Some tips and tricks to help horse caregivers avoid the reality of burnout.
Burnout is a common part of the ride for many horse caregivers – but it doesn’t have to be. The life of an equestrian is often full of highs and lows since the workload involved in owning one or several horses can be daunting and exhausting. But steps can be taken to avoid burnout and the symptoms that come along with it.
1. Be mindful
No matter how much you love your equine companions, a life dedicated to horses can be exhausting and can lead to burnout at any time. Being mindful of the signs and symptoms (see sidebar below) can be crucial when trying to avoid the woes of this common health issue.
Claire Hunter, trainer, breeder, equine consultant and owner of Braecrest Farm, has experienced caregiver burnout firsthand. “I am mindful of why I burned out the first time and how to not let it happen again,” she says. “For me, caregiver burnout is the loss of joy day to day; I isolated myself and was walking a fine line.”
2. Take a step back
Recognizing the need for help or the need for time alone is a must when caregiver burnout is on the horizon. Stepping back for a few days or even just a few hours can have a massive, positive impact on a busy equestrian career, while putting things into perspective and providing a fresh outlook on life and what is important.
3. Invest in yourself mentally
While it’s important to know when to take a break, it’s also important to stay mentally invested in what you do. Challenge yourself by reading books and articles about horses, or take a continued education class. If it adds to your stress, stop – but you might find that learning new things about your equine companions helps you enjoy your work more. And it’ll teach you how to “work smarter, not harder”!
4. Work with a counselor or life coach
Having a professional like a counselor or life coach on your side can be beneficial when working through feelings of stress, anxiety and all things that come with caregiver burnout. He or she can help you find clarity about your future, work with you to set reachable goals, and help you remember why you started working with horses in the first place. Sometimes just talking about your feelings can have a positive impact.
5. Listen to your body
Getting proper rest, eating healthy and using supportive therapies are essential when working through the stresses of caregiver burnout. “It is not weakness to need this support,” says Claire. Massage, chiropractic and acupressure services can promote relaxation, alleviate stress, and lower blood pressure while also improving the body’s immune system.
6. Plan time away
While taking regular short breaks is a must, planning longer periods of time away from work can also be beneficial for horse caregivers. Find someone to fill your shoes for a week or more so you can go on a trip – or just curl up at home for some R&R. Unplugging and unwinding for a decent length of time will give the body, mind and soul time to break away from the demands of everyday life, lowering stress levels and improving your outlook on life.
7. Limit time on social media
While social media can be a great way to connect with other horse caregivers, it can have a negative impact on everyday life for those indulging on a regular basis. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can dredge up feelings of envy and inadequacy, which can be harmful to businesses and individuals alike.
“It’s all about perspective,” says Claire. “People are only showing you the positive things in life and in business. They’re painting a picture of perfection that we all compare ourselves to, and it’s not real.”
The social media pressure to lead or appear to lead a perfect life or business can be detrimental to one’s self esteem and productivity. If you enjoy spending time on social media, make sure you’re doing it in a healthy way. Only follow accounts that inspire you, and know when to stop scrolling!
8. Try meditation
Being present and remembering what brings joy into our lives is vital to working through caregiver burnout. If you’re feeling burned out, take time every day to sit quietly on your own. Listen to your breath, notice how your body feels and recognize how your mind tends to wander. Meditation exercises can reduce stress, help you control anxiety, improve self-awareness and support emotional health.
9. Keep a list of triggers
Words, people, opinions and stressful situations are all emotional triggers that can cause various negative reactions. Knowing what your triggers are can be a great way to steer clear of caregiver burnout.
To help keep her mind clear and her motives in check, Claire keeps a list of triggers that cause bad feelings and stress, and another list that outlines the things that bring her joy and happiness. She then dedicates time to removing the negatives from her life by doing more of the things that bring her peace and joy.
10. Surround yourself with the right people – and animals!
While horses are a lot of work, they are also great companions and are consistent in drama-free friendship. Unfortunately, coworkers and family members cannot always offer the same qualities, which can lead to unnecessary stress. Having people around you who have your best interests at heart is always important, especially when running a business or keeping up with a hobby that requires a lot of financial, physical and emotional upkeep.
Unfortunately, the pathway for most horse caregivers can be a bumpy one, full of highs and lows. But remembering why your heart led you in this direction is important. Caregivers must always focus on the passion, dedication and undying love for horses that inspired their journeys in the first place.