Absorbing as much knowledge as you can. Riding as many horses as you have access to. Experiencing the thrill of competition. Learning from the lows and becoming familiar with the drawing board. This never-ending cycle of equestrianism is one that we are fortunate to live through. However, fortune does not eliminate the days where I truly would rather do "normal people things" instead of ride my horse. Sometimes, when I put my foot in the stirrup and swing my leg over the saddle, I look forward to the conclusion of the ride so that I "can get back to my life". I watch my non-horsey friends plan week-long vacations that I cannot attend because it is the middle of eventing season, I decline Friday-night plans because I will be at a horse show, I struggle to keep my eyes open on a post-event Monday morning in first period. Sometimes, it is easy to find myself focusing on these points instead of the factors that contribute to my love of horses. This feeling is burnout.
I think that there is a stigma behind burnout. We are so incredibly lucky to be able to experience such an outstanding sport, surrounded by animals that we love more than we are even capable of loving. We spend thousands and thousands monthly to continue living this life. We sign the contract of giving up a "normal" life, and restructure our schedules to benefit our horses. We do all of this, so why complain? To the naked eye, burnout in the horse world is almost selfish; a "first-world problem" to the highest degree.
However, burnout is real. It truly is. The life that we live, while exhilarating, is also exhausting. It is exhausting to put in hours and hours and hours of work on daily basis, and to usually feel that this work is not paying off. It is exhausting to sign the check for another horse show, when at the last one, you finished on a letter. It is exhausting to come back to the barn after a perfect dressage test that put you in the top five, then trot your horse out to find she has a hot nail (that was a bad day). We chose the world where sometimes, all you need is a break, but usually breaks are not readily accessible.
I have been through a couple difficult periods of burnout, specifically last year. It is not something to be ashamed of; it is natural. However, shameless or not, it undoubtedly hurts to be tired of the thing that you are most passionate about. When I find myself circling the drain, I take a quiet hack in a field instead of a drilling flat ride. I listen to music in the barn. I absorb myself in my team. I allow myself to enjoy the little things, such as the shine of hooves after they are polished, or the sound of nickering as I enter the barn during breakfast time. I push myself to focus on the aspects of this world that made me fall in love with it in the first place, and make an effort to switch up my usual routine.
It is okay to allow yourself to breathe.