Jen, of Cob Jockey fame, is another one of my favorite adult ammy bloggers. She and Connor have trained hard and weathered plenty of challenges together. Here's a look at how another adult amateur makes horses work with a 9-5 job and real life commitments.
1. You’re at dinner with work colleagues. How do you introduce yourself?
Hi, I'm Jen. I'm an IT sysadmin for a large county government, and I seriously love my job. No, actually I majored in Equine Studies. Yes, I do have a horse. No, I don't run barrels. I compete in the sport based off of the old test the military used to determine horses' suitability for the cavalry. It's an Olympic sport and you'd probably like it if you saw it, it's pretty exciting.
2. But what you really meant to say was this:
Hi, I know what you're thinking, and I'm the systems administrator, not the secretary or the waitress. Really.
3. Tell us about your horse(s):
Connor is a 2006 Section D Welsh Cob gelding who is just barely 14hh. His parents are *Tuscani Dundee and *Bwlchllan Bessie (and he looks JUST like his mom!). Connor likes playing in his water trough, escaping from his pasture, stretching like a cat before being fed every morning, and being my talented, fun, safe eventing buddy. He's forward, smart, sensitive and reactive, but not stupid, and has feet so hard the farrier swears they cause him to buy a new set of tools after every trim. Connor is also really athletic, but doesn't need to be ridden daily, making him very adult ammie friendly!
During a class in college in which we break a young horse to ride for an outside "client" (no compensation), my client sent me a Welsh Cob. I had never heard of Welsh Cobs before, but fell in love with the breed, and looked the pony's breeder up on Facebook, sending a message to introduce myself. We became friends, and I spent the next couple of years helping her show, ride, video and even foal her Welsh Cobs. When she sent me a video of a 5 year old gelding who was coming back to be sold after learning how to ride and drive at a CDE driving barn in Pennsylvania, I was immediately awe-struck by him. Fast forward almost a year later, I show him in-hand and under-saddle for her at a couple of Welsh shows, feel myself "click" with the fun and forward pony, and she makes me an offer I can't refuse.
5. What have you done together?
So far, Connor and I have shown rated and unrated starter-level eventing, and through Training level Dressage. We've gone cross-country schooling, trail riding in state parks, and survived a lot of baby XC questions for the first time together. He's so game and ready for anything, but safe at the same time, which is one of the things I love about the Welsh Cob breed in general. When I say "Let's have an adventure!" he says "Okay!" I think it says a lot that I've worked with Connor and many other Welsh Cobs for years now, and I've still never had an "unplanned dismount" on one. (No, I will not knock on wood!)
In 2014, we are moving up to Beginner Novice eventing and First Level Dressage. I am also aiming for the National Dressage Pony Cup with him in September. Long term, he will probably top out at about 3'3-3'6 and Training level eventing, but with Dressage, we're going to go as far as we can. He's showing talent for it, and I am the odd eventer that really enjoys Dressage.
7. How do you finance the addiction?
I went to college for Equine Studies, but while there I learned that what I really wanted to do was Information Technology, and that's how I finance the addiction. I finished my Equine Studies degree even though I knew I wouldn't pursue it as a career while getting an unofficial second degree working in my college's IT department. In addition to my IT job, I also do all of the feeding, turnout and stalls at my barn one day a week, and will continue to do so until my husband's student loans are paid off.
Connor's barn is 45 minutes away, and with my 8-5 job plus our 24/7 on-call rotation, I can usually manage 4 rides a week, one of those being a lesson. My department supports 911 and the police/sheriff, (plus 36 other departments), so on-call sometimes makes the barn interesting. One time I reset a deputy's email password by using my phone to remotely access my office computer 40 miles away while sitting on Connor in the middle of a ride. I also sometimes stay home from the barn if the weather will be bad or a server is running poorly and I think there's a chance I'll get paged.
My current trainer took me from just surviving each ride to being able to feel and control Connor's individual body parts, and got me over my fear of jumping. Her ability to analyze the situation and break it down in easy-to-understand terms, as well as her tendency to push you without over-facing you when she knows you're ready (even if you don't know you are!) is the only reason I've gotten so far with a green horse.
10. If there was one thing you could say to people getting ready to join the ranks of riding (or re-riding) adults, what would it be?
Keep one word in the back of your mind: balance. We all have goals, but we also need the money from our jobs to finance those goals, and the support of our loved ones to achieve them. Train hard and be a badass, but never let your health, job, marriage or financial security suffer for it.
11. What are your horse keeping arrangements?
Connor is on full-board at a fantastic facility with great care. He's turned out in a field year-round from around -dark, except in spring and summer when he's often on 24/7 turnout. Having great people caring for him gives me a lot of peace of mind, since I often can't make it to the barn due to winter road conditions or work emergencies.
12. What is/are your long term equine goals?
I discussed my long-term performance goals above, but my general goals are to keep Connor happy and healthy, to never stop learning and to continue to promote the Welsh Cob breed. I think a lot of people, especially female adult re-riders, are looking for the sanity, soundness, athleticism, intelligence and safeness of the Welsh Cob breed, as well as their smaller size (they are generally 14hh-15.2hh) but they've never encountered them before.
The bottom line? You hear all the time that adult ammies have it rough, but being an adult amateur is awesome! We get to participate in the hobby we love, but not get burned out on it by turning it into our livelihood. Sure, there's never enough money in our wallets or time in our days, but we get to unwind with our horses at the end of the day rather than wondering if we have enough energy left to ride our own. (Of course, if you find yourself wishing you were doing 17 stalls and riding a string of horses every day, you may want to consider a career change!) I hope you, like me, can enjoy and appreciate the benefits of being an adult amateur instead of focusing on the negatives, and thank the equine professionals in your life for being there for you.
Do you know someone who should be featured here? Are you a candidate? Contact me through email or the comments section and let's chat!