leave the farm and have conversations about something other than manure output or fly control. To be a whole person, they need to have more than the four walls of a barn. It shocked me how much I didn’t realize this. I hadn’t seen my family in three years, I hadn’t been on a vacation with my fella in six. It was time to leave the farm. Simple as that. 

So I overstaffed, over ordered, over planned, said a prayer and off we went for a week in the sun. 

The best advice that I didn’t take was to not look at my phone. There is no true way for me to vacate this job, but you know what? Checking in at home between dives to help keep things running smoothly was a small price to pay for dinners with friends and days on the boat.  As I realized our planning was paying off, the guilt melted away like frost on a margarita. I inhaled the breeze as we sped through the bay, and I came back to life one deep breath at a time. 

But as we pulled into the drive, the worry crept back in. Would everything and everyone be alright? Did anything not get relayed? My fears were quickly assuaged. Not only was the farm still standing, our clients were beaming and sharing in the joy of my adventure. 

What an absolute gift.

To realize that we are surrounded by a group of people who understand our need for a little R&R was completely overwhelming. I am so grateful for these lovely people, and the most wonderful staff that handled the extra work with such professionalism and grace. 

After a long journey home, I happily dug into evening chores with a newfound sense of self. I can be both fully committed to the care of these horses AND find time to be a real person. So can the rest of our barn staff, and the staff at your own barns. When they leave the farm, let them leave it behind to relax their minds. When it’s the weekend and you have a question for the farrier about hoof polish, leave it until Monday.  I promise you, your horse will only benefit.

I’ll keep grinding, but will say goodbye to the guilt of the grind, and know I am better at my job for it. I’ll always be a perfectionist, even now I look out at our gorgeous property and see only the things I want to improve. But I will try not to let stress consume me about perceived imperfections. Continue improving, continue learning, but allow room for some mental quiet and find joy from all the good.

So here’s to equine professionals everywhere, may you all have clients as wonderful as mine, who also understand the benefits of breathing deep from time to time.

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