Professional horse trainers and riding instructors have mind-blowingly busy lives—that’s why it is so amazing to hear how they make it all work. The layers of scheduling, the early mornings, the sacrifices when it comes to friends, family, and personal interests…. That can be the story, but sometimes, a balance is struck, and it all clicks.
We caught up with TSB author and horse trainer Jec Aristotle Ballou and asked her how she spends her typical day, and wouldn’t you know, it sure sounds like she’s found the same physical and emotional balance she strives to establish in each of her horses. Here’s a glimpse at her life as a professional, in 24 hours:
5:15 am I wake up and begin my morning ritual of coffee and writing in my journal. Inspired to keep a creativity habit, I started writing three ‘Morning Pages’ in a notebook every morning 20 years ago and I still do it! Sometimes I write good stuff, other days it’s drivel. But what counts is that it happens.
6:30 am I meet some of my running teammates for a 7- to 10-mile run. I started running ultra-marathons a few years ago and now I can’t seem to stop (pun intended). It is a glorious way to cleanse my mind and open the day. Even when I travel around the country to teach clinics, I like to get in my morning run before embarking on a busy day.
8:00 am Most days, I arrive at the barn by now. Like many trainers in California, I don’t own my own farm. The horse property I lease is a 20-minute drive from my house. Some days I commute by bike, other times I drive while listening to podcasts like Dressage Radio Show where—yeah!!—my book 55 CORRECTIVE EXERCISES FOR HORSES was recently featured in an episode. During my commute, I ponder the advice my past teacher Manolo Mendez gave me: You have to know with each horse where you want him to be in his training next week, next month, next year. I assess what seems to be working, what might not be working so well, and if I’m honestly on track for what each individual horse needs.
8:00 am–12:00 pm Before it gets too hot, I ride my training horses. Most of the horses that come to me for training are in need of learning how to use their bodies better or overcome some kind of physical restriction or compromised movement. I work with a diverse spread of breeds. Right now, we have three Icelandics, a Thoroughbred, a Halflinger, a Quarter Horse, an Arabian, a Missouri Foxtrotter, a couple of grade mares, and my own Andalusian. During the morning hours, I rotate between riding in the arena, my large gallop track, and our trails. I am an enormous advocate for cross-training; all the horses here follow that program. A few days a week, I have a helper who prepares the horses for me to ride; other days I do everything myself (these are the days I’m exhausted by 5:00 pm!) Around noon, students start showing up for lessons.
1:00 pm–4:00 pm Usually during the afternoons on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday I’m teaching group and private lessons, trying my best to stay under a floppy hat and out of the sun, while simultaneously eating some bites of sustenance when I can.
5:00 pm I often stop at the gym for a short weight-lifting session on the way home so I can be back at the house around 6:00 pm and spend an hour replying to emails and writing articles for the equine magazines I contribute to. This computer work usually overlaps with making dinner. I’m mostly vegan, which means I spend a lot of time planning and preparing things to eat. And because I run/workout so much, I eat a lot!
8:00 pm My partner and I often walk the Jack Russell along the cliff overlooking the ocean before we wind down for the evening.
9:30 pm I’m in bed “reading,” which is usually a euphemism for falling asleep with a book on my face. When I succeed at staying awake, I love to read. Typically, I read three or four books a month, devouring non-fiction, poetry, fiction, and anything else that can make me think, teach me something, or wake up my senses in some way.
Jec’s new book 55 CORRECTIVE EXERCISES FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
CLICK HERE to download a FREE sample chapter or to order.
Photos appearing in this blog are courtesy of Jec Aristotle Ballou.
Be sure to read the other installments of TSB’s “Horseworld By the Hour” blog series:
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