Finding Balance / by Marian Michalson

Photo by Jennifer Keiser. George Morris demonstrating releases with me and Belvue Ben.  

Photo by Jennifer Keiser. George Morris demonstrating releases with me and Belvue Ben.  

So I recently made somewhat of an irrational decision. I quit my full time job and took a PRN gig with no guaranteed hours. And I did this with full awareness that winter is coming. Why? Life is short and I need to find a balance.  

Let's rewind. Since graduating highschool in 2004, most of my time was spent in the horse industry. I did a few stints as a working student which I considered at the time "college" of sorts. A trade school if you will. I was able to adress my weaknesses in horsemanship at each place I worked, learning what helped and what hindered the progress of myself and every horse I interacted with. Even the couple of years I spent at an actual University to get my bachelors degree allowed me to be in the saddle just about everyday through the NCAA and IHSA equestrian program. 

Eventually, my lack of marketing skills, people skills and time with my personal horses, as well as suddenly breaking out head to toe in hives every time I rode, drove me to another type of trade school. I became a Surgical Technologist and got my amateur status reinstated.  I loved my career choice and looked forward to being able to afford to just enjoy the horses. No pressure.  

The other me. 

The other me. 

Things don't always work out in the utopia originally planned. While I do love the work, the early mornings and late nights, frequently working on call, got to me. For months out of a year it was dark when I left for work and dark when I got home. The job requires me to be on my feet for almost the entirety of a shift.  It demands that I be vigilant and focused for the patient at all times. My legs are completely worn out by the end of the day spent in the OR (or sometimes into the next morning) and my brain was mush.  Riding or working horses after work seemed impossible.   A George Morris quote that has always resonated is, "you're either training or untraining your horse."  I certainly don't want to "untrain" because I'm not physically or mentally sharp. I ended up hiring a great employee, Anna Gaffney to help handle and work all of my horses while I was scrubbing cases at the hospital. Knowing the horses were being handled and trained to my standard made me feel better for awhile. 

Anna Gaffney playing with the babies.

Anna Gaffney playing with the babies.

But wait, why was I working so many hours, just so I could pay someone else to train? This realization came to a head when I was preparing for the George Morris clinic. When I started riding Coretta again after she was weaned from her colt 6 weeks before the clinic, I got a rude awakening. I was weak. Everything hurt when I rode her. No stirrups was suddenly (or not so suddenly) near impossible and I was jumped loose over crossrails. Riding a made horse and riding a 3yo turned out to be two very different things. My inability to ride often coupled with the long hiatus before and after my hip surgery had drained me of my skill and strength and left me somewhat embarrassed and partially resentful. The main thing I have always been pretty good at was disappearing. 

I realize I'm in my 30s. If I don't get my skills back up now,  I likely never will. Only riding once or twice a week at best is not going to fix anything. So I quit my job. I'm looking forward to the flexibility to ride and show again. I don't think I could be happy totally giving up on a Surgical Tech career, as that is definitely my second calling. I need to be able to do both. 

Here's to balance! 

Coretta and I working to put the many pieces back together.  

Coretta and I working to put the many pieces back together.