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Working and Competing Amateurs--What's your advice?

Looking for advice and insight on balancing riding with full time work, especially riding regularly and competitively. I am starting my first full time (remote) job after college this fall and will be happy riding in general but would like to be able to do an event every 4-6 weeks or so. I know it’ll be early mornings and evenings for riding, and be difficult to fit in workouts outside of riding too, as I did a summer internship where I rode and worked (but did not show at all). I’m a bit daunted by the prospect of how to manage driving to shows since I live in an area where all events are run over three days and are a 1-6 hour drive, and fitting in riding now that my daily responsibilities will be a bit less flexible. Any tips on scheduling from those who have done this would be much appreciated!

This really depends on the job I think. When I graduated and started working I was surprised by just how much time I suddenly had in my days after years of classes + studying + part-time jobs + riding, even after doing a few full-time internships as a student. Especially with a remote job and no commute you may be surprised by how much you can get done. Give yourself some time to adjust without putting too much pressure on yourself and you’ll find a routine that works.

Figure out a work/life/ride balance that works for you, and IMO that should include non-horsey things as well. Your early 20’s are a great time to try new things and have experiences that are harder to replicate when you get older and have established roots/responsibilities. Enjoy yourself! I think it’s important to know when to focus on the horse and when to say it’s ok to skip a planned ride because all your friends are getting together and you don’t want to miss it, or you had a long day at work and just need to sleep, or whatever. Balance is important.

My biggest piece of advice would be to put your career first right now. These first few years in the workforce can set the tone for your entire career if you make smart choices and set yourself up for better jobs down the line. Lean forward on taking opportunities to build your experience, focus on your network, and be willing to go the extra mile at work when it makes sense to do so. Again it will depend on your job, but taking regular long weekends to show may not be feasible so early in your career. You’ll have to feel out the culture at your workplace and figure out what trade-offs it would mean. It sucks, but the reality is there are a lot of senior managers who view the younger generations as lazy and unwilling to work, and regular requests for vacation right off the bat can rub them the wrong way. I’m not saying it’s fair, but these are the people who decide on your raises and promotions so sometimes you just have to play the game in the short-term. Also unfair, but the “horse girl” stereotypes can weigh against you as well if you’re honest about why you’re taking all those days off. Every office culture is different; hopefully you found one that genuinely supports work/life balance but just be cognizant of how you might be perceived. You won’t have to worry about shows until spring anyway so you have time to figure it out.

Similarly, set yourself up financially now to support a lifetime of horses. Don’t go into debt, don’t skip out on investing for retirement, build yourself a savings cushion, etc. Horses are a luxury. It’s going to be much easier to buckle down for a few years now than to go another 10-20 years and realize you have to give up the horse if you ever want a chance at retirement. Do the responsible thing now so you can have fun later.

I didn’t ride at all for a few years after graduation (couldn’t afford it anyway) and it worked out really well for me. I explored some new hobbies that I still enjoy, travelled a bit, and most importantly advanced my career to where it can easily support horses. I’m in my late 20’s now, and I’ve more than doubled my salary and established a solid reputation for myself at work that gives me the flexibility to set my own schedule and make time to ride. I’m making up for the time I missed for those years off with plenty of riding, showing, and generally living my best adult ammy life. It is definitely possible!


@dmveventer’s suggestions are excellent! Put the job first for a year or more until it is solid and then start fitting your horse-life around it. DD has been working and eventing for 10 years now (lawyer). She seems to have realized that upper level isn’t something possible. She seems content to bring along a young horse and see what she can do. She works with a trainer, does derby type events (one day), and once or twice a year does a recognized 3-Day. That is not the same as her first 10 years of eventing (age 15-25) when she was doing 10 events a year with 2 horses. Her life now is what it is, and she seems happy with the compromise.

At one point there was a discussion here about what upper level riders did for a living. It seemed clear that those who are riding at the higher levels are either “managing the family money” or otherwise in a financial position that allows them to have the life stye without the daily job. The two “working folks” I knew who rode upper level were an anesthesiologist who scheduled himself so he was off on Th-Sun then flew his plane to the various locations where HT were held. His trainer hauled his horses. He showed up and evented. I don’t think he did the daily training/riding. The other is a woman I hunt with. She is an MD/DVM --she owns two practices but has enough partners/assistants that she too can schedule herself as she sees fit. However, in the 40 years I’ve known her, she has only had one Prelim horse --again, finding the time to ride as much as one must to maintain an upper level horse is the challenge.


So, I’m envious of the remote part…

I used to ride/train professionally but then realized that I needed a consistent income in order to provide the best care for my horses while being able to buy groceries. I am now a 7/8th grade history teacher, so my hours are set. I cannot be late, I cannot reorganize my day to revolve around a lesson, and I cannot work remotely in order to go to a horse show. I also have to bring a lot of grading and lesson planning home with me to work outside of my contractual hours. Additionally, I have a barn that is always overflowing with horses in training, teaching lessons, sales horses, and my own competition horses. And, let’s be honest, a teacher’s salary is consistent, but not exactly comfortable living, so I do a lot of the barn work myself.

I’ve had a lot of soul-searching as to whether or not I really want to do this. I’m always tired, I’m riding at 445 a.m., and usually hop off my last horse around 9 p.m. I then crash epically, and may not ride my own horses for a week just because I need the break and need to catch up on life. Competing is tough because the weekends are when I can take a breath, organize myself, sleep a little bit, and spend quality time with my husband, family, horses, etc. When I enter a competition, it just extends the chaotic week that much longer. I have to be very careful how often and where I’m competing, as I know that in order to compete at the upper levels I need to be on my “A” game, especially since I don’t get to practice and ride as many top-notch horses as my competitors. So that means my competitions are usually local rather than heading to the big 3-days. Additionally, the ULs usually run Thursday/Friday - Sunday which is a giant pain in the butt because of the lost income and limited days that I can call out “sick” (but that is an entirely different discussion about equity/amateur accessibility at the UL of eventing).

However, I’ve realized that I just love this sport, I love training, and I love teaching lessons… so for me, it is worth it. Also, I don’t have kids so that makes this insane schedule doable.

What I have found to help… Ride IQ. Especially when I’m exhausted the lessons help to focus my riding so that I’m not doing the same WTC 20-meter circles each way on 7 different horses. I hired a groom during the work week so that my horses are tacked up and ready to go so that I can actually ride them. And finally, I give myself grace. If I’m not in the right mental space, or I’m just exhausted I give myself an easier day of just riding the horses I get paid to ride… and I don’t feel guilty or beat myself up. I used to feel awful when I didn’t ride my horses, but now I give them a carrot and wish them well, and pick back up when I’m rested or in a better mental space. I’m also trying to find another rider to help me do the hacking and conditioning work, in exchange for lessons… which should help to ease the burden. However, this has proven difficult because my horses can be feral jerks (this is why I own them… one day I will get the lovely, quiet amateur horse) …


This is so dependent on your job, your life, and your personality.

I will say this. A three day show every 4-6 weeks sounds like a lot of work and a lot of time off from work and lost income. The show hangover is real. I had the time of my LIFE at a recent incredible 3-day weekend, and I still needed a month to recover. :joy: YMMV.

For me, it’s all about managing my spoons. At heart, I am a low-energy person. I know that on top of my F/T job, my house, and caring for the horses, that the first thing to go to the wayside on a busy day is my riding time. So, on days I know I won’t make it past 5 PM without sheer exhaustion, I ride in the AM. And if I have an awful day at work (thankfully so rare in my “new” job), I know I carry that with me and my horse is too perceptive for that BS. We hack those days.

Pick your battles and your days, too. I know Mondays and Tuesdays are almost always a bust so I make it a point to ride Friday through Sunday. Even three days a week is enough to keep my horse going for BN-N work. Somedays I just pull my guy out to hack for 10m. That’s better than nothing at all. I’m fully in belief it’s better to ride 5 minutes a day than 35 minutes on a Sunday, but I won’t twist myself inside out to get on his back, either. He’s out 24/7 and I really think that between his shenanigans every morning and my floppy rides, he’s plenty conditioned. I’ve learned that a few days off does NOT set us back, ever. If you were going Training+ things would be different.

And you know something? My horses thrive in this inconsistent schedule. They don’t need to be schooled every day. On those low energy days making it to the barn is a victory in of itself - take them for a spin around the property. My gelding had the whole month of August off except for two trail rides. I had my first lesson back yesterday - we kept it very light but he stunned me because he came out so soft and supple. I told my instructor we had to keep it light because I had only ridden him 3x in the last two weeks because IRL was too chaotic. My instructor pulled me aside and asked me what it was I had been working on with him, that’s how much improvement she saw. I laughed and told her we’d done the couch regime for the last month. :joy:

I agree RideIQ has helped me too, as has the EquiLab app. EquiLan keeps me accountable - it’s my personal callout because it tracks how long you spend in each gait. Also - get a watch and track how long you spend trotting and cantering. This has been my best tool, because I tend to take it too easy versus too hard; now I can look down at my watch and know we started cantering ten seconds ago, not three minutes ago. LOL.

If you have the means, it can be worth seeing if someone else can ride Dobbin on the days you know you won’t make it. I went this route a handful of times with several great riders, but in the end it did not work for me because I felt like it was a third job managing them. They were all wonderful riders, but between trying to get them to commit to a day and work off their rides, plus making sure someone was at the barn in case of the worst, it was just another responsibility for me. I also realized that it didn’t really make a positive difference in terms of my gelding’s progress.

Second the “give yourself grace” statement. We are adults with full time jobs and full time responsibilities outside of our career. Making it to the barn is an accomplishment.

Finally - what has really helped my mojo as an eventer is going out to hunter paces. It’s cheaper, it’s just as fun (IMO) and you have to develop your own independence and bravery. This is the perfect time of year for it, too.


I had a full time job - shift work/panama schedule (6 to 6, trade off every six months between night and day shift) - and had two horses that I trained and showed. I was able to ride after work, either mornings or nights. At the time I was in NoVA so the 45 minute drive to the barn was sometimes brutal, but I was able to make it work riding 5 days a week. I didn’t have much of a social life, but was able to get out with friends once a week or so.

I did not go on vacation and I hoarded PTO days so that once a month I could do a show or an event. I usually only did full HTs every other month or so, most of my shows were small schooling or CTs that got me there and back in a half day. On my days off, once or sometimes twice a month I trailered to lessons. I also had Ride IQ which another poster mentioned that helped a lot. So my life was ruled by horses.

I moved to flex work, which was really helpful because as long as I hit 80 hours in a two week period, I made my own schedule. Some days were 12 hour days, but i was able to take time for the horses. I planned out every month with detail so that I could manage everything.

I ended up taking a job overseas and it is also flex work. I ride four/five days a week here now. The stable is 15 mins from work, so I take lunch breaks and ride. I think if there is a will, there is a way, but also I advise you not to spread yourself too thin. Burnout is real and if you are trying to make something work that is taking too much of your mental energy, it may become more of a job than something enjoyable.

Also, as much as I wanted to go back to riding at T/P, I had to modify my goals. BN/N was good for me with the limited amount of lessons I could take and for the days I could ride. Sometimes a hunter pace or schooling shows was better for my schedule because it was not a full HT. Set realistic expectations and goals based on time/energy that you can commit to the horses, modify them as you go.

I’m envious of your remote work. I have a couple friends that were able to connect to barn wifi or bring their own hotspot and to ride around their work schedule. I have other friends that loved not having the commute because it saved them sometimes an hour of time a day that they spent instead going out to ride. Good luck and sorry for the novel.


100% the right advice.

With a big hug – For you, OP, it is not about riding right now. It is about career. It is about your future life, financially and employment progression.

Focus on career and financial future will set you up for the best success in life and in riding, throughout your life.

This is likely not what you want to hear, but if I’m a manager/employer of a white-collar college-degreed workforce, and a new graduate employee keeps asking for 3-day weekends, you are not on track for a second year with this company. Even if your work is sterling.

We need focus and dedication. We are getting to know each other. Particularly early-career employees need to demonstrate their commitment to the job mission, not just speak to it.

I realize that the post-pandemic work life has changed a lot – but it is drifting back to some old norms, and one of those is demonstrated focus and dedication to the job. It may be easier for employees to change jobs, but it is also easier for employers to change employees. Remote work enables both of those things.

Hopefully you already assessed and selected your employer based on the way that you want to live your life. But in any case, the first year in a new job is about the new job.

Good luck as you sort out your new life! :slight_smile:


Same here. I did a lot of things I would not have had time (or money) to do had I still been riding. Met a lot of non-horsey people who expanded my life. And there wasn’t the commitment to so many scheduled things that caused problems to skip.

I cycled - casually on weekends - country roads from 25-35 miles, with friends, instead of riding horses. Took weekend vacations, saw things. A horse is a constant time and financial demand. The bike I could park for a few months while I focused on a special project, or did other demanding things.

It was easier to schedule all kinds of personal things and adventures without working around the riding schedule. It is a new way of life to adjust to, after the dedication of riding competitively.

Got back into the world of horses later – it was all still there. :slight_smile:

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I think it depends somewhat on the culture/expectations of your new job. How flexible are the hours? Do they want you to have a set schedule or just to get your work done? Do they have alternative work schedules? (for example I work 9 hour days, but have every other Friday off). My husband’s job just requires you to do 80 hours of work every (2-week) pay period, but doesn’t care when you do it.


Thank you so much to everyone for the long thoughtful responses and advice, I really appreciate it! As several people have mentioned, I’m sure balancing riding and work will be dependent on lots of dynamic factors.
I also wanted to mention that I am currently competing at Novice with hopes moving up to Training in the next year (no UL ambitions in my near future), and my figure for shows every 4-6 weeks was ambitious–looking back on the past year I have not shown that frequently, more like every other month or two months since we have a long show season in my Area. Thankfully, my horse is also an older schoolmaster so he needs the consistency more from a fitness perspective than a skill one which I think will be a bit easier to maintain. For those of you who recommended it too, I am already a Ride IQ user and love it!
I have crunched the numbers that I can fortunately afford to fit my horse and a couple of shows per year into my budget, which I’m very grateful for. I currently full lease my horse and would need to give one month notice per my contract, so if s*** totally hits the fan financially or in terms of time management with work demands I do have the flexibility to take a break from riding. I’m happy to hear how many people successfully do balance horses and work, even if consistency fluctuates with life in general, as I have been feeling pretty nervous about this transition coming up!


It’s completely doable! Once you get into the swing of things so many options will open up. Right now you’re probably going to be more on the work side of the work/life balance spectrum but that will ebb and flow over time. This year has been a very horsey year for me and I have admittedly been less productive than usual at work. I can do that because people know me and my reputation (and, frankly, because me slacking off is still above average). Next year I’m aiming for a big promotion so I’ll have to step it up a bit at the office. Work/life balance doesn’t mean everything is perfectly balanced all the time, sometimes work does win in that equation, but it evens out over time if you do it right.


Would it be satisfying to you to only try for maybe two full events per year using vacation time, but also do maybe 2 dressage schooling shows and 2 jumper schooling shows per year that would only be one weekend day each? Or a few clinics instead of the dressage and jumping schooling shows?

Since your horse is a full lease, could you find another rider who would want to share the horse and each half lease? Ideally someone who could ride 2-3 weekdays while you ride weekends and maybe once during the week. Also ideally someone who rides with the same trainer.

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I’ll caveat this that my show season was June this year and nothing else due to both a horse injury and an injury of my own, but I’ll echo a lot of the advice here: take at least the first year or two to get yourself established work-wise. I wasn’t riding when I finished college and didn’t pick it back up again til I’d been at my job for a couple of months, and at the time I was just riding a friend’s horse on the weekend and maybe another day per week if my schedule allowed.

I’m a CPA and was working as an auditor at a public accounting firm at the time so I had no life and was working six days a week from January til around mid-May. I consequently was lucky if I got a Sunday ride in every week. I did buy a horse towards the end of my first busy season, but he wasn’t even three yet so it wasn’t a big deal the following year when I largely gave him the spring off aside from a weekly hack around the farm. I then moved into industry with a role at my current company (in large part because what on earth is the point of owning a horse if I can’t ride him for half the year), but that was the first pandemic summer so I was fully remote and not doing anything other than going out to the barn to ride after work.

My entire department is ridiculously short-staffed at the moment, which makes taking any time off at all a bit of a daunting prospect, but that hasn’t prevented me from being able to go to shows (whether I’m riding or just grooming for my trainer). Most people at my barn hit about one show a month (whether it’s eventing, dressage, jumpers—just depends on what people are feeling at any given point). Everything we go to is at least three hours away and depending on the timing and how much PTO I have available, I frequently end up working from the truck on the way up since I don’t have to drive (I usually ride with my trainer). I do have a work cell with unlimited data so I’ll use that for a hotspot while we’re at the show, and if I need to finish anything up at the hotel after dinner, I will. I definitely prefer to take time off, but sometimes we’re traveling somewhere during our month-end close and I have things that I have to do that can’t wait til another day, plus it lets me stretch my PTO balance further. My boss doesn’t care where I’m doing my work or when as long as it’s getting done.

It can definitely be a lot and there are certain weeks where I have to pull back from riding a bit, but it’s absolutely doable if you’re deliberate about it. I’ve accepted that most days during the week I’m not going to be able to be on my horse until around 7pm and I won’t be home until after 9pm, but that’s the price I pay for keeping my horse where I do (and I’m trying to move closer to the barn anyway). I usually manage to ride five days a week (I try to give myself one day of the weekend off) and I do admittedly not have a lot of time for other things, but I try to make sure that I give myself permission to not be laser focused on the barn all the time. It’s definitely not weekly but I rearrange priorities to see friends or go to a concert or a hockey game or whatever it may be because all of that is important too.


I work remote but I don’t have the flexibility or openness in my schedule that I can ride between meetings. I’m lucky to get time for lunch. I work with teams in 3 different time zones and have a high workload. I love my job even if it’s not super flexible.

With that said due to my extremely high productivity I can take pretty much whatever time I want off as I’ve established in my first year that I’m an extremely valuable needle mover. They know my work will be done and no balls dropped.

Spend your first year focused on work and making yourself invaluable to set yourself up for long term success. Fill your calendar meeting people and make sure everyone knows you and the quality of your work, especially management. You don’t want to be known as the person that always asks for time off.


I find this position interesting. I assume she is talking about a professional position where she gets paid time off. If your company gives you PTO, you should feel free to use it. And taking a Friday off every month for 5 months during eventing season is probably less disruptive to the company than taking a weeklong summer vacation like many people take.


As far as actual suggestions for scheduling:

  1. Food prep! Make big batches of meals on Sunday that will feed you all week so you don’t have to cook after work and riding-my instapot gets used A LOT (also helps with the budget when you have tasty food ready to go at home!)
  2. Don’t sit down between activities and avoid going home between steps if you can help it. When i worked in an office, it was wake-up—>office—>barn—>gym with no stops. If i went home to change or whatever, it took too long and i lost momentum and things didn’t get done. I often wasn’t home til 9 at night but i was single and dinner was already made (see above) so i didn’t mind.
  3. My mantra for chores at home (and at the barn) is “if it takes less than 5 minutes, do it immediately”- yes, there are big tasks that need to get scheduled in for weekends when i have more time, but my house is always basically company-ready and I’m not mentally intimidated by a giant to-do list all the time.
  4. Don’t dick around at the barn especially during the week. This is hard. But show up. Groom. Ride. Hose. Wipe down tack. Feed carrots. Back In the car. You can chitchat while you’re doing most things-walk and talk people!
  5. Kind of echoing the comments above -“i can’t, i have vague horse thing” is an easy way to get out of other obligations! But becoming The “i can’t, i have horse things” Girl at work isn’t the best look. You will, hopefully, get voluntold to go to lunches, dinners, happy hours, heck i even was voluntold to run a marathon with executives once…and frankly those networking opportunities are more important than a flat ride on a Tuesday-it’s ok. You’ll still get to go to shows. By the same token, it’s ok to have boundaries at work and not be available from 6-730 several days a week because you’re horseback- it’s all about balance-Think hard about your goals, horse related and not, when conflicts come up in your schedule and then just adjust. You’ll figure out what works for you.

Or you can be me and not be available outside the hours of 8:30-5:30 on any day during the week unless it’s prescheduled. I learned that from my public accounting life. When I’m not working, I’m not working, and quite frankly, no one actually notices or cares because they know if they send me an email outside of those hours I’ll get to it in the morning.

OP, do dedicate yourself to work the first year, but don’t set standards and expectations that you aren’t willing to keep. People don’t bother me outside of my “standard” hours (even if I sometimes choose to work outside of them) because that’s the precedent I set. Everyone at my office knows I have a hard stop at 5:30 because I leave immediately to go ride, and the days when I’m doing it aren’t the same every week so no one can ever assume it’s Tuesday so I’m working longer.

Most of those “urgent” things are almost never legitimately, can’t-wait-until-tomorrow, urgent, and if something is legitimately on fire my team has my personal cell number and they know they can use it in that scenario. Most of my rearranging of that schedule is for a couple of days during our month-end financial close or to accommodate our teams in the Middle East and Asia because we try to switch off who has to wake up early and who is working in the evening for the handful of calls that we do have, and I’m happy to do that because we schedule it in advance. I just don’t allow people to call me at 5:25 because “it’s just five minutes!” and then it takes 45 instead, and that’s never been an issue for me.


As everyone else has said, it really depends on the company and industry. In the US, entry-level employees get an average of only 11 vacation days per year. One Friday a month for 5 months would be almost half of that, leaving only 6 days to use for holidays, other vacation, or illness if the company doesn’t provide enough sick days. There’s also a different perception around taking one week-long vacation vs regularly asking for Fridays off - the frequency of leave requests could raise some eyebrows even if the total vacation time is the same - and what’s normal for a senior employee vs someone junior. There are plenty of companies out there that genuinely support work/life balance, but also plenty that pay lip service to it and then punish employees who try to implement it in practice. If that’s the kind of place OP works, at this stage in her career it still might be worth grinding it out for a year or two and then leveraging the experience into a job with better benefits.

What makes this especially tricky is OP hasn’t been in the workforce long enough to reliably gauge whether the company really means it when they talk about work/life balance or not, or to figure out if there are different expectations for entry-level employees. As an example, my company offers generous leave and actually encourages people to take it. But, we also have an expectation that junior employees will throw themselves into work for the first year or two, partly to build legitimate skills they’ll need to move forward and partly because as an organization there’s a “we suffered back in my day so they should suffer too” mentality. Managers will tell them to take as much leave as they want, work a flexible schedule, etc etc, and then turn around and ding them for it at their next review. I generally tell my mentees to be proactive about volunteering for extra things when it makes sense for their lives, so that when they need to turn something down they have credit in the bank. After a few years once they’re fully established (like I am) there are pretty much no limits on how or when you use your leave - last week I decided I wanted to ride in the back pasture before horses got turned out so I cancelled a meeting and used some vacation time to just leave in the middle of the day :woman_shrugging:

OP, finding a really good mentor should be at the top of your to-do list at the new job. There are going to be unwritten rules and things you have no way of knowing about as someone just walking in the door, and having someone who can help you navigate that will do wonders for your career. Most likely (and hopefully!) you’ll find that most of this discussion isn’t applicable because you work in a functional office that understands employees aren’t robots and have lives outside of 9-5. I’m not trying to be alarmist, and I definitely don’t think you should accept poor treatment if you do wind up somewhere toxic, but office culture can just be tough to navigate sometimes and I’ve seen enough entry-level employees unwittingly shoot themselves in the foot that I want to spare other people from making those mistakes!


I think this is a great way of phrasing the potential problem. And unfortunately, a lot of people view horses in particular as a pretty frivolous rich-girl hobby. A man could say “I can’t, I have soccer practice” without risking the same perceptions as a woman saying she has to leave to go ride. Luckily this tends to go away once people get to know you and your work. I am 100% becoming the “I can’t, I have horse things” girl in my office now and it’s totally fine, but it took work to get to this point. Now people ask me how my horse is doing just like I ask them about their kids and it’s just part of life.

The other tips are all great too. Meal prep is a lifesaver. I’m trying to be better at not letting the house chores pile up but those tend to be first to go by the wayside when literally anything else happens (or I just don’t feel like it…) so I admire your company-ready house! That’s my goal but definitely not my reality :joy:


That is an opinion that belongs to the company, not arbitrarily assumed by the employee. Be very careful about informing one’s manager of that assumption.

Welcome to real life. The company has their own schedule of activities, projects and priorities. If you aren’t there when they need you, they don’t need you. I have heard those words from so many managers over so many years.

If an applicant feels thay have a high need for a particular PTO schedule, this needs to be discussed during the hiring process. The management of that work group, and company policy, will clarify their position then. It will be clear if they think this is not a good look and if it will affect their willingness to hire you.

PTO has to be scheduled at the company’s convenience. “Taking Friday off” … depends on the company. But in the traditional corporate world, repeated three-day weekends have been anathema because they are associated with over-indulgence on the weekend, and poor performance when the employee is back at work.

Sometimes there is a way. But it should never be assumed that it will happen. And if it happened, that it is repeatable every year.

In all honesty, being needed on the job is a strong indicator of how the management perceives an employee’s value.

OP, have a framed photo on your desk of you going over a cross-country jump, the most relatable photo of the highest level you have ridden. This will help show your seriousness about your sport and that you are accomplished in it. It can help sell your level of intensity about it. And be a conversation starter. Be very aware of how you present your horse sport activity in every conversation where it comes up. Make it sound character-building and worthwhile.

Corporate employers tend to pay somewhat above scale and have excellent benefits. But they assume they own their employees. That’s the deal to tap into the financial end.

The options for work/PTO options are determined by the employee’s manager. The employee can ask, but management decides. That is what management intends when they hire. It is years before an employee has a lot more flexibility. If that doesn’t suit an employee, it’s going to be very uncomfortable until another, more flexible, company position or other employment can be found.

I have witnessed employees who thought they could basically institute a 4-day work week during the summer, taking most Friday’s off for two or three months. And witnessed them being told that they needed to decide if they wished to continue their employment with the company, or set up a 4-day work week summer – somewhere else.

If someone truly wants to schedule their PTO any time they please, they need to find a company that will accommodate that desire. The ones I have known will not.

Occasionally a very long term employee (20+ years) will have so much yearly vacation that they are gone often, lots of vacation time. However it is assumed that they are near retirement and won’t be around much longer. Management is already planning their replacement by younger, fresher, educationally-updated new entry. Being away from work that much is basically one foot out of the door.

100%. More than one, as different people are more engaged in different aspects of the company. Especially if it is a large company, it’s like several different countries with different cultures and languages.