chores · winter

As Vermont Turns

Good news! It’s back in the double digits and I have packed barn clothes and I miiiiiight be able to sit on my horse tonight.

Bad news! It’s snowing and the wind chill is way low…and I am coming down with a nasty cold.

Please oh please, weather and/or bacteria, I just want to ride my horse, even if it’s bareback around the ring for 30 minutes.

I did stop by the barn last night to kiss Tristan on the nose and commiserate with the barn manager. She’s had a very long week and I reminded myself to be grateful. Cold and cranky as I was, I have an indoor job and a warm apartment and was not mucking stalls all week.

She mentioned that they will be looking for people to fill in more frequently on shifts – particularly Sundays. My regular work schedule is Tuesday – Saturday, and to be honest, I frequently am at work on Mondays as well. I’ve worked the last three Mondays. So committing to a regular Sunday shift at the barn would mean giving up my only reliably free day, and my only length of time with the boyfriend. It would also mean no church, and while I am not a really religious person by any stretch of the imagination, I like the people and the atmosphere.

On the other hand, regular shifts would mean regular lessons, which would make a huge difference in my work with Tristan. It would add extra exercise in to my week, which I am sorely in need of. It would mean spending time with terrific people and with my horse. I’ve certainly done it before, even many days a week, but I didn’t love it.

I’m very torn. My first instinct with everything is to go-go-go, push harder, work harder, and go bigger. But I’m pursuing so many things right now that the smart choice might be to know when to back off – pick a few dates each month and not commit to a weekly shift.

Have you traded barn work for lessons? How do you keep your barn-life-work balance?

8 thoughts on “As Vermont Turns

  1. Oh no! Not you too! 😦 I hope you're back to 100% in no time!

    Regarding trading barn work for lessons: I used to do this back in FL, but had a really hard time maintaining a balance with the rest of my life. I loved the extra physical work and it meant not having to go to the gym to stay fit. My regular job is very physical all by itself and the drawback was that I found myself so tired from the extra barn work that often there was no energy left for regular fun stuff, like going to the movies (I'd fall asleep every time!) So I'm probably not the best person to give advice on maintaining a balance. 🙂 Given my own experience with this scenario, in your position I would probably lean towards picking a few days each month and not commit to a weekly shift. How would it work if you picked up a shift every other Sunday instead of every Sunday? Would it still make a significant difference in terms of amount of lessons you could take?

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  2. Thanks! I pretty rarely get sick, but this winter has just been brutal. I'm not nearly as sick as you are, just general-purpose crappy and a bit feverish. I hope you feel better soon too!

    The last time I had a regular shift, I was flat broke and it was basically a second job that enabled me to keep Tristan. I lived alone and didn't have much of a life beyond him, which was fine by me! My job was also not nearly as demanding.

    Basically it will work out that one shift = one lesson. So that would mean lessons every two weeks, which would be plenty to keep us on top of things. But it would be a relatively large investment of time and energy on my part to even maintain that schedule. But I should also just buck up and get to work. But the boyfriend will NOT be pleased. Siiiiigh. Decisions.

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  3. I really, really love doing barn chores (except for water in winter, as you know). I love being there first thing in the morning or last thing at night, I love the clear sense of progress and the intimacy with the horses, I love leaving with the knowledge that everyone is happy and safe. I miss it and I hope to do chores again in the future if at some point current barn is not full up on staff.

    But it sure does take an awful lot of time, which was the first seven items on my top ten list of why I ended up retiring from my last regular shift. For my situation, in which time and energy are often scarce resources and with a couple of other Very Important items that require my attention and in which extra funds are always appreciated but not absolutely essential, a substitute worker role is perfect. And if a regular weekend came available at the round barn, which is closer and smaller with a more worker-friendly design, I would snap it up. I would probably even take a weekend day shift plus a weekday evening turn-in-and-feed.

    But I would absolutely not ever give away my only reliable day without working if there was any way that I could possibly avoid it. If it made the difference between being able to have a horse and not have a horse, then okay. But otherwise, no. Been there, done that, and it just is not a long-term sustainable situation for my life and my mental health.

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  4. How about looking at it this way: hourly rate = lesson cost/hours it takes to do chores. Is your free time worth that hourly wage?

    Sometimes looking at it from a point of view of strictly numbers really makes the decision a little easier to process.

    Good luck with your decision!

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