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Five Tips for Time Management

Balancing competition with school, work, or other obligations can be difficult. Three equestrians offer their advice.

by Emily Girard | Jan 16, 2024, 9:49 AM

Eventing athlete and groom Isabelle Bosley cited task delegation and a focus on skill expansion are her main strategies to manage her time. Photo: Libby Law Photography

Whether they’re full-time students or have other jobs, many equestrians are balancing their competitive careers with other activities. Though balancing a full life and equestrian career can be difficult, athletes who are successfully managing that balancing act say it is possible to strategize and make the most of your time.

“This sport is just being able to handle the stress and being able to still keep your cool and get things done and be efficient,” said Isabelle Bosley, a three-day event rider who also grooms for Lillian J Heard Eventing in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. “Being able to balance all of that is great in general for helping yourself become better at whatever you're trying to do.”

Here are some strategies we gleaned from conversations with eventing athletes Bosley and Kate McGown and from jumping athlete Giana Terranova.

  1. Determine what schedule works best for you, and maintain it.

In addition to studying biomedical engineering at the University of Kentucky, Kate McGown works in an independent research lab in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and is the president of UK’s eventing team. McGown has also cared for her horse all four years of her college career and competes with 13-year-old thoroughbred Curious George three to six times a year.

“It’s been really rewarding, but it’s a lot,” McGown said.

Though McGown explained that her degree program does not offer her a lot of opportunities to customize her calendar, she still plans her schedule out as much as possible.

“I'm an early morning person, so, if I can, I try to do classes in the morning or get up early and do schoolwork in the morning just in hopes of trying to leave my afternoons and evenings somewhat free to ride,” McGown said. “I'll make my color-coded schedule every week to try to make sure I don't miss anything and keep everything organized.”

This may involve implementing a triage process to determine which tasks to prioritize. Giana Terranova, a freelance equestrian and portrait photographer who also competes in jumping, often employs this technique.

“This year, I tried bringing a horse to the show that I was working at, but it was kind of hard trying to balance all that, not miss anyone, and still be able to get the content that everyone wants,” Terranova said. “There's a lot of course walks I miss, or I’ll get on really quick and go in the ring or hop off for a second and go photograph this client and come back. It's definitely interesting.”

Kate McGown said that the same diligence and work ethic helps her both as an eventing athlete and full-time biomedical engineering student. Photo: USEA/Shelby Allen
  1. Find a community.

McGown said that her participation in Pony Club, her team, and the United States Eventing Association Intercollegiate Eventing Program helps her overcome the challenges of being both a full-time student and competitive equestrian.

“Everybody's going through the same thing, and everybody is experienced with exams or staying up late to finish a homework assignment after you've finished taking care of your horse at the show,” she said. “It's a great way to build friends and build a really supportive community around you. I think that definitely helps.”

Support systems, whether in eventing teams, barns, or community organizations, can provide both moral and practical assistance to equestrians who are feeling overwhelmed. Bosley said she often delegates tasks to other staff members at her barn when her workload gets too overwhelming.

“Even if I'm not the person doing the exact grooming job for [Lillian Heard] at the moment, being able to delegate those things out and keep it all running smoothly, having all hands on deck with it, makes it able to still happen,” Bosley said.

  1. Discover where your interests intersect.

Often, the skills and strategies you develop within one sphere of your life can carry over into other aspects or activities. For example, McGown explained that her diligence and perseverance in both her studies and her riding career come from a desire to do well in both areas.

“Having the horse here has helped me stay motivated in my degree program, because it gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day, to go outside and hang out with the horse and other people I like,” she said.

These crossovers can affect not only one’s general mindset, but one’s skill set as well. For example, Terranova explained that being involved in riding herself helps her take better photos of horses.

“The reason why I got into photography was the little details that we focus on sometimes,” Terranova said. “We want our horse to look better than us half the time, so being able to incorporate my horse knowledge along with photography, I can offer a product that shows we're both horse people. We totally understand what we want out of this photo shoot.”

Terranova added that being able to go to large horse shows has allowed her to expand her perspective on the equestrian world in a way that benefits her riding.

“I'm at the show all day, so I get to watch all these professionals ride. I get to watch the warmup, I get to hear everything that people are saying, and I've met so many interesting people and different trainers in different walks of life that I'm able to kind of bring that into my own riding journey as well,” she said. “It's such an interesting job, and I'm so grateful because my passion and my job are so intertwined. Being able to do both at the same time is something that I really appreciate.”

Giana Terranova is a freelance photographer and jumping athlete, often taking photos and competing at the same event. Photo: Anasofia Vazquez
  1. Acknowledge difficulties when they arise.

No matter how much interests intersect, however, balancing multiple full-time activities can sometimes come with difficulties.

“My job is very entwined with horses. I'm a big equestrian person. I've been riding since I was a kid [but] it definitely gets tough trying to combine [riding and photography] because of how much traveling there is,” Terranova said.

By acknowledging the difficulties inherent to being both a photographer and an equestrian, Terranova said she is able to put less pressure on herself during competitions.

“There's times where I wish I had more practice because you're going out in the ring and competing against people that maybe are homeschooled, or they don't have to go to work, and you're in a completely different practice and preparation level as them,” she said. “My point of view is, I just need to go out there and have fun. This is my fun time, and I do all this work so that I can ride horses and have fun.”

This also intertwines with a greater connection with one’s community. Accepting community support involves acknowledging your own limits, as Terranova discovered.

“I used to be my own groom. I used to try to do as much as I could, but it was almost impossible,” she said. “I really depend on a good team back home to make sure that my horse is ready, and the only thing is, I have to show up. I have to be there and be ready.”

Overall, mindset and diligence also contribute to overcoming time management hurdles.

“There's definitely something about competing horses that trains you to wake up early and just be okay with staying late and getting things done,” UK student McGown said. “It's this mentality that whatever it takes, we all get through it and get it taken care of.”

  1. Take care of yourself.

Ultimately, personal well-being is essential to managing a busy schedule, and it’s important to find fun and enjoyment.

“I need to make sure I’m doing my job, making money to support myself and the horses, but I need to be able to take time off or put time away for horses, as well,” Terranova said. “Just being able to have fun and make it less pressure, that's such a huge thing for me.”

For Bosley, taking care of herself means remembering that the purpose of her decision to both ride and groom is to broaden her horizons and expand her own skill set.

“If we have a busy day, I'll start the day grooming for Lillian and then be able to take my own block of the day for my riding, so I can focus on myself and my horses and what I need to be doing,” she said. “I obviously try to groom as much as I can, but if it conflicts with my own ride time, we generally will have another person there that can help us.”

Bosley added that sometimes, especially at high-level events like those at the Fédération Équestre Internationale level, she is content to sit on the sidelines and “watch it all unfold.”

“I’d never experienced FEI before, so getting to go to all these big events with Lillian and being able to groom for her at them, I feel like I’ve just gained a ton of valuable knowledge being able to see the inside and out of the sport,” she said. “As much as I want to be the rider out there in the ring, for now I [am] just content to sit on the sidelines, watch it all unfold in front of me, and soak it all in the most I can, until I can be that person one day out there riding, as well.”