Riding Free Blog: Saddle Up!

Fitting in Riding Time and juggling team sports.

February 10, 2022

Horse Tips, Mama Stuff

We are in the thick of it, friend, as you might be too. Abby has done middle school volleyball and basketball, 4-H, all in conjunction with rodeo. Now, while rodeo is a few weekends out of the year for our district (CHSRA D7), it requires a ton of preparation just to be competitive, and sometimes even preparation doesn’t land you in the top 10.

I always say, “If you’re out there working, someone else is out there working harder.” Competing in anything requires a focused mindset and a willingness to work hard even when you don’t feel like it. Now, add in adolescence, friends, homework, church, FFA/4-H and school/club sports and you’ve got some major obstacles. Keeping grades up, making all practices, events and being sure social life is alive and well, can feel like juggling on a tightrope.

There are a few hard solutions, I suppose. Don’t do as many sports, cut something out. Limit already limited friend time. Focus on one thing; I know there’s the saying that you can only do one thing well.

“To do two things at once is to do neither.”

Publilius Syrus

Well, OK Mr. Syrus, I hear you. However, for our family, if our the kids want to try something or pursue a sport, we absolutely encourage it. We see how many skills they’re gaining doing a variety of sports and activities such as better balance and agility, mental strength, teamwork and a larger friend circle. If you focus on one extra curricular, I promise we do not judge you, this just feels right for us.

OK, so now that’s we’ve navigated a couple kids through multiple sports in a given season, I started developing a bit of a rhythm. Not to say we are perfect by any means. Some tips that work one week, fail the next. I also solicited the help from Nicki Miller of Shining Cross Farms to offer advice since she’s in the same boat with FOUR kids. Yeeeeaaaahh, I have half that. Ok, so here goes…

TIP #1: Give yourself grace for the these tips to fail you sometimes.

These aren’t always going to work. You may need a combo of all or adjust them to suit your family. Give yourself and your kids grace and an adjustment period. If you fail one day. start the next without that guilt of that day looming.

TIP #2: Schedule it!

Schedule practice time, PLAN. IT. Your day will always get away from you whether you have one child or five. You have to pencil it in and communicate the plan with your kids to get their buy in.

Nicki Miller of Shining Cross Farms runs her own ranching and direct to consumer beef company, works a full time job and juggles all the sports her four kids do with her husband Donnie. Their kids do it all; Dance, soccer, football, baseball, basketball, rodeo, 4-H and I’m probably forgetting a few.

“Before, we used to ride whenever we had time,” Nicki explains. “Well of course, 6,349 things come up that take priority, so riding doesn’t happen.”

So she adapted. They weren’t willing to give up the sports, so they started scheduling their practice time and made it fun by coordinating with other families.

“We started planning with someone else to hold us accountable,” she said.

They schedule 3-4 hours of practice time with another family and switch off providing lunch for each other. “When you are spread so thin with sports, it helps to get it on the calendar and stay committed to that because other people are counting on you,” Nicki explains.

Scheduling riding time is a must for our family too. We are very visual people so writing the schedule out for the week is a must. I also use Instagram friends as our accountability partners, because I know so many people are counting on seeing practices and making sure we are “walking the walk”. A big part of our motto is to encourage our friends on the gram to go after anything they want and show them that no matter what, there’s time, even if you’re doing multiple sports and rodeo!

The Tips

TIP #3: Make it happen no matter what

Ok, so you’ve scheduled the time, but the only time you have is when it’s dark. Make it happen NO MATTER WHAT. This is non negotiable. We literally have 2 super long extension cords that go down to our poor excuse for an arena and we hook up a shop light. It gives Abby enough light to condition, at least. For basketball, she shoots 100 shots, no matter what, even if it’s cold and 6:30 a.m. Make arrangements and make it happen, no excuses!

Riding also doesn’t have to be running the patterns over and over, it can be getting out there for simple conditioning or a casual trail ride, especially on more seasoned horses who know their job.

TIP #4: No screen time until it’s dark and your work is done.

Everyone is going to think this is a no brainer but I’m surprised at how many of us parents, myself included, cave when it comes to screen time. Don’t do it! We can all stick to our guns no matter how much they beg and plead. I know every family is different, but we do no TV unless it’s a.) DARK AND b.) our scheduled must do items are completed.

I personally did ONE DAY without my phone and was amazed at how much mindless time I spend on it. It’s crazy how much we can get done when that stuff is cut out or even scheduled.

Tip #5: Set attainable goals

OK, another no brainer, but there is something to be said about setting realistic expectations. We realized riding 5 times a week wasn’t attainable with the other sports, so it worked better to do 2 “must do” times a week, at night, even if that meant we have to pull the portable light and extension cords out.

Practicing for the other sport that’s in season is also a huge priority, so weather it’s 100 shots, 100 balls off the tee, it has to get done too. That’s where the scheduling comes in and getting it done no matter what!

Tip #6: Figure out your child’s “love language” and “reward them accordingly. Read on, it’s deeper…

I’m always torn about “rewards” but after I read The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman, it became clear to me that each kid requires a certain baseline level of whatever their predominant “love language” is. Quality Time, Acts of Service, Touch, Words of Affirmation and Gifts are the five distinct love languages. Each child and adult needs more of one of these in order to feel good in their relationship with family, friends and later, their significant others.

I’ll let you go into finding out which your child is, but for me, I have a Gifts kid and a Quality Time kid. I use this knowledge to “reward” them when they succeed at juggling everything on their plate. This helps them feel replenished, refreshed and recognized.

Gifts, for example, is NOT taking Beau on a shopping spree when he works hard and hustles, rather, it’s something from the heart and can be as small as a note under his pillow with a pack of baseball cards I know he’ll enjoy opening. For Abby, whose primary love language is Quality Time, this is as simple as going on a casual trail ride one on one with her, no work attached. It’s even as simple as sitting on the front porch swing, just her and I.

I would love to know if you have any tips too. This is just what seems to work for us and I’m sure as life changes, we will need to make adjustments. Also, let me know what you think in the comments, let’s have a discussion!

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