When Horses Feel More Like Work Than Fun

We all have those times.

When everything to do with horses feels like a chore. When circumstances mean we don’t do any of the fun stuff, and it’s all just hard work. When we don’t look forward to going to the barn.

Maybe it’s the weather that’s got you down, making routine chores feel like an epic undertaking and using up all the energy you had for horse time. Maybe health issues are making everything harder, or challenges in other parts of your life are taking time that usually gets to be allocated for horses. Or maybe we’ve gotten too serious about our horse time, so focused on our goals that we’ve lost the joy.

It doesn’t mean we don’t love our horses. It doesn’t mean we need to feel guilty that we’re not getting to our horse goals right now. But it’s easy to get discouraged when we’re in one of these seasons.

What can we do to help ourselves remember that horses are supposed to be fun?

Remember that nothing lasts forever. If you’re waiting for a health issue to resolve (either yours or your horse’s!), be patient – it will get better. Same goes for the weather. While it can feel like the snow, or freezing temperatures, or incessant rain, are never going to end, they will. Spring will come, the sun will shine, and you will go back to having horsey fun again.

Don’t expect to do everything at once. Instead, start with a baby step. What’s one thing that you could add to your chore routine that would make it more fun for you? Could you teach a trick? Do a daily photo challenge? Just remember to stop and be grateful for those happily eating horses once your chores are done?

Set a goal. These days my online classroom keeps me having to go do something with horses to make videos for my students, and that ensures I don’t forget to do something other than all the work it takes to look after them in the winter months. But before I had the classroom established the way it is now, I found that the Online Horse Agility Club was a great motivator to me. They have monthly courses that you set up, practice and film, and then your entry is judged with feedback and a ribbon sent to you. If you’re struggling to get motivated to do anything beyond the necessities in the winter, I highly recommend checking it out, but there are other programs that might help too. Join a challenge or an online course, something to make you get out there. If you’re anything like me, everything seems better after some dedicated horse time, but sometimes I need a little extra motivation to get started.

Learn something new. Sometimes, circumstances mean we just can’t work with our horses. A cold snap, a surgery recovery, or a change in life situation all could mean a temporary forced break from playing with our horses. That doesn’t mean we can’t find new ways to motivate ourselves for when the time comes that we are able to get back to it! Read that book you haven’t got around to, watch those videos you bought, research that new training method you heard about. One of my favourite things about horses is that there is always something new to learn.

Don’t make excuses. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” or a laundry list of reasons that you aren’t able to do something, simply say “It’s not a priority right now”, or “my time is better spent on other things at the moment.” As much as we wish it could be, horse time can’t be a priority 100% of the time, and we don’t need beat ourselves up on the days when other things require our time and attention.

Choose Joy. No matter what time you get to spend with your horses, remember to look for the good in every moment. Laugh when things don’t go as planned, be grateful for these amazing animals in your life, and remember that having fun is a choice we make for ourselves. If your horse activities aren’t bringing you joy, ask why not, and figure out what changes you can make. This is supposed to be fun, make sure that it is!

Have fun with your horses!


5 thoughts on “When Horses Feel More Like Work Than Fun”

  1. Sitting here looking out the window at my babies.(minis). Just read your article on “When horses seem like more work than fun. “. It’s February and very cold and dreary outside. Your article has motivated me into getting my butt off the couch ! Headed to the farm supply store for mini food. My plan is to worm the horses today and use the new blower I bought to help with grooming them, they are so dirty from the last big storm. This all sounds like work but with my attitude change, after reading your article, I have decided it will be fun! Can’t wait to muck out their stalls, fill water buckets and tanks and spread my love by feeding them loads of hay! Thanks for helping me pull myself together on a cold February morning!

  2. I agree with all of these, especially choose joy! Sometimes I just need to slow down a tiny bit and actually interact with the horses as I’m putting out their hay. The other thing that has helped my is to realize that I don’t have to buy or rescue every horse that comes along. Some health issues don’t resolve, like my chronic fatigue syndrome, and I have learned that less horses are more fun. I’m still working on putting that into practice!

  3. Life situations can certainly get us down and we need to allow ourselves to take the to move past it. Also, at times our horse goals may seem difficult and overwhelming, I like Kendra’s message of appreciating the small accomplishments. We all have struggles of some sort and let’s face it life is busy! Life also goes by quickly, take the time to do what you like and enjoy every minute with your equine. 😊

  4. I find that the warmer weather makes my horses very uncomfortable ( that heavy winter coat)They will scratch against anything resulting in raw skin patches ,This then requires meds. I also find plowing through snow drifts and fighting a north wind less then fun–but horses must be fed . I don’t have an arena so no training in the winter ( my yard is one snow drift) I think my biggest thing is my horse look like dirty hairy things and there is little I can do about it until spring.

  5. Great read. I can’t wait until spring to start working with my minis again. 2019 was a tough year between surgery, infection, recovery, and other medical issues I had a hard time doing anything but now am ready to start seriously working my kids again once the weather gets better. I can’t wait! I have big goals but will take baby steps to reach them.

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