Equestrian Mothers Parenting from the Saddle
Author Heather Wallace in the barn with her three daughters. Photo by Jesse Conway Photography
As mothers, we often find it difficult to combine work and family. We often put everyone else’s needs first and think of ourselves last. But when these mothers are riders, the passion is still there, and it’s one more thing to juggle. Getting the time it takes in the barn may seem impossible. So how can we as riders manage to bring it all into harmony? Very carefully.
Some female riders take time out from horseback riding to have children, others spend time with horses to have time for themselves, while others spend time with their children and horses. Regardless of the “why” you deal with horses for a mother, the “how” is more important.
Take your time and stick with it
There are only so many hours in the day. When do you have a little rest, if at all? Take your time in the morning before you wake up home or in the evening when you’ve arranged spousal support or a game appointment.
Get our free weekly horse e-newsletterRider and shop owner Connie DeMaio and her daughter in the barn. Photo courtesy Connie DeMaio
Connie DeMaio, co-founder of Redingote Equestrian, learned the hard way how to adjust expectations. “I’m a mother, wife, business owner, broker, horse trainer and my home is also a small pension,” she says. “My daughter Rose is 3 years old now. I am struggling to find time to ride my horse, but I have learned that if I want to enjoy the time in the saddle, it is up to me to get it going. I used to squeeze drive time while she was napping, but now she no longer naps! I recently woke up at 5am to ride a horse which was great! I feel like my day is a lot more productive. But who knows how long that will last? It all depends on my daughter’s schedule. “
Many of us can empathize. When we find out something suddenly changes and we have to change our routine. Finding the time to be alone with our horses is one of the hardest things to do. So what if we have to bring our children with us?
Find a kid-friendly barn
The stable environment is incredibly important to a rider. My first stable was so kid friendly that I was encouraged to bring my daughters to play. When I was moving my pony I was told that children are welcome, although this is not really the case. I found out the hard way that bringing them along created tension and disapproval from the stable owner. So we moved the facilities again. My children are a big part of my life and they are all horse girls. It was important that they felt welcome.
It goes without saying that as a rider with children you want them to be included wherever you need to bring them and the stable is no different.
“For us, the key was finding a kid-friendly barn with caring teachers and a supportive community,” said Amanda Bracewell Gallatin. “When I ride, my daughter usually has another child with whom she can play in the field or in the stable.”
Amanda Gallatin and her daughter enjoy spending time together at a horse show. Photo courtesy Amanda Gallatin
Look for a barn that has classes and a summer camp for children that is more open to young people and can have playmates. However, parents cannot rely on other children to distract them, and age-appropriate supervision is always advisable. It is important to note that many retired-only private farms or facilities are often designed for adults.
Children should also learn the rules of the stable and be safe in any riding facility. During my work as a student trainee in my riding facility, my children learned that stable owners and trainers are authority figures and are in charge. They also learned valuable horse skills.
“She’s my special groom – brushes, fly spray, thumbtacks,” says Gallatin of her daughter. “She also loves to play a photographer and has become very good at taking pictures and videos of my trip that I can criticize later.”
Get your children involved
Including your child in your hobby can mean building horsemanship, empathy, and a strong work ethic while spending time with them. Yes, your focus is divided, but only when your children are young. Children can learn life skills and learn to find their way around in a different environment outside of their home.
“I try to go into the barn a little every day and take my son with me,” says Leslie AJ Baumann, graphic designer and author. “We do a lot of our schoolwork there because it’s a fun environment. Then he enjoys outdoor playtime and bird watching in the pasture.
Lesley AJ Baumann’s son Alex reads quietly in the arena. Photo courtesy Lesley AJ Baumann
“When I ride, I like him in the arena with me,” she adds. “He’s talking quietly in a safe place. His favorite pastime right now is sitting on the cart in the middle of the arena reading the books on Captain Underpants.
Put your child on the mounting block, give them a camera to take photos of you, or bring a favorite book of theirs. Don’t underestimate the power of spending time outdoors on your sanity. This can help them sit still.
Remember that balancing work, family and horses can be difficult, but it is not impossible to do it and be a rider and mother. It just takes a little planning and a lot of patience. Your child will soon grow up in the stable. Perhaps they will become the future of equestrian sport, or at least learn valuable tools for adulthood. Most importantly, you spend time doing what you love!