I don't think it's fair to say that these people had 9-5 jobs while competing at top level. Amy worked shifts and was able to swap shifts (like Christmas) in order to get time off to compete. Carl, as owner of the company, seems/seemed to have lots of appropriate time off to compete.
Another person to add to your list is Hinrich Romeike, Olympic Gold medallist in 2008, and a dentist.
You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng
There is a huge difference between being an amateur and being someone with a full-time job outside of horses.
When I was competing at the upper levels (not particularly successfully) as an amateur with a 60-hr/wk job outside of horses, I was very tuned in to who else out there, in the US, doing the same thing at that time. I wanted to know how others managed it, both from scheduling time off for competitions to scheduling long days to get rides in.
Amy was the most prominent example at the time, and made her way to advanced around a full-time job. By the time she got to the top of the sport, though, I started to doubt she was still a full-time firefighter as the stories still said. She would take a month or two the spring to go East and compete, then another month or so for a major competition like WEG or Olympics -- there's just no amount of shift-swapping you can do without violating labor laws, even working 24-hr shifts, to get that much time off and still be employed full-time.
Kevin Baumgardner, past USEA president, competed at advanced and was an attorney. That's a whole lot of "big" jobs to hold down at once!
Canadian Penny Rowland was still working full-time as a veterinarian when she competed at Rolex, though I think she might have made horses more of a full-time gig later on?
That's just a slice from a very brief point in time, but I remember being somewhat disappointed -- in terms of looking for inspiration for myself -- to learn that most of the amateurs competing at that level worked with horses full-time (apparently their own) or had part-time jobs or figurehead positions/independent wealth.
I loved the story of the German dentist from the Beijing Olympics.
I always want to hear more about people who have to squeeze in riding at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m., who have to use all their vacation, work swing shifts and 8 weekends in a row to get the time off to compete, and somehow still manage to compartmentalize their brains enough to be good at a non-horsey career AND find the time to build the physical and mental skills to be a good rider and a good partner to their horse.
There is a huge difference between being an amateur and being someone with a full-time job outside of horses.
I completely agree with this, and I also want to add that there is a huge difference between full time working when you are the employee versus the employer.
As the employer (as almost everyone listed above was), while you may work long hours, you can fit riding in when you need to during the day. Ride early, or late, or during lunch, and work around your riding time. You can also take as many days away from the office as you are willing, without getting fired, since you are your own boss. That's not to say these folks work less, in fact they probably work more and harder. But because they are their own boss, they can allow themselves to be flexible with their time.
On the other hand, as NeverTime pointed out, the employee has less flexibility with their work day hours and days off. I get ten vacation days for the first ten years I work for my company; this means that not only do I budget money for show season, I budget vacation days as well. IMO, no possible way to show at the upper levels without living on the East Coast, where I can get to all the qualifiers I need within four hours (at most). I also have to be flexible about when I ride, which means that I'll ride at ten at night if I have to (which I did last summer during my full time internship many times), or five am. This also dictates that during the winter, access to lit riding areas is a must wherever I board, which usually means board fees are higher.
It's not easy, and I've really only barely cracked into Advanced. Luckily, SO is in med school in NJ, so I don't have to be home for him or kids or pets, so what else will I do with my evenings and weekends?
Yes, I totally agree about the employee/employer distinction! When you are working within the confines of your job duties (flex time is one thing, but if you have a daily meeting at X time or must meet with clients during business hours, you can't exactly piss off to the barn during those times!) and your prescribed vacation limits, it gets really tough. (So does taking "French showers" to cover the horsey stench you didn't have time to wash off properly after your 5 a.m. ride ... or finding a place to hide your paddock boots in the company locker room so they won't stink the whole place up ...)
Originally Posted by Divine Comedy
IMO, no possible way to show at the upper levels without living on the East Coast, where I can get to all the qualifiers I need within four hours (at most).
Although I was never any GOOD at the upper levels (or any level, come to think of it -- my only blue ribbons are from Elementary and BN, LOL!) I did manage to compete at intermediate for several years and get to my first CIC**, CCI** and advanced horse trials while living in Colorado.
It involved stacking every moment of vacation I had, swapping shifts with a select few people so that I would work one weekend to get an extra two days off the next week, and planning travel to the last minute. I don't think I once, ever, showed up at an event at the intermediate level or higher when we weren't rolling in in the middle of the night or later. Lots of leaving after work and driving 6-20+ hours into or through the night to get to the venue in time for dressage, lots of setting up stalls by headlamp because the barn lights had long since been turned off ... and lots of driving home through the night in the exact same fashion.
I never could have done it if I hadn't found people -- some who were also full-time working stiffs and others who were horse people who were so generous and willing to be flexible with my weird hours -- who would travel with me. Made the long drives more doable and less expensive split multiple ways.
One of the nicest people I now call a friend I met by picking up the phone, dialing her (as a stranger) and saying "Hi, I notice you did Galway last fall. I live about three hours from you and I'd really like to go there this spring. Any chance you are interested, too, and you'd like to trailer together?"
It was exhausting. And, yes, after I did my first advanced (a 21-hour trip each way, not counting stopping alongside the road to sleep), I started looking for a job back east and very happily found something that was a natural step forward in my career AND put me about 45 min away from the horsey hub of Unionville, Pa. But, it IS possible. It just takes a lot of doing, and I'm pretty sure that cutting things so close, and with so little sleep, does not exactly set oneself up for success at the event.
I remember talking with Sally Cousins once when I was fresh out of law school and had just sold my UL horse because I was struggling with keeping him fit and me fit with my career. She worked very hard...but was working for her family. That has its pros and cons!!! But it did let her do the horses. It just confirmed for me that I made the right choice. I had to focus on my career first...so was back riding the green beans who can have a week or two off un planned and be just fine.
There are really NOT many who have really serious careers competing at the highest levels. Many at the * and ** level though. It is absolutely possible to have a non-horsey career and be competitive at the ** level.....not easy but possible. I've known a few at the 3* level...but most had good jobs not careers--and there is a difference. And To be competitive at the international level....that is a different ball game.
I'm now at a point in my career with a bit more control (although not always) so that I could do the ULs...but have lost much of the desire. I love riding green horses and bringing them along....and have little doubt that I will get up to being competitive at the 2* level on one of them--if they stay sound-- but my goals have changed and I enjoy the journey more than the competition.
It is incredibly hard when you have a non-horse career and does require a lot of support. To ride at the higher levels, I absolutely need someone else to do much of the fitness work as I just don't have time....and I hate that as I think that is fun stuff. And it can be very hard to find enough saddle time to be truly great at the ULs. It is why I find it more impressive for those riders that DO well at the high levels when they are not spending 8 hours a day riding. I was a damn good rider when all I did every day was ride 6+ horses.....when you are down to riding 1-2 hours a day with maybe 1-2 horses, it is very hard to have the truly top skill. But you perhaps can afford the truly top quaility horse who can perhaps CYA
Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Nov. 1, 2012 at 08:16 PM.
** The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits. -- Albert Einstein **
Torrance Watkins did it for awhile. She and her horses lived in New Jersey and she worked full time in New York City. She got up at 4 am to muck and feed, and then after the drive back from work she rode however many horses she had at the time. Sometimes she rode the last ones using the headlights from her car.
But eventually she did quit her job and go to work for her father. That was right before she really started her international career I believe, which makes sense. I don't really see how else a person could have the time to travel and compete internationally.
As for riding and competing at the upper levels, she did that with a full time job. But she'd be the first to admit that it didn't give her time for much else.
Forgot to mention Isabell Werth- she was a practicing attorney in addition to riding at the top level for a long time. Her early successes with Gigolo were while she was a law student. At some point she retired from law practice to do horses fulltime. But when she was an attorney, I think she was only part time with that.
Thanks for all the comments. There are tons of threads that talk about juggling work and horses. It does seem that with very few exceptions most upper level riders who do have other careers either fall into the self-employed catagory or work in family business environments that can accomodate a flexible schedule.
I am, of course, speaking from a place of envy. I wish I could work my full time job 4-6 hours a day/four days a week (with full pay and benefits!) and then have the rest of the time to move up the levels.
Kevin Keane who was on the shortlist for the Pan Ams this year and possibly the long list for the OG (can't remember) is a practicing vet. That is the kind of career that I would think accomodates a serious training schedule better than most.
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)