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Being kind to our horses, and ourselves

My public practice of self love and empathy in hopes of reminding myself and others that we are only human and shouldn't be so hard on ourselves.

I know that the last time I wrote a blog I was adamant about doing one every single month and staying on top of everything. It was and is something that is really important to me, getting palatable information out to the every day horse owner. But I have to be real with myself. I don’t have the time to do it and do it well. As hard as I may try, I’m not superwoman and I cannot do it all.

If I’m not working horses or expanding my education… or giving myself some time to rest, I’m thinking. It’s a blessing and a curse. And I’ve done a lot of thinking as to why I always circle back to trying to do everything on my own. I’m about to get a bit vulnerable here so if things start just spewing out then I apologize in advance. But I think more of us in this industry need to be more vulnerable and to set that example going forward. For our own sake, but also for the sake of others and our horses.

So many unhealthy things in the horse industry stem from the “tough horse girl” trope. The whole idea that we can do everything on our own from loading 50lb feed bags, stacking hay, caring for our horses, feeding, backing up a truck and trailer successfully, riding… the list goes on and on. There is a reason we have adopted that stigma and why so many horse people are seen at a different level of toughness (and crazy). Do we have something to prove? Because much of this hyper independence is detrimental to our well being, and we actively choose to put ourselves in these situations.

You hear it all the time, horse people talking about how they easily work from dawn to dusk, will get back on a horse that bucks us off and can stack a trailer load of hay… and we say all of this like it is something to brag about. Is it impressive that we constantly push our physical and mental health to the limit? I have to admit in some cases, hell yea it is! But then there are other instances where I hear stories, or even tell them myself and think… why am I punishing myself? Why am I abusing my body when I should be nurturing it? Why am I thinking that I can do it all like I’m some magical god like being that can run on hard work, dedication and nowhere near enough sleep?

My understanding of psychology (from both the horse and human perspective) wouldn’t let me just ignore these thoughts and questions. Why was I doing this? There are several things I realized that played a major role in my decisions to push myself to the limit. Not all of this is entirely comfortable to just flat out say.

So much of my adult life I have spent running away from and desperately searching for what it was that made me happy and I clung so hard to the idea that if I were to find happiness in what I did and how l lived my life that I would be ok. Why was this such a big thing for me (and still is)? When I was in high school, the first serious relationship I was in started out alright, but quickly took a turn for the worst and I was in a very toxic and abusive relationship that I felt I couldn’t escape. Though I made it out of that relationship, it left me with some very deep scars that I still have to actively work through to this day. As I began my journey of healing I didn’t want to put high expectations on myself and my life because frankly, I was just happy that I was alive. So I made it my prerogative to do what made me happy and I found that in horses. I felt at peace, I felt whole. I realized that in working with horses and often times helping them heal, I was helping myself heal. It was a feeling that I never wanted to lose and let go of. So I worked my ass off day and night to keep it.

I’ll call that phase one. Phase two came with a whole different set of emotions, expectations and realizations. That was that the horse world seemed to be a fairly toxic environment, especially for those wanting to be professionals, and even more so for those of us who are POC. I felt like I then had something to prove. I worked my ass of to back my actions with words and to be as educated as I could be in my field. But I quickly realized that I could be well educated, more so than most, but that I still wouldn’t get the work. I would be complimented on my knowledge and services but couldn’t keep the client. I didn’t want to think that it had anything to do with what I looked like, but its hard to ignore patterns and see others who were less qualified get the work. It became obvious to me that if I wanted a place in this industry that I would have to work even harder to overcome an obstacle that really shouldn’t be there to begin with. My stubbornness made me work even harder. I wanted to prove myself wrong and I didn’t want that to be the case. Though I know well enough how deep the roots of systemic racism ran, I wanted it to change. Not only for myself but for other POC who are out there, over qualified and more talented and educated than others yet still get passed on because they don’t fit a narrative. We are relevant in this world and deserve a seat at the table, if not then we will create our own.

Phase three was fueled by something else entirely, that I’m sure many of us millennials can relate to. I was always taught growing up that I could do anything I put my mind to. That I could make my dreams become reality with hard work and dedication. But the math wasn’t mathing. I was dedicated, passionate, educated and worked hard… but still was having a hard time. I didn’t get it, I did the things I was told to do to be happy and prosperous in my endeavors. Maybe I just needed to work harder? Maybe there was a piece of the mantra that I was missing that would bring things to fruition. That wasn’t it. I realized that those who were successful rarely did things alone. It’s impossible for one person to take everything on and expect to do well. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Especially in this economy. Though its not always fun to talk about, we need to talk about how much that effects our industry. Inflation compared to the cost of living is a big load of… The economy isn’t what it was and there is no out working and out performing it if you come from a working middle or lower class family. It’s hard to be successful when you are more concerned about whether or not you will be able to eat that night. Constant stress wreaks havoc on the body and mind.

My hyper independence that took shape early in my adult life when I felt like I had no one to help me, my passion that fueled my drive, and my sheer stubbornness to make it all happen pushed me to disregard my own self care. And this shouldn’t have ever been the case but I didn’t know any better at the time. I unfortunately created some bad habits along the way that have been hard to break. Why would I continue if all I do is exhaust myself, where is the joy in that? Those of us who feel that we are running on fumes in this industry, and in life in general, need to take a long hard look within ourselves and ask that hard question. Why am I really doing this to myself?

So I am going to be kind to myself and not beat myself up for not keeping up with these blogs until I can sustainably do so. I am actively so patient and kind with my horses and clients, I need to do the same for myself, as many of us in this industry need to do as well. There are so many shifts that need to happen in the horse world, we aim to take such good care of our horses but need to remember to do the same for ourselves.

What are some things that you do for self care?

*I feel the need to also add that it truly is a challenge in today’s economy to truly advance yourself on hard work and grit alone. We have been almost brain washed into thinking it is ok to sacrifice our wellbeing to try and get ahead, to earn a bit more and to out perform our competition. But this just leaves many burnt out and feeling like they are just digging themselves into a deeper hole. It is hard to prioritize our needs over work when salaries cant keep up with inflation and those making what was once decent money are having a hard time paying for food and housing.

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