The story I am about to tell you is not a new story at all. In fact, I would venture to say that my story has happened to the majority of families who start a business of any type. My story just happens to involve beautiful horses and a lot of them. I would also believe that to most people, my husband David and I were living the dream that many horse crazy people aspire to have. Maybe in the beginning I thought we had created the perfect life with a brand new horse boarding stable and a full barn with great clients BUT I learned some huge lessons along the way and I wanted to share them with you so that your marriage, your dream and your horse business can be so much more than what is right in front of you.
The early years of our horse business
David and I had been married quite a long time when we decided to build a large boarding stable and venture into business ownership. We were ready to dive in and not look back. I knew my life would change but I didn't realize how much at the time. We went from four horses to forty in about a month's time and my life became busier than I ever imagined. I also thought David and I had a great marriage and God had always been an important part of our lives but once the business was up and going, the wheels of business ownership started turning and it was not what I expected.
When we opened for business in 2005, my life became all about pleasing my clients. I said yes to every request and that meant a lot more work for David and me. Every request also meant more work for us and time away from each other and our children. David and I worked together everyday of the week but we were so busy, we really didn't see each other or talk about anything else but the business. We were two bodies passing each other in the barn and too tired to have quality time together. In the beginning we made the daily chores much too complicated and time-consuming and our barn hours were too long. It only took a few months to realize that we had bit off more than we could chew but we were in deep with a large business mortgage and the pressure was more than I could bear at times. We would spend the next two years trudging daily through chores, saying yes to every request and losing ourselves in the business and sadly our marriage. We also lost touch with the friends we had known forever and whom we were very close with. We stopped going to church and bible studies and our life started to lose its meaning. The dream we had worked so hard to obtain was slowly ruining my marriage and I was starting to question my faith. Had I put my business above everything else in my life? It took me a few more years to realize I had and I needed to change things.
A slow fade
I believe now that what David and I experienced during our first five years of business ownership is something that happens to so many new business owners. It is a slow fade that you don't see coming and you tell yourself that you have to work these long hours and please the client under all circumstances for the good of the business. It is a lie! You tell yourself that you both are young and will have plenty of time for each other later. Sadly that is often not the case. You tell yourself that if you change your barn hours to an earlier closing time or make changes in how you run your stable, that you will lose clients and ultimately your business - It is not true! Sure you might lose a few clients but new people will come and your barn hours will work for them. You tell yourself that you need to offer every service imaginable as part of your stable BUT let me warn you that it could put you in a dangerous position of not having time for your spouse, family or the friends who mean the most to you. You NEED to remember that taking care of horses is a seven day a week job and that includes every day of the year and holidays. It never ends and that is how the slow fade begins.
The good news
The good news is that your business doesn't need to control your family and your life. The good news is you can say no to certain requests that you don't want to offer at your stable and it is okay. You can be successful in your horse business - but it won't matter if your marriage is falling apart. Your business won't matter if you don't see what is really important in life. For me and my husband, our faith in God needed to be back at #1 and we needed to trust in Him completely with whatever was to be with our business, and our marriage needed to be the most important thing above any horse business. This may seem counter-cultural to what the world says is important, BUT it is the only way things are going to fall into place. The good news is that I still believe boarding horses for a living is a great career. Not every day will be perfect and some days will be down right hard but it is still a great life.
David and I are coming up on thirty years of marriage and it is so hard to believe how fast the time has gone. God is the center of our life and our marriage is stronger than ever. We finally have our priorities right and I never want to go back to how we were. I still love my job of taking care of the horses daily but it is not the most important thing to me anymore. I was given this job of being the caretaker of these incredible animals and I don't take it lightly. I feel it is an awesome privilege but it comes 2nd to my husband. I watch out for him and he watches out for me in this crazy life we have built.
If your marriage is struggling, I encourage you to take back your marriage and put it first over your horse business. It may mean making some big changes that could affect your clients and income but it will be worth it. My prayer is that you will seek the Lord to lead you and your family and how your horse business should be run. If you feel like you are at the end of your rope and feel like your dreams are slipping away and your marriage is in crisis, I hope you will seek help and make it a priority. You will never regret it.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska