Dealing with the stress of being a riding instructor..
We have been practically shut down for the last 1.5 months due to this ridiculously terrible winter and no indoor As things start to warm up, students/parents are getting the itch to get back out and ride-- which is great! I have really been looking forward to getting back at it, both with my own riding/training and teaching. It has been a long, boring Winter. Stir crazy doesn't even begin to describe it!
Any who, I just had my first "incident" of the year with a parent who was upset about scheduling. Keep in mind we have literally ridden 1 day in the past 3 weeks and today was it!! It brought back all of the reminders of just how stressful this job can be. I love what I do, the farm Im at and the horses I work with. What I sometimes don't love is the clients who ruin my day. I know... it comes with the territory and with any job that involves people! Sometimes it is these moments that make me just want to throw up my hands and say "I give up".. and we aren't even in high season yet! This slow Winter has left my defenses on the low side!
What do all of you do to get through the stress that IS the horse industry?
You know, it's kind of like retail or customer service. Yes, you should care about your clients. But in the end, you can't take their -feelings- personally. I really had to work on this (I rarely do lessons, more training) because I would bend myself into a pretzel focusing on what the client wanted, and keeping them happy. To my disservice, and obviously that's not putting the horse first either. I think you just have to try to sit back and go "You know, your bad day doesn't have to be mine. Your perception doesn't have to me by perception, I think today went great and look forward to a better schedule in the future." And just try to take a deep breath and move on.
Well, scheduling is usually on a first come/call first serve basis, yes? With my riders (yes we have had the same situation you have had with getting rides in)-----all my regulars get their normal ride times as usual. Then the newbies get scheduled in. I try to be accommodating with scheduling but sometimes it just will not work. Do not take it personal----say a prayer, take a deep breath and think,"Next!"
This is why I gave up being a full-time pro and now just do it on the side. Riding/horses are my passion and the clients have a way of ruining it for me.
Now, I have a lovely flexible 3/4 time desk job that pays alright (not great but its made up for by the fact that it is a fabulous place to work and my benefits are great). I have to deal with similar in my job - but it doesn't bother me the way it did with the horse business because its not a passion for me. I do my job, I enjoy it, I go home.
I still teach/train on a very limited basis on the side. This allows me to pick and choose who I work with and has worked out extremely well for me. I dont rely on the income and I really love the small group of people I am currently working with!
I'm not suggesting you quit and go get a desk job. Its just what worked for me. I realized that I am too emotionally/personally tied to the horses to let it go when my students/parents are being unreasonable, and it was making me miserable. I had started to hate riding/teaching and was avoiding riding my own horses because it had become associated with "work."
The trick is not to take anything people say or do personally. Most are ignorant of other people's perspectives and problems; nearly all are oblivious since locked into their own little cycle of over-scheduled desperation; and many lack commitment to the activity to begin with.
It's about them, not you; your choice is to accommodate their craziness, rudeness, obliviousness, whatever--or not. Where you draw that line will determine how stressful your business is for you.
You must learn to be able to say. "I'm sorry but I can't make that time, day, whatever work. Here is what I can do". Say it. Then do not obsess about it. You would be amazed at how people can come to realize that they are not the only ones who have schedules and things to accomplish.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.