“Having new experiences, learning new things and making new friends” as Coleen told us, is vital to keeping your relationship and your horse moving forward. Photo © Paint Horse Journal

Tips to Avoid Burnout When Showing the Same Horse Year-After-Year

As with any partnership, strong relationships take time, effort and experiences to build. They don’t happen overnight and sometimes, can take years before synergies start to show. Having a consistent partner can provide security and comfort, but sometimes things can get stale or begin to feel monotonous. Just as we can feel monotony in our personal lives, we can start to explore this in the show pen as well.

After years with the same horse, it may feel like there is nothing left to accomplish or that you aren’t progressing in your skills. We spoke with three talented riders, Meg De-Palma Whelan, Coleen Bull, and Olivia Tordoff who offer a completely different outlook on having a consistent show partner.

With relationships ranging from three years to countless years, Meg DePalma Whelan shows Hotroddin Ona Harley; Coleen Bull shows Timeless Assets, and Olivia Tordoff showed Sterling Version before his retirement and in 2017 continues to show Too Blazin Cool. They shared their advice and tips with us to avoid burnout when riding the same horse year after year.

Embrace the consistency – Knowing your horse can be a real advantage in the show pen. You already know their strengths and weaknesses which you can build on and adjust. To become a strong team, relationships need to face some challenges along the way. Meg told us, “I’ve had Harley for three full years now, and we are just starting to fire on all cylinders in multiple events. It takes time to become a great team, and everyone has obstacles to overcome in that process.”

Listen to your horse – Just like we do, our horses can feel tired or sluggish and may need a break from time to time. Letting your horse tell you when they need some time off or need a change in their program may not always coincide with your plans, but it is essential to the long-term health of your horse. Olivia (pictured right from 2012) shared, “I genuinely believe that it is so essential to listen to your horse when it comes to avoiding burn out. Throughout the year, we listen to our horses, and if we feel like they need a break, we never hesitate to let them have some time off. I believe this plan has been critical to keeping our horses’ healthy, both mentally and physically, which avoids burnout. Keeping the horses we love happy and healthy has to always be the priority, in the long run, it has proven consistently to be the right decision for our beautiful horses.”

Learn new things together – Just as you can feel some burnout, your horse can too. Keep things fresh and new by going after new goals and pushing yourself for more. Coleen told us, “Tucson likes the challenge of learning new things. Having a partner that gives me so much makes me want to work harder and expand on my abilities to keep up with him. That means lessons – learning something new and learning to be better at what we already do.” Meg agrees, “I do feel with any partnership things can get dull, and sometimes people get burnt out doing the same ole thing. I’m also a big advocate for challenging yourself and your horse.”

Mix it up– Both Meg (pictured left) and Coleen told us that a change is crucial to avoiding burnout year after year. Whether it be scenery, classes or people, keeping things feeling new is essential. “Try to attend new shows, in different states to keep the venues exciting. That also allows you to compete against different people versus the same group you locally show against,” Meg said. Coleen also told us, “Besides learning new things, we’ve varied how and where we show. I’ve been so fortunate to show all over the United States. Each time was an adventure of new, different and exciting. Each state with its beauty, each venue offering a different atmosphere with new and exciting people and all the variety that comes with each trip.”

Communicate with your trainer – Ensuring you, your horse and your trainer are all on the same path, can avoid burnout by keeping the road to get there focused and clear. “Communication with your trainer can help avoid the burnout or breaks most folks take. Be sure both parties are on the same page with goals and objectives,” Meg told us. Olivia agrees, “Each year at the beginning of the year, my horse trainer, Brent Tincher, and I sit down and select the shows we are interested in attending throughout the year.” Having a plan and setting expectations for the year ahead is an excellent way to stay centered and keep you excited.

“Having new experiences, learning new things and making new friends,” as Coleen told us, is vital to keeping your relationship and your horse moving forward. While burnout is a natural part of any long-term partnership, incorporating these tips is a great way to keeping your relationship a happy and healthy one for years to come.

Julie Hoefling was born and raised in Akron, Michigan but now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, Jerry. She works at Central Garden & Pet (Equine Division – Farnam) as a Brand Manager over grooming, wound, and leather care. Julie shows her horse, Movin The Chains, under the guidance of Ryan and Andrea Kail.