Tips To Balance Work and Horse Showing

Horse showing with a full-time job is a challenging task that requires a lot of commitment and planning ahead. Keep reading for a few tips from amateur riders who are professionals at balancing their work with a busy competition schedule.

Julia Weiss

Senior Director, Media at Giant Spoon

Photo by Elegant Equus Photography

What divisions do you compete in currently, and who do you train with?

I show in the Amateur-Owner Hunter and Jumper divisions. Right now I am in between horses but aspire to get back to competing in the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers again. I ride with Findlay’s Ridge based in North Salem, NY, and Wellington, FL.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in balancing work with horse showing?

Time management! I always want to make sure I am doing the best I can in my professional and personal lives. My job is just that – my job – so I never want my riding to take me away from work in a way where someone has to pick up the slack. It’s tough to manage time working and riding, let alone time for yourself outside of those two pillars.

Finding the time to practice is another challenge. Most of what happens during a show is a result of the work that’s been put in before you get to the show ring. As an amateur, my time in the saddle is limited, which means I may make mistakes in the show ring due to a lack of practice at home. It’s hard when your competition didn’t go as you wanted it to, but you have to remember that in this sport what you get out is largely a reflection of what you put in.

What are your three favorite tips for successfully managing work and horse showing?

Photo by Sportfot

Open communication and transparency with your teams

Whenever I have a competition, I always let my team at work know when I may or may not be available so I can give them as much of a heads-up as possible. I’m lucky to work in an industry that allows me to step away from my computer and work from my phone to take calls and meetings as needed, and that my client deliverables and presentations are scheduled ahead of time. I’m also transparent with my trainer and barn managers about when I am unavailable, and when I need to be flexible. For example, if I have a call at a certain time, I’ll make sure they know that I need to go early or late in the order. If I have a client presentation on Thursday afternoon, we’ll look at the show schedule together to see if there’s a class earlier in the day that could better avoid potential conflicts.

You should know and understand what you are willing to be flexible on and what you are not flexible on. I try to make concessions with my riding schedule instead of my work schedule because, well, I get paid to work, not ride! I’ve been lucky enough to have missed neither an important client presentation nor a big competition. This is because of the support I receive from both of my teams.

Try to keep work separate from the ring and vice versa

There are times when I’ve walked up to the ring on my horse while on a work call and have had to hang up and warm-up for my class immediately. Obviously, it’s better to space out work and showing but if you have to do them back-to-back (or even more tricky, simultaneously), try to be fully present for the task at hand. Do your best not to take your client follow-ups into the ring with you. Similarly, keep your bad round out of your next Zoom meeting.

Take your competitions seriously, but not too seriously

With limited practice, you’re bound to make mistakes, and that’s fine. Remember why you’re doing it. For me, it’s about the mental challenge and the fun of competition. I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be able to ride at all with a full-time job. It’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes but it’s critical to realize it in order to maintain your sanity and also continue to enjoy the full experience.

Alexandra Murray

Senior Associate in Business and Program Development at the Milken Institute

Photo by Sportfot

What divisions do you compete in currently, and who do you train with?

I compete in the High Amateur-Owner Jumper division and occasionally show in the regional grands prix. My current goal is to compete at the two-star level in the near future. I train with Lionshare Farm based in Bedford, NY, and Wellington, FL.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in balancing work with horse showing?

Time management is my biggest challenge, and unfortunately, I have found that it is more an art than a science. With a full-time job, time in the saddle is limited and marginal compared to most of my competitors. I’m not deterred by this fact, mostly because I’m blessed to even be able to ride and compete, but also because I’ve found it motivating. Knowing this limitation, I put 110% of my effort into each ride and learn as much as possible.

What are your three favorite tips for successfully managing work and horse showing?

Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Plan ahead

This is definitely the “science” part of time management. My schedule for the week is always made by Sunday night. I like to arrange work calls during my commute to and from the barn, participate in competitions during quieter work months (when we are not hosting conferences), and plan calls or meetings around my classes during show weeks.

Stay flexible

Classes run late, people cancel, and sometimes there is traffic. Not everything goes according to plan, but don’t let that derail you. Depending on your prioritizations for the day, respond accordingly and move on.

Enjoy the ride, both literally and figuratively!

It is a privilege to live in New York City, ride with Lionshare Farm, and work at the Milken Institute. Though my calendar gets crazy, and at times it feels overwhelming, I am grateful for these opportunities. We are so lucky to work alongside such amazing animals, so we should savor and appreciate it!

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Kyle Gambino

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Kyle Gambino, Assistant Trainer at Lionshare Farm, located in Bedford, NY, and Wellington, FL

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

Besides the obvious helmet, stick, and spurs I always have sunglasses, a clean pair of gloves, and a pack of spearmint gum in my ring bag.

What is the most helpful habit that you practice at the barn?

The most helpful habit I practice at the barn would be knowing the time and schedule. During the day, there is a flow and function that revolves around the clock and a schedule. If one of the moving parts is late or in the wrong place at the wrong time it disrupts everything. The horses like minimal chaos. The barn and their stall should be a happy place for them. When things happen smoothly and on time you can create a peaceful environment in and out of the barn. This doesn’t just apply to the horses, it also applies to the riders and trainers. Knowing the time, your schedule, and the barn’s schedule makes all the difference for you and the horses. If horses have a consistent program and routine then they are able to succeed.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Gambino

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

Creating a good team environment in the barn is a constant goal for me. I always like to reference the NFL’s Bill Belichick and his great simple saying, “do your job.” Everyone is responsible for their own set of horses, riders, or chores. If everyone does their job well that creates team success. The individual jobs, tasks, and chores are the little pictures. Together, these create the big picture. Anyone who works in a barn knows there are always holes in the big picture, not necessarily anyone’s fault but regardless they need to be painted in as well. We’re all responsible for the big picture, and if everyone has the same goal in mind they can work better as a team and help fill in the holes. A team that has the same goals and vision for the barn and its big picture is one that succeeds.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care?

My best tip or hack for grooming and horse care would be to know your horse inside and out. Just like when a rider knows a horse really well, they succeed, and it works the same way for grooming. You have to know their legs, their personality, their habits, the way they move and respond to different things, and what they like and don’t like. This helps not only make sure the horse is healthy but also gives you an idea of how to help the horse perform at its best. These animals cannot speak to us, but we can tell so much by how they react to certain things and noticing little differences within their norm.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

My favorite equestrian competition would be any Nations Cup competition. I think it is an interesting format because the horse and rider jump the same track two times. In regular competition, watching riders take on a track and adjust their plan for multiple horses is interesting enough. In a Nations Cup competition, you get the opportunity to do this but on the same mount. To see the adjustment from the first round to the second round, and see riders get a second chance to do it right is always interesting to me. It shows you how much a rider understands what went wrong or what went right. You are able to watch how they try to replicate the good and fix the bad. I also enjoy Nations Cup competitions because they are team events that bring out both camaraderie and competitiveness in riders. No one wants to let down the team, which I love.

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

If I were a horse, I would want to be a jumper. I feel like jumpers get the opportunity to be themselves the most. You see a lot of the same type of horse in the hunters and equitation. In the jumpers, you see every shade of the rainbow and then some. The jumpers can go out and be themselves because most of the time that is what makes them great.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Samantha Lyster

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Samantha Lyster, Head Groom at Artemis Equestrian Farm, located in Wellington, FL, and Greenwich, CT

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

I always have a leather hole punch, a pair of scissors, and Band-Aids. They seem a little silly, but they are the things I’m most often asked for at the ring, both by the people I work for and by other grooms who don’t have them handy.

What is the most helpful habit that you practice at the barn?

Patience. It is still something I struggle with, and it is often easy to forget. It can be applied in all situations, with both horses and humans.

Samantha Lyster with her own Dame Amour. Photo by Ashley Neuhof Photography

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

This can be difficult unless you’re lucky enough to have a group of people that get along instantly. I think it is important to keep everyone informed of the day’s plan, even if it doesn’t necessarily apply to them, because it keeps the whole team feeling involved. Also, make sure to be aware of how everyone does things a little differently and make an effort to include their ideas.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care? Where did you learn it?

If you think you’ve curried enough you haven’t, and you should keep going. Also, try to use different types of curry combs. The best way to get a horse to shine is to really stimulate their skin, get those natural oils working to your advantage, and remove all that dead hair and dirt. I learned that from my coworker, Jose Rios. He also pointed out the importance of having multiple curry combs like a mitt, a thick rubber one, and a metal one. They all have their own job.

 What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

I’ve only been once, but I really liked Lake Placid. The show itself had a great atmosphere, and the town was super neat. The surrounding areas had lots of places to explore!

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

If I were a horse, I would probably be someone’s quarter horse they trail ride. I really like to be out and about and explore new areas and sights!

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Lindsey Bailey

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Lindsey Bailey, Groom at Louisburg Farm, located in Wellington, FL, and Boston, MA

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

I always have water, horse cookies, and a towel.

What is the most helpful habit that you practice at the barn?

Keep it simple and build a program with purpose. At the end of the day, they’re horses and they need to be horses. This means letting them roll and be dirty or giving them opportunities to buck and shake their heads. I’m also a huge believer that a good feeding program, a great farrier, and a knowledgeable vet make grooming horses a simple and straightforward job.

Photo by Jump Media

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

Always be willing to lend a hand and always be ready to learn something new.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care? Where did you learn it?

Listen to your horses and they’ll tell you what they need. I’ve learned a lot about horses from my mom. She’s an amazing horsewoman and has always been great at opening my eyes to how horses think and how their bodies work in a way that you really don’t find in the show world. My sister and I grew up riding our ponies with halters and lead ropes in the fields they lived in and taking care of them ourselves. I had no idea having a groom was even an option. My mom is incredible, and she is constantly seeking out new knowledge. What I’ve learned and continue to learn from her has always been the foundation of my grooming.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

I had the opportunity to groom at World Equestrian Center – Ocala a couple of times this season, and I don’t think any other show really compares to it. The facility is designed intuitively, it is so easy to work out of, and the crowds are amazing. The atmosphere on Saturday nights is unreal.

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

I would like to say I would be a laidback, super-chill quarter horse, but in reality, I’m probably more of a high-strung dressage horse that’s a total perfectionist, and the grooms draw straws to take care of.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Abigail Fulmer

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Abigail Fulmer, Head Groom/Barn Manager for Lynn Symansky Equestrian, located in Middleburg, VA

Abigail Fulmer and Lynn Symansky at the Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event.

 

What are important items that are always in your ring bag?

In my ring bag, I always have a hoof pick, rubber bands, pins, and a leather hole punch.

What is the most helpful habit that you practice at the barn?

I always make a to-do list. When you work in a fast-paced performance barn, you are always having to multitask and end up doing several jobs at once, so it is very easy to overlook or forget to do something. This is why I always make a list for myself, either on the whiteboard or I make a note in my phone. This helps me make sure that everything gets done in the most efficient way possible and that I do not forget anything.

(Did you know? BarnManager’s app has a helpful list feature so you can make your daily to-do lists with your team at the barn!)

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

Communication. In my experience, most tension and struggles between people working together come from a lack of communication. For this reason, I think effective communication should be a priority in a barn.

Abigail Fulmer enjoying some downtime at a horse show.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care? Where did you learn it?

For horses with dry skin or sensitive skin, apple cider vinegar is your best friend. Dilute it in a bit of warm water and it will work wonders on hives or dry skin. I learned this trick from Lynn’s previous groom that I had the pleasure of overlapping with for a few months as I was getting started in the business.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

My favorite event so far has been Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. It is such a beautiful facility and a hub for people from all over the world to come together to compete and enjoy the sport.

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

I would be a Shetland pony because even though I may be tiny I can still hold my own with the massive warmbloods in our program!

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Nicole Baergen

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Nicole Baergen, Groom and Manager for Jan Brons Dressage, located in Wellington, FL

Nicole Baergen and Glen Emeril competing. Photo by Barbara Foose

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

I always carry fly spray, towels, and a hoof pick with me to the ring.

What is the most helpful habit you practice at the barn?

I think it is important to pick horses’ feet before leaving their stall to keep the aisle clean and neat. I also believe that all equipment and grooming supplies should have a “home” or specific spot where they are stored. It is helpful for people to know where to put things after they use them, so things don’t pile up at the end of the day.

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

I try to schedule group activities outside of the barn. It gets everyone excited and looking forward to doing something together. I actually use Groupon a lot because it’s a great way to find local things to do. Plus, it’s easy on everyone’s budget.

Nicole Baergen and Chichic enjoying some downtime at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2018.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care? Where did you learn it?

I love my tails. I’m big on conditioning and trimming them weekly. Also, currying is so important. I love my metal curry to massage the body. I then use a rubber curry to get the legs and the in-between places. I learned these grooming tricks when I was in high school and spent a summer as a working student for Nancy Later. She was a stickler for the details. I’m so grateful to have had her guidance, which helped lay the foundation for me to be doing what I do now.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

I love them all. I don’t think I could pick one. I enjoy being able to constantly meet so many people and learn from them at different shows. Plus, I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing horses.

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

A Shetland pony! I may be small, but I’m mighty.

 

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Hadley Wheaton Lamond

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Hadley Wheaton Lamond, rider and trainer located in Connecticut

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

I always carry small microfiber cloths in my bag. I use them for last-minute touches on my boots, horse, or tack before I go in the show ring. They are really convenient to put in my bag and do a better job than regular towels. I also try to keep a crop and spurs in my bag. I recently went to a show and accidentally forgot spurs. Luckily, I had a friend there who let me borrow a pair, which saved the day. I can’t stand riding without gloves or a hairnet, so I always make sure to have extras of those in my bag as well.

What is the most helpful habit you practice at the barn?

Photo by SEL Photography

Being consistent is the most important and helpful habit I practice right now. I’m definitely less motivated in the winter since I live in Connecticut and don’t go south. Keeping myself and my horses in a routine is crucial. I try to keep on top of things like having my tack and equipment organized, making sure my horses still look show ready, etc. I find this creates less stress and anxiety down the road.

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

When I travel to teach or groom, I try to have a positive mindset. Working 10 to 12 hours a day is exhausting and the days can be unpredictable. I try to keep team spirits up by smiling and having a sense of humor. I find that even small things like saying thank you can have a big impact on someone, especially if they are not having the best day.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care? Where did you learn it?

Until recently I always bought the more generic and less expensive brushes. I started buying HAAS brushes and they’re completely worth it. I saw someone using that brand in a TikTok so I decided to try them.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I really loved showing at Tryon International Equestrian Center. The layout, amenities, and vendors made the show very convenient and enjoyable. The rings and stables were also nice. I would definitely like to show there again, and hopefully, I will be able to show in a derby. Their recent derbies have looked like a lot of fun.

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

I always tell my students I would be the worst horse to ride. I think sometimes we forget how patient and willing horses can be. I personally don’t see myself being the most “tolerant” horse. For this reason, I would probably be sitting in a field somewhere.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Kiira M. Lizza, Manager at Grafton Ridge

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Kiira M. Lizza, Manager at Grafton Ridge, located in South Salem, NY, and Wellington, FL

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

Kiira: A towel, hoof oil, and extra earplugs.

What is the most helpful habit that you practice at the barn?

Kiira: At Grafton Ridge, we practice a gold standard of horse care habits. I like to say we practice FEI-level care at a national level. Coming from an FEI background having worked for both Anne Kursinski and Leslie Howard, I love different therapies and am always looking for extra things we can do for the horses to help them feel their best. I am also big on proper turnout time and rest for the horses. They work very hard for us, and we like to make sure they have some downtime in the paddock after showing. All of our horses, no matter if they do the leadline or the upper-level jumpers, get some type of therapy on a daily basis. This could be the laser, the UltrOZ™, magnetic blanket, TheraPlate, etc. We’re very passionate about horse care and making sure the horses are healthy, fit, and most importantly, happy!

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

Kiira: A great team environment is something we pride ourselves on at Grafton Ridge. Michael Delfiandra and Vanessa Roman have built an incredibly organized, systemized, and positive work environment that is truly the best show barn I have ever worked in. We hold weekly team meetings, encourage open communication, and celebrate the small wins. These practices have fostered a trusting team that allows us to depend on one another and find joy in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of a busy show barn. A large part of the curriculum in my MBA studies at Warwick Business School in England was focused on self-introspection and how to develop high-performing teams. I like to bring what I learned during my MBA and put it into practice in the barn.

Kiira Lizza competing in the hunters.

What’s your best tip or hack for grooming and horse care? Where did you learn it?

Kiira: I am a big fan of currying! Currying is a great way to not only loosen dirt and hair off your horse, but also gives the muscles a nice massage and gives the groom an opportunity to look over every inch of the horse. I am also big on baby powder on the legs. I am crazy about the legs being dry after baths, clipping, etc., to prevent scratches. For horse care in general, you have to let them be horses. Proper turnout time, good nutrition, and an excellent vet and farrier are the foundation of great horse care.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

Kiira: This is tough! I love Lake Placid in New York but am also a big fan of the Middleburg Classic in Virginia. Both these shows have great hospitality, beautiful facilities and jumps, and are in a great location for non-horse show activities.

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

Kiira: I’d like to think I’d be an amateur’s upper-level jumper. This way I could be someone’s forever horse and receive all the pampering I need to do my job well.

 

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

The BarnManager Q&A With: Molly Allen, assistant trainer for Rachel Kennedy at ESP Farm

The BarnManager Q&A With:

Molly Allen, assistant trainer for Rachel Kennedy at ESP Farm, located in Brookeville, MD

What are three things that are always in your ring bag?

Molly: I always carry boot polish, an extra pair of gloves, and the good luck charms that were braided into Celtic Fire’s mane on the day we were 10th in the 2021 USHJA National Hunter Derby at the Winter Equestrian Festival.

What is the most helpful habit that you practice at the barn?

Molly: Consistency! Whether young and green or already seasoned, I find that all horses thrive in a training routine that is consistent, but not stale or repetitive, in order to reach their full potential. Horses, like human athletes, need routines that are appropriate for their current level, and the consistency to help them reach the goals we set for them. And patience, lots of patience!

How do you foster a great team environment in your business?

Molly: At ESP Farm, we always aim to create a positive environment for our team. I try to have an upbeat attitude and lead by example. I prioritize objectives, delegate tasks, and have an organized schedule each day. I find that this helps most days run smoothly and with low stress.

What is your favorite equestrian competition and why?

Molly: My all-time, no-questions-asked, favorite show experience was the GCT in Chantilly, France. At the time I was grooming for Legacy Stables, and 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist Ben Maher was our rider. It was an unbelievable experience; from the horse show facility, to the history of the town, everything was amazing.

What is your best tip or hack for grooming or horse care? And where did you learn it?

Molly: Here’s a tip you can use in that panic-stricken moment when you discover that your horse has a fat leg. To decide what to do if you’re in a situation where you can’t reach your vet, check the leg for scrapes and knicks. If the leg is free of abrasions, then it’s probably best to apply poultice to the area underneath a standing wrap. If you see that there is an abrasion that may have caused the swelling, then you can go ahead and sweat the leg with Furazone underneath cotton or plastic wrap and a standing wrap. My mom taught me that tip!

If you were a horse, what would you be and why?

Molly: A 2’6” low adult circuit champion. A 10 mover and jumper just thriving in a new career move. It’s the best life by far, with all the treats and pets!

 

Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

 

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!