Looking for stories / glimmers of hope for how others have fit eventing into your life during your 20s. With board, vet bills, show fees, lessons owning a horse is practically equivalent to a mortgage which is tough when just starting a career. Even with a good job it isn’t easy! How do people make it fit? Between affordability, to developing the career thing, to relationships, to challenging yourself in other ways (moving somewhere different than home?), to paving the rest of young adulthood, how’d you make riding part of your life? Any advice?
My best advice is, if you feel like a lot is changing for you at once (which in your 20s, is the definition of your current existence), find a lease. This takes some of the permanent responsibility off you and allows you to ride while also being able to stop that financial commitment if and when you need to if something comes up like a more expensive apartment than you figured you’d get, etc. I found that some years, showing and consistent lessons just wasn’t in the cards for me in my early and mid-20s and I prioritized being able to ride and keep myself immersed in the world, period. Plenty of time to show later which is one of the great things about our sport. A half lease depending on the time you have to ride might also leave you with enough money to lesson regularly and keep improving so when you DO show it’ll be worth your while. A full lease makes sense if you have time to ride 5 - 6 days a week too.
I’m 29 now, and I will not miss my 20s but my advice to you would be to not try and micromanage it too much. Reading through your post it almost sounds like a checklist and if the last decade has taught me anything it’s that life doesn’t work that way. Have your goals - get a good career going, keep yourself open to change and opportunities, and prioritize those things that bring you happiness like riding. The rest works out the way it needs to. (As a Type A person, I hate that this is true, but it is LOL.)
I give up a lot to event in my 20’s.
I have a reasonable job and even with that the horse sucks up most the money. I miss being able to be social with my friends as often as I would like and certainly miss travel for non-horse related activities but then again there is nothing I love more than eventing.
I guess its just weighing up what is most important and if its the horses then you will most likely have to go with out a lot the fomo can be real! but also realizing if it is something you enjoy but your not prepared to make the other sacrifices there is nothing at all wrong with having a break for a few years. I know lots of people who have had the break focused on careers or families and have taken it back up in their 30’s & 40’s and done really well
I rode very sporadically during college and my early 20’s. I was busy getting a good degree with relevant job experience, developing my career, getting married and divorced, and moving around the world! I rode when I could - I looked for half leases or someone that needed their horse exercised. I wasn’t picky about what the horse was doing, so I mostly rode hunters rather than eventers. I didn’t really do any showing, but I met some really awesome people that I’m still friends with >15 years later.
My focus on my career and managing my income meant I got on the housing ladder relatively young - I bought my first house at 26. Staying connected with the horse community wherever I was living allowed me to buy my own horse at 27 (a cheap horse I bought out of a field, that I kept at a self care facility) and I’ve owned a home and a horse (who has been boarded at full care facilities) ever since (I’m now 45) despite continuing to move around a fair bit! I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I had tried to keep a horse and keep showing and riding during those early years.
I am 28 and I just got back into riding after taking a little break for awhile. During college and my early 20s I just didn’t do a lot of competing and ended up riding whatever I could get access to, which did lead to a few traumatizing experiences with other people’s horses, but I also learned a ton.
If you don’t have one already, find a good trainer to take lessons with who will keep an eye out for riding opportunities for you, and just enjoy the lack of responsibility of riding other people’s horses! It definitely gets old after awhile dealing with horse owners and having no control over the management aspect, but it’s a good, low-commitment way to keep your butt in the saddle while your life is in transition and you’re trying to build your career.
Leasing is also a great idea if you can afford it! I know when I was younger I had virtually no extra money to spend on horses, and when i wanted a lesson it was something I had to consciously set aside money for. But there’s always someone who’s pregnant, or going out of town, or having family issues or something who can’t ride their horse for whatever reason, and you just have to be the person standing right there available to take the reins
The beginning of my 20s. Very little showing and very few lessons. I got a $500 OTTB and worked on making him a riding horse slowly. Worked at the barn to keep board low (waking up at 3:30am a couple days a week). Didn’t (and still don’t) keep up with the latest fashion trends. Bought almost everything used. I’ve been to the spa twice in my adult life (once for my wedding and once as a gift from DH). Basically, worked hard and lived very frugally.
Now I’m 28. I go to 1-3 shows a year and get lessons a couple times a month. Still nothing to write home about, but feels like enough for me.
We also own 19 acres, built a house/arena/barn/fencing/etc. and my mortgage is less than what I was paying in rent. Can afford two horses and have even less pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” since I keep them at home.
Basically, don’t stress and be patient. Looking into leasing or just helping local folks keep their horses in exercise is a great option.
Find good people that understand what you can and can’t do right now, and who understand and support your goals (and make sure you know what those goals are). If you end up in a lucrative career that demands much/all of your personal life in return, perhaps a pro that can provide a flexible training board arrangement is best. If you end up working long, unpredictable hours, a trainer that can is comfortable scheduling lessons at off hours or on inconsistent intervals may be most helpful, or a lease/part-lease situation at a farm with flexible hours of operation. If cash flow is an issue, a facility that might allow you to work off your lessons or ride time may suit well.
The bottom line is that communication and honesty are your best friends. Evaluate what you can and cannot commit to right now, very frankly, and then be honest and up front about your situation when trying to find a match. Every one of the situations listed above is something that I did or had a close friend do in our 20s, and the arrangements worked well for both the rider and the horse/trainer/facility.
I found my 20s to be the hardest decade of my life (thus far). Everything was changing, and I didn’t have many resources to try to ground myself as it did. Horses were such a critical part of keeping my boots on the ground and my head on my shoulders. I didn’t always have time, or money, or either, and getting some horse time often meant losing some very precious sleep, but it was so worth it in the end. Keep trying and reaching out - it’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself right now.
I’m late 20s so recently out of the early 20s shit show. You unfortunately cannot have it all. For me, it was giving up the going out, booze-cations, etc that my friends were always up to and inviting me on. I’d try for brunches on weekends (sweaty and wearing breeches, fresh from the barn) or dragging them to the yoga class I was already planning to do anyways. But having a horse and starting a career, while maintaining some semblance of health of mind and body is not easy. But if it’s something you want to do, you compromise with roommates, early mornings, late nights, budgeting, missing out on happy hours your non-horsey friends are going on, not getting caught up in keeping up with the Joneses with new cars and such so that you can afford entry fees, farrier bills, new bridle when your old one breaks at the worst time, etc. But I can tell you, everyone goes through it in their own way. If you decide that moving to a new city, trips to Europe while you’re still young, dating and finding a partner are more important right now and that horses need to take a backburner for the time being - that’s.fine. There’s nothing wrong with that decision. Horses will always be there .
So, I’m late 20s and frankly not one to give much advice re. keeping horses in your life at all because, well, I haven’t. Combination of the way circumstances shook out on many fronts.
Grew up riding, nothing serious, just bombing around in a western saddle at a backyard (not always the good kind of “backyard” either) barn. Switched to English in my late teens and have basically been an “aspiring eventer” since age 18 when I started riding English.
For me, a lot of things changed between 18 and 23-ish. The horse I owned in my teens died when I was 20 (he wasn’t an old horse, colic) and I fell off a different horse, broke a bone and was laid up most of that summer, and that whole year-ish when I was 20-21 was like a wake up call where I realized and kind of told myself, “hey, (my name) these people at this barn that you’ve ridden at since you were 10 are NOT good horse people, they do not know what they’re doing and they’re bullies to top it off. If you’re going to do eventing, for real, you need to find yourself a different barn where people know what they’re doing.”
I was in college - community college as a commuter student living at home, had a part-time job, found myself a barn maybe 45 minutes away run by an amateur eventer with a full-time job, she boarded horses and taught lessons. Took lessons there for maybe a year and a half to just shy of two years, and had a LOT of unlearning to do (probably not as bad as it could’ve been as I hadn’t had a formal lesson at the previous barn since I was like, 14, and was mainly left to my own devices riding English prior to that and had enough sense to read every good book and article I could get my hands on among other things) but the lesson horse I was riding retired and I couldn’t financially have a horse of my own so that was the end of riding lessons for coming up on…god probably 5 years now. Last time I even sat on a horse was probably a state park trail ride 2 years ago or so. Got my bachelor’s degree a few years ago.
I don’t want to say too much more on this, as I don’t want any sly COTH-ers to connect my profile to my real-life identity as I rather like the anonymity I have here, but let’s just say I ended up working in a non-hands-on capacity in the equine industry right out of college (e.g. think of things like media or marketing) and I think just, some of the things I’d seen growing up at a backyard barn and then just what I’d deal with working in the industry a bit kind of killed some of my passion for horses. Like, how to put it? I like horses, enjoy the sport, but I’m not “all horses all the time” to an all-consuming degree the way some people I’ve encountered seem to be. I’m a little more well-rounded in interests.
Now, well. I’m still living at home because my work so far hasn’t paid quite well enough and I’ve been trying to find a “real world” job (thank god for understanding, supportive family on that front - I realize I’m fortunate in that regard) and horses just aren’t a huge priority. I still have my tack, riding clothes, etc. but I’ve been happy getting my horse fix volunteering at a therapeutic riding barn and grooming the horses there when I can (which reminds me now that we’re through the pandemic and I’m vaccinated I should check back in with them and see if I can fit it in my schedule) or volunteering at local shows and taking photos.
I’m getting to the point where I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I might well be 30 before I get back on a horse. If not older. Because the real world career I’m passionate about trying to pursue right now also isn’t exactly fabulously good-paying either, and I want to give that a fair shot so I don’t find myself sitting in a nursing home when I’m 90 thinking “I could’ve done that and been good at it and didn’t even TRY,” you know?
But part of me, funnily is pretty okay with that whereas in my teens or early 20s I’m not sure I could’ve imagined NOT being so deeply into horses. I guess I’m of the mindset that horses will be there when I’m positioned to get back into it and the only hope I have is that I’m not too chicken by whatever age that may be to try eventing and all the other horsey things I’d like to try, haha! I also am pretty resourceful and figure once I get a job that’ll make it easier to figure out the horse thing and where/how/if I can fit it back in - the one upside of growing up at a backyard barn (aside from knowing firsthand what questionable horsemanship looks like, sadly) is I’ve seen about every possible way one can stretch a dollar at a barn and never had the top/latest and greatest in everything and don’t have a horsey “keep up with the Joneses” complex, so I know if I do have a few resources and want it bad enough I can probably make it work.
I drifted out of riding and retired my horse in my 20s. I was able to travel, work overseas, get a BA and graduate degrees, and finally a good job. All of that was worth it.
Like @forfeit my teen riding environment was low end and into my 20s I only ran across old cowboys (good and bad) and sketchy backyard situations. This was almost 40 years ago and there were only a few pockets of quality training or even just lessons in my area, and they were top dollar. I dropped horses in part because I was tired of dealing with creepy people, plus at the level I was at there was no concept of advancing.
I returned to riding in my 40s. In retrospect I missed a few chances to get back into lessons in the decade leading up to when I did finally.
Only date people who ride. Live in a barn. That leaves you time to go to work and still be able to ride. Also, haul yourself to shows, live in the trailer.
That’s all I got. You will still end up poor and single. But you will have some awesome experiences!
I bought what would become my dream horse/heart horse as an unbroke 6 year old in the summer after my freshman year of college. I scheduled my classes around riding, somehow managed to have a social life and waited tables all at the same time (ahh youth!). By the time I graduated, we were running Preliminary.
I got a good job right out of college and found a very cheap place to board with a decent outdoor arena and a big field out back to do trot sets. My parents built me a set of jumps and I would occasionally sign up for clinics, but no regular trainer. I went to horse trials at least once/twice a month and schooling hunter and/or dressage shows in between. At some point in the first year after college, i lost my job and took a BIG pay cut for the next one…Nevertheless, and i just kept pushing and showing and riding and showing and spending $$. It was THE TIME OF MY LIFE and I have ZERO REGRETS.
…and then my mid-twenties hit. My horse couldn’t event anymore and I was single and I had thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in credit card bills that I had racked up doing the above. I have spent the next 5 years “rebuilding” - paying off debts, getting into a serious relationship, and just playing around at home with my old man doing baby dressage and trail riding, etc. This is a pretty good balance for me. One day soonish, id like to buy a baby on the cheap again and start showing again, but ONLY if time/life/finances stay right!
Even though i know in my heart i am making the right long term decisions for me by scaling back the idea of showing but keeping the horses in my life, it still HURTS watching my barnmates trailer away to shows without me all the time. At the same time, it HURTS watching my non-horsey friends buying houses and starting families etc.etc. that i am not in the financial position to do (YET!). Its very hard to want to live the muggle life and the horsey life and constantly be stuck in between - there’s only so much time and money to go around! You just have to find your balance of what will make you the most happy (both for today and down the line)
A lot like above @luvmycabanaboy I mucked about career wise but I had the flexibility to ski Aspen and event for 4-5 yrs. I lived more in my 20’s than people do in a lifetime. I’m ‘okay’ at a later stage in life but not as secure as I should be. I spent some $$ on about 20 some horses over the years… and did some breeding.
I did it in my 20’s but here’s the hitch - it was more affordable back then. Never in a heartbeat now.
I’m in my late 20’s and living my dream. I have zero life outside work and horses but I make it work. While building my career my parents have graciously allowed me to live with them while I save money. I buy everything second hand / love Facebook marketplace. (& xoxoOTTB). I really focus on the homework between lessons to stretch out how frequently I lesson (3-4x/month). My next chapter is unfolding and I’m planning on buying my own farm since $mortgage = $board. I also have a wonderful bf who loves horses as much as I do and is 100% in on making this dream work. I would not be able to do this if we weren’t outright obsessed with horses and eventing.
Things I don’t do anymore: vacation, bars, alcohol in general, eat out, hang out with anyone outside fam&farm, talk to people, buy things like clothes. Horse shows are our vacation and lean cuisines are life.
Another super important factoid is I only had my pony through college and shareboarded her on pasture and infrequently lessoned. We mostly were trail riding. I finished my education and set the initial stages of my career up before diving in nose deep. Now I have two horses and show unrated 4-5x/yr at LL.
I only recommend you go all in if you are insanely in love with the animal and the sport.
Oh and some great bang for your buck is the Lucinda XC academy. That also really helps me focus on homework and stretch time between lessons. And her stuff really works! It made me and my horses look like the next level up in our lessons! The other money saver is not having coaching at shows. Once I put my big girl pants on I felt so happy… I was able to warm myself up and put in respectable rounds. Bf took video which I sent to coach who gave feedback later.
TLDR. Eventing is life. If you’re not ready for the plunge that’s fine. If you’re obsessed I believe in your ability to make it all work.
What she said ^^^. Independence is a hallmark of the eventer spirit. No coach is out there on your ride. You need to own it. My sage words of advice have always been go straight to the top. Seek out the best knowledge. Audit as much as you can. If it’s a tank of gas - GO. Volunteer - tons of learning and contacts and connections.
Omg this. Found a 5* coach I just instantly connected with and he changed my life. His level of expertise at teaching is second to none! And kicker - he and his wife are super gracious/nice/humble/unassuming. I have home coach too & I utilize both their services based on my riding needs at the time.
Ended up the same way but never dated an equestrian
I ran away and joined the circus (got a working student gig at a bigger barn than I rode in as a teen), fresh out of high school. Tried to do the college thing a year later. Ran away and joined the circus again. This time, as a professional groom, with a horse in tow. Housing, board, hauling to shows was included.
Several years later (late twenties), I was horseless and began to work in a nonriding aspect of the horse industry. I didn’t get a horse of my own again until mid thirties. I’m also working on a degree now, still employed in the nonriding part of the horse world.
Not sure I would do any of it differently myself. But, I can see the benefits of getting a degree and getting settled before coming back to horses. Some things would have for sure been easier.
Speaking as a college instructor, who also
watched my (non horse) friends drop out and in of college, and myself went back to grad school in my 30s.
Getting a degree by the time you’re 21 is useful but if your head isn’t in the game, you just waste time, money, goodwill. My experience is that students who are coming back in their 30s to do a degree because they have clear career plans are wonderful students. They’ve learned to focus, work hard, prioritize, and like learning.