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Tips on Avoiding Horse Show Burnout: Part 1 Amateurs – with Kaleena Weakly

The new year is the perfect time for change and Kaleena Weakly discusses changes amateurs who are facing feelings of burnout can make to enter the year with renewed passion.

A new year often inspires thoughts of new beginnings. For many the mantra can be either: (1) new year, new me or (2) new year, same… well, you get the picture. In either scenario, change can be a good thing to jumpstart new passion and energy going into another year.

Horse showing is fun, but it can be exhausting, both emotionally and financially. We spoke to multiple World and Congress Champion amateur exhibitor Kaleena Weakly to get her take on avoiding burnout by making healthy changes in the new year.

Take a Break
One way to avoid long-term burnout is by honoring your gut and allowing yourself to take a break – which can be good for both mental and financial health.

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“Before kids, I never experienced burnout. I could show every weekend. But, after kids, that completely changed. It is so much work getting everyone to the horse show, or if they don’t go, getting their schedules and lives together while I go to a show,” Weakly laughs.

“Now, I find I simply don’t have the energy to go show every weekend,” she admits. “I think I have the most success when I don’t overdo it and give myself more time between shows to regroup and enjoy other things.”

Weakly recognizes some exhibitors may require even longer breaks from the show ring, for various reasons.

“One of my favorite things about our sport is that you can compete and find success throughout the different stages of life – as a child, working adult, or retiree.”

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Weakly adds, “It really is wonderful to participate in an activity that you can set down and pick back up again when the time is right.”

“I took breaks from showing while I was in college and during my pregnancies. When I was able to show again, I came back to the ring with a renewed passion and appreciation for it.

Whether you take a break for health, financial reasons, or just needing some time away, horses will always be there to come back to.

Ask for Help
Another reason people may experience burnout is a lack of progress with their horse.

“I am blessed with a great group of fellow amateurs and trainers who are totally open to discussing my questions and finding a solution when I need to work through something,” Weakly gushes.

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“I think some people feel like they need to suffer and work through their issues alone in order to prove their value as a horseman and that just simply isn’t true. Everyone has something to add to help you grow – even trainers ask each other for advice.”

Weakly believes, the best thing you can do if you are struggling with your horse is ask for help from a trainer or respected friend. “I’ve never stopped learning in this industry and I think that has gone a long way in keeping me interested in the sport.”

Try a New Barn
Another reason people may feel the need to step away from the sport is because they haven’t found the right barn.

“Again, I feel so blessed with the barn families I’ve been a part of, but I also realize not every barn works for every rider,” Weakly admits.

“Some barns really function like a family with group outings and dinners and that’s fantastic. Other barns are more of a professional, work-like environment and that works great, too,” she explains.

I’ve stayed with Jason [Gilliam] because I love the family environment of the barn – I like to learn and work and utilize the limited time I have with my trainer, but I also like to bring my kids to the barn and feel like they have friends and it’s okay for them to be around.”

I’m a firm believer that there is an environment out there for everyone. If you’re unhappy, don’t quit searching for the atmosphere that makes you feel welcome. This sport is expensive and it is important to find a barn that can help you achieve your goals and meet you where you are at in your life. And the right fit for you may change over time as your life changes.

Try a New Class
Riding in the same classes and having the same results can be monotonous. Weakly recommends, if you find yourself stagnating, try changing it up with a new class.

I have seen people that just do one event start to feel burnout over time. I strongly believe one of the reasons I’ve avoided that feeling is because I have so many classes and things to work on. It doesn’t get old or routine when you are constantly learning.”

Weakly understands that some riders may be intimidated to try a new class which is out of their comfort zone, but it is stepping out of that comfort zone that can help you renew your passion.

Horses offer many avenues for competition. Whether it be at breed shows, rodeos, or hunter circuits, there are so many avenues for exploring your interests in the horse world. Changing it up may be just what the doctor ordered.

Spend Time with your Horse in a Low-Pressure Environment
The stress of competition can be inspiring, but it is also exhausting and can lead to burnout. Weakly herself found renewed excitement for horses after bringing her daughter’s horse home.

“We recently brought my daughter’s horse home and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and missed being around a horse in a very low-stress environment.”

She chuckles, “We had so much fun going in the evening and just being around the horse and seeing my daughter’s passion build and having the relationship not center around competition.

Weakly reminds us, “Don’t be afraid to do fun things with your horse. I loved riding my show horse on the trails as a kid and doing everything with them and I think we’ve gotten away from that a bit.”

“It really is so nice to just groom a horse and ride around with no expectations. One of the best ways to renew an interest in the sport is to focus on building a relationship with the animal, which, I think, is a big reason we all loved horses in the first place.”

Enjoy Your Time Away from the Barn
Weakly recently faced a bout of burnout in her own life after the loss of her beloved horse Definately A First, aka Tag.

“After I lost Tag, I was just so heartbroken. I found it hard to have a desire to even be around horses, much less show, while I grieved, she laments.

“What ultimately allowed me to be okay moving forward was actually taking some time away from the barn and enjoying my life outside of horses. I love being home with my kids and watching them enjoy their own activities.”

She explains, “I think, when we spend time away, it is easier to return to the ring and acknowledge what a privilege it is to show a horse. I don’t want to take it for granted because, after experiencing the loss of some great horses, I understand it can be taken away in the blink of an eye.


Overall, one of the best ways to avoid burnout is to focus on why you love horses and then participate in the sport in a way that allows you to maximize what you love about it. Whether that be showing, breeding, or going for rides with friends on the trails, there is room for everyone to explore their passions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, this time discussing burnout with top trainer and AQHA Professional Horseman Anthony Montes.

About the Author: Megan Rechberg is a World Champion pleasure horse enthusiast who works as a full-time mom, part-time litigation attorney, and owner/operator of Bred N Butter Equine Management – a company that focuses on social media management for stallions, consulting, and sales and breeding contracts. She currently shows her APHA yearling SmoreThanAPrettyFace under the guidance of Double A Performance Horses.
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