Allow me to introduce myself…My name is Lindsay and I’m a professional horse trainer. When you think “professional horse trainer” you may have visions of George Morris dancing in your head. But don’t let the title fool you. My wardrobe does not consist of perfectly pressed breeches and polished tall boots; my barn is not full of fancy horses, and my working students are non-existent.
Why, you ask? Because I am a self-appointed part-time professional.
The part-time professional is an elusive creature; one that you may not even realize exists in the industry. Since the beginning of time, there have been amateurs and there have been pros. The amateurs ride for fun; their equestrian habits supplemented by real jobs with enough disposable income to make this expensive habit a possibility. The pros live to ride and ride to live. They’re the lucky ones who have made a career out of being in the barn 24/7.
But, what about the small subset of us whose career isn’t enough to support the equestrian lifestyle, who teach lessons, train and sell horses whenever possible just to keep their horses (and wallets) happy? That, my friends, is the part-time professional.
Yep, that’s me. I’m one of those ‘tweeners with a full-time career and a part-time training business just to keep hay in my horses’ bellies and saddles on their backs. And, as I work towards the ultimate goal of being a true professional with no other job but to teach, train and show, I’ve begun to embrace this new category of equestrianism. I’m here to share with you what being a part-time professional is all about. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. 5AM looks much better from the back of your eyelids.
Have you ever heard your 5AM wake up call, sat up to the beautiful morning, birds chirping, sun streaming through the window, feeling totally rested and ready to take on the day? No? Well, that’s because it never happens! At 5AM the sun is still asleep and you should be, too. No matter what Benjamin Franklin said about early mornings making you wise, they look much better from the back of your eyelids. I’ll take dumb and rested any day.
2. Hannah Montana’s got nothing on me.
A teen pop-star living a double life and trying to make it one day at a time…Psh. Being a part-time professional trainer means scheduling appointments, training rides and lessons around a 40+ hour work week. It means changing in your car and hoping the person at the stoplight next to you doesn’t happen to look over when you don’t have pants on. I’d much rather throw on a wig and have my professional stylist do my makeup, but I guess dousing yourself in perfume to cover up the horse odor works, too. (Here’s my official public apology to everyone in my office…)
3. My husband is no longer my husband.
Even though my work and training schedules leave very little time for personal relationships, my husband hasn’t left me…yet. But he has switched roles completely. He’s now my groom, my hauler, my assistant and my professional photographer/videographer all rolled up in one. You mean real professionals actually pay people to do all these things? Ha.
4. You learn to appreciate the little things.
Actually got to ride your personal horse today? Success! Stalls cleaned, horses groomed and you weren’t late to work for once? Girl, you deserve a margarita! That full tank of gas lasted you more than 4 days? Go buy yourself a bottle of wine. When your life is a spinning vortex of being places and doing things, you’re allowed to celebrate every small victory like you just won the lottery.
5. New food groups become a staple in your daily diet.
Us crazy horse folk who work more than we breathe have to be very creative when it comes to actually feeding ourselves. We tend to gravitate towards meals that can be eaten while driving and that can be stuffed into any empty pockets, purses or other areas for safe stowing while getting from place to place (I’m looking at you, protein bar). Actual taste matters much less than getting enough sustenance in your body to actually make it through the day. That being said, coffee, wine and the occasional tequila-based cocktail are proven to contain enough sustenance to get one through the day…trust me.
All the complaints about this lifestyle I chose for myself aside, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 6-year-old me would have killed to actually own a saddle, let alone be paid to ride someone else’s horse (and have saddles and extra tack piling up in the garage).
Maybe one day all this nonsense will pay off and I will actually be able to afford training full-time. But, until then, sunrises are actually kind of pretty, Hannah Montana ended up being super famous, I am still married, my sense of optimism has increased tenfold since opening my business, and margaritas are awesome.
About the Author
Lindsay Yohn is the owner of Transitions Sport Horses, based in Lexington, KY. She specializes in repurposing OTTBs for careers in eventing, jumping and dressage. She also publishes a blog chronicling her road to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.