Shannon Brown wrote this article about working in an office Monday-Friday 9-5 when she’d rather be at the barn.
Every day on my way to work, I drive by the road that leads to the barn where I board my horse. I resist the urge to turn on my blinker and get in the turning lane by telling myself that “board isn’t going to pay itself”. With a sigh, I pull into the parking lot and trudge up to the building. I hate being indoors.
My office is stuffy and full of chatty Cathys who have no idea what it’s like to fly around a cross country course. They give me polite smiles and tell me “good job” when I gush about how amazing my boy was at our last show. Soon I realize they have no idea what completing his first Novice horse trial means, and I retreat to my corner desk. I put on my headphones and attempt to do my work, but daydreaming soon takes over.
In my few minutes of downtime every hour (after all, no one can type for 60 minutes straight), I browse horse websites and catch up on the latest horse world news. The day I saw the video of Hickstead’s passing, I had tears in my eyes. When I explained why I was sad to my coworker, she asked “did you even know him?” I can’t fault her; she’s never held a horse’s head in her lap as he took his last final breath.
At lunch time, I sit outside for my 30 minutes of freedom. Often I’ve thought about driving to the barn during lunch, heck it’s only five minutes away, but I know better than to tempt myself. I can’t leave the barn on time when I give myself an extra hour of leeway, much less 30 minutes. I soak up the smell of the outdoors and text a few of my horsey friends.
It’s summer now and many of the girls at the barn are out of school. Sometimes they text me pictures of my horse, or tell me about something funny or mischievous that he did. I never thought I’d be jealous of a few 16 year olds, but I am. Again, I tell myself that I have to have this job, that I have to pay board, and considering my ability to get myself injured, the health insurance isn’t too bad either.
But it’s hard. I once tried to explain to my friends that I feel like those animals that die in captivity. They laughed at me and I’m sure they thought I was being melodramatic. But there are moments during the day when I find it hard to breath, when I wish with all my might that I was outside, even in the dead heat of summer, throwing hay bales and trying uselessly to get the shavings off of my socks.
For me, riding is more than just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It’s the very definition of who I am.
I would rather be in an arena full of horses than an office full of women, or even a party full of my closest friends. Even with the physical demands that barn work places on you, the blood, sweat and tears you pour into the job, it’s what I thrive on. Unfortunately, as anyone who has worked in the business knows, jobs in the equine industry that pay well are hard to come by. If you want to own a horse and compete, well, you better have a cash flow somewhere.
As the work day comes close to ending, I start to fidget. I’m ready to GO, and I want to get to the barn. I don’t have a window in my office, and my coworkers have learned that when they tell me it’s pouring outside, I’m going to react much like a toddler that just got told they couldn’t have their candy. It’s not pretty. I always make sure my work is done before it’s time to go, and I’m usually packed and ready to click the “Clock Out” button about five minutes before I can actually leave. It’s even worse on Fridays when we’re leaving for a show. I’ve learned to go ahead and schedule to be off for at least half a day, because my productivity goes down the drain the closer the show gets.
I have a plan in place, and I won’t always have to work in the office. I’m currently in school doing my Master’s in sports psychology, and I’m also taking classes with Daniel Stewart so I can tailor my degree to work with equestrians. I’ve always been fascinated with psychology, and I can think of no better way to combine my two passions than by helping riders maximize their potential mentally.
Sometime soon, I hope my days will again be filled with the smells of hay and horse sweat, the sounds of stirrup leathers slapping as riders get ready to mount up, and the gentle nudge of a horse as he says hello. Whenever work becomes unbearable, I look at my favorite cross country picture on my desktop and remind myself that this isn’t forever. For now, my sanity remains intact, and someday soon I will spend every day doing what keeps me sane.