When we opened Vinland Stables over ten years ago it was July and the weather was beautiful. The horses came and overnight we were in full operation. We both worked seven days a week doing chores and everything else that needed done but we were full of energy and life seemed great. My girls were very small and I was busy doing chores and making sure they were taken care of but it was much busier than I truly ever expected and I know it was for David also. We were ready to work hard but no one could have prepared us for how exhausted we would be or how much David would have to fix things and that was only the beginning. We were not prepared for how our business would take its toll on our marriage.
I quickly found out that David and I had a slight difference of opinion about horse care, weather and dealing with clients. We also had different ideas about cleaning stalls and bedding and even feeding hay. With forty horses on the farm we really needed to streamline our chores to make it time efficient and we each did things differently. Because we each had our own way of dealing with clients and their issues we soon found ourselves arguing over many situations that were coming up on a daily basis. That was only the beginning.
I am very emotional and David is very direct and our boarders know this but in the beginning we really didn’t have control of how we handled the issues that were thrown at us and soon it was causing much stress on us and we were either arguing or giving each other the silent treatment. Not only was I having many problems in our barn and with our clients but I was having problems in my marriage. The barn was open seven days a week and the chores needed to be done every day no matter how we felt. We didn’t have the luxury of calling in sick to work. We quickly became exhausted and there was no break in sight. Our dream job of being at home and taking care of horses turned into a nightmare for both of us and we both were handling it in much different ways and it was pulling us far apart. Looking back those were very dark times for David and me and I am so glad they are now long behind us.
You and your spouse will look at things differently at times
You both will have different ways of dealing with weather and all four seasons. What seems like bad weather to you might seem like nothing to your husband. You may want to ask a boarder to leave and your husband may want to keep giving them chances. What is a big deal to you might not be anything to your husband and it will go the other way also. How you handle a horse that has been injured could be different than how your husband deals with it. When money is tight (which it almost always is on a farm), your husband might want to buy a new piece of equipment and you don’t want to which can lead to a huge amount of stress when things keep breaking down and there is not enough money to fix them. This is all too real and it happens to most married couples from time to time but now add the business into the equation. How you handle these situations all deeply connects to your marriage. There needs to be a common ground and give and take and that is not easy for many couples when dealing with stress and business. It is something that needs to be learned for many and it is a life long journey for all.
Your marriage needs to be protected
When I talk with someone now that is struggling in their horse business and they tell me they are also having problems in their marriage, the first thing I encourage them to do is seek help immediately. David and I went to a marriage counselor during the second year of our business and it was one of the best things we ever did. We needed to talk with a professional that understood what running a business was all about and how it can affect a marriage.
Starting and running a horse business will be one of the most difficult things you ever do. If you are running it with your spouse then let me prepare you because when things aren’t going right, stress and anger will creep in and you need to guarded so it doesn’t tear you both apart. Everyone deals with stress in a different way and learning to work through any issues that come up without snapping at each other, sometimes takes a little help from someone on the outside.
Put your marriage first
Your marriage needs to come first and then the horse business. I believe many people put the business first and when that is going well then they assume their problems in their marriage will disappear. I don’t think so. I also think it is human nature or self preservation to put the business first without realizing it. There is a lot riding on it and you have the pressure of losing everything if you can’t pay your bills. I understand this because that is what David and I did. We put the business first because we were feeling such huge pressure to make sure we were full with clients and income was coming in. The thought of losing the farm was hanging over our heads on a daily basis. Everything came second and our marriage came in dead last in those early years. That is how many marriages fall apart. Don’t go there!
There is hope
I am here to say there is hope if you feel like your struggling with not only your horse business but your marriage. Today I encourage you to seek help from a professional that can help you work through some of the issues when it comes to communicating with each other and dealing with all that goes with running your horse barn. You need to be able to talk with someone about working together and running the business and how to find a balance with it all.
As I am writing this blog post I realize now what a team David and I have become. We each have our jobs we do on the farm and we can pretty much handle anything that is thrown at us. We know what each other is thinking before we say it and when he is tired and struggling I pick up the slack and he does the same for me. We each have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to running the barn and we balance each other out. We have learned how to read each other and when we should be quiet for a moment and let the other have some space. We still have our moments but they are few and far between these days and now I can say I love being his business partner and partner in life. I want you to get there also. Don’t give up.
Don’t let your dream horse business ruin your dream marriage!
Your business is important but your marriage is the most important thing there is. Don’t let your dream horse business ruin your dream marriage. Take it one day at a time and seek help if you feel things are getting out of hand. I truly believe now after all these years that it would benefit so many people if they offered a class for new business owners and how it affects their marriage. Learning how to become a team when it comes to running a business is what we all want and I believe you can have it all. Don’t give up on the dream or each other.
As women we put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone. Running any kind of business with your spouse will have its own unique challenges and as women it can become stressful when the business starts to hurt the marriage. If you are feeling the pressure of being a businesswoman, wife, mother and professional horsewoman, I encourage you to read my newest book, "One Horsewoman to Another," This book will encourage you and you will laugh and even tear up at times but most of all, you will begin to realize you are not alone.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,