This week we're pleased to bring you a blog from Para Athlete Evie Toombes as she delves into the horse life balance! Evie had a long chat with mounted police officer Jenna Hastings, who combines an intense full time job with horse riding.
We all know hard it can be to balance horses with work and school. With summer now over and responsibilities like waking up on time and wearing clothes that aren’t jodhpurs being unescapable, I wanted to share some tips and an insight into how to manage your time between the two efficiently.
Jenna Hastings, a mounted Police Officer for Gloucestershire Constabulary, has always struck me as someone who manages herself, her horse and her routine wonderfully. Here she shares her experiences and top tips for getting that ‘balance’ just right.
Sometimes taking the time to plan what we want to do (and need to do) can make a huge difference to our productivity, it's basic yet so many of us forget it when we begin to rush from one thing to another.
“Always have a training plan and a competition plan, then you have some structure. However, remain flexible! If your horse is having a bad day, have a plan B. If you’re having a bad day, you don’t have to ride! This is first and foremost a hobby and is supposed to be enjoyable so always have that in your mind.”
Keep a tactic in mind:
‘Stay efficient with everything and make goals achievable.’
It can be easy to bite off more than we can chew, or feel really busy and actually get nothing done. If you’re planning, goal setting or trying to timetable your week ahead, bear in mind that plans can change and that’s perfectly OK, especially if your job is anything like Jenna’s and hectic, but try to make your time worthwhile when you are doing activities.
Do you have a regular routine or does it vary drastically?
‘I always try to be at the yard before 8:30am as otherwise my horse Trusty will have trashed his stable!
When I work, everything has to fit round that but I still try and get mucked out in the morning, my routine on my days off tends to stay the same –and I try and ride in the better half of the day depending on the weather!’
Choosing and making sacrifices
‘I’m lucky to work with some good friends and having just moved to the area I’m still finding my feet socially as I’ve moved here for a job. I enjoy riding and competing my horse therefore sacrifices have to be made elsewhere in order to afford this, it’s quite difficult to find the time and money to do everything!’
As a team, Trusty and Jenna have already made great headway with their partnership, breaking the 1m barrier in showjumping and stepping up to 1.05, attending and competing at Hickstead in the Riding Club teams event for Forces Equine.
‘My biggest downfall is trying to do too much’
Something we can all relate to! The power of the mind and our ambitions can get the better of us when biting off more than we can chew. This combined with financial decisions can often shape how much we’re able to do. Jenna understands this completely. ‘I can’t compete as much as I want and this is difficult, especially now that I have found some new gears and bravery! I wish I could be out all the time and I do struggle sometimes to say no and have a quiet month to save some money.’
Even with a quiet period here and there, the pair are still making huge progress towards their goals at home. This is such a common dilemma for equestrians, taking a break can feel like pressing pause on your journey however it might give you the chance to knuckle down with schooling and training at home- ready to conquer your next competition!
Accidentally tipping the balance!
‘I definitely tipped the balance when working towards competing at Windsor. I’ve only ever done the services jumping twice and both times have been on borrowed horses. The first horse I did it on I was travelling an 80 miles round trip twice a week to ride him only to fall off at the 4th fence in the competition!’
For her next outing, a friend happily lent Jenna a horse, but with the cost of a 180mile round trip to ride it! After finishing a nightshift Jenna decided to not only drive to, but also compete in 4 rounds of showjumping that same day with no sleep. ‘It was all going well until the last round when I decided to do a flying dismount off one of her horses and whilst trying to land it, I rolled my ankle and ended up lying on the deck.’ Before heading to Swindon A&E she sat in the show office, ice on foot and ankle before the addition of insult to injury when none other than Olympic silver medalist Lucinda Fredericks commented “Well that doesn’t look good” – how embarrassing! Perhaps this was one of those times that we all experience where ambition overcomes logic- it happens to the best (and most enthusiastic) of us.
Jenna’s top tips
- Realise that there are more hours in the day than you give it credit for if you get up early enough! I try to get up early in the morning to get things done and dusted so that I have more time for myself in the afternoon. It also means I can get ridden without taking up all day doing it.
- Plan – try and make sure you have a plan for not only competitions but what you are working towards with your horse. I have usually had young horses or problem horses, so I always have a plan with what I am aiming for each week. This gives me structure for the week and then I try to plan around my big show aims for the year as well. There is no point doing qualifiers for a final that you cannot attend as it is a huge waste of time and money!
- Make time for socialising!I have realised that I’d much rather spend time with my horse and at a show but I’m lucky now that my job is also equestrian so I am surrounded by friends who are equally horsey and they get it when you have to cancel plans last minute due to something going wrong on the yard. They’re also great for going out to lecture clinics with as a social outing without complaining!
To stay updated with Jenna and Trusty’s antics, follow them on Instagram @blue_light_eventing
Written by Evie Toombes xx
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