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Herd Member | Liv Gude

Hello Herd! I'm Liv; you may know me as the weird lady always taking her horse's temperature. To be clear this happens daily, but that's NOT A LOT I promise.

Fair warning - this story of mine makes no sense, but roll with it anyway. 

Many moons ago, I started working as a professional groom while I was studying for an MBA. I needed some time away from writing (look at me now, that's my literal job), and I was so fortunate to work with top riders. I had the absolute pleasure of working with Guenter Seidel on my very first gig. Funny story, I had no idea who the heck he was when I talked to him. Anyway. After a horse-adjacent accident, I wasn't able to work for a bit. When I was able, I started to freelance.  

Fast forward some time, and another horse-adjacent injury sidelines me. Was this a sign from above that I needed to move on? HECK YES. Not being able to work opened my eyes quite wide. How much time was I giving to others (for crap pay and zero benefits and often unethical and illegal work practices) while sacrificing my horses, mental health, relationships, and family? Way too freaking much.  

So it had to change. Getting injured that second time helped me in so many ways. Sure, I used my frequent-flyer card to the ER. BUT - I re-discovered my priorities, got help for my depression, started a fitness plan, and put myself first for a change. 

Moral of this part of the story: Putting horses first seems like a good idea at the time, but self-destruction can be the result. We all want our horses to have THE BEST CARE EVER, but that can't happen when we are spent, hurting, exhausted, and depressed. Put yourself first. 

So then it was time to make changes. Mostly. So I decided to do what any rational person would do. Instead of spending every waking moment at the barn working, I used that time to make a business plan and learn to code so I could put up a website. And so it began - the (mostly) systematic way I can dump my grooming knowledge into the universe.  

Over the next ten years, I build out the site, stumble through social media wins and fails, do some public speaking and clinics, work horse shows, and live my BEST DAMN HORSE LIFE EVER - because I'm the boss. This also means that I work almost as much as when I was grooming. But it's on my time, and I get to decide how I spend it. Which also makes you strangely hyper-responsible, as you have only yourself to celebrate and blame. 

Moral of this part of the story: Find a job that you love, even if you have to make it yourself.  

Overlapping all of this has been horses. Since I began riding as a wee one, horses have been in and out of my life for various reasons. Years of summer camp riding morphed into weekly lessons changed into random horse rides while in college. Then not riding at all, then moving across the country, taking lessons again. And then, FINALLY, I was able to purchase my own. And then I got another. This seemed like a good idea at the time. And it mostly was. 

At the peak of my pro grooming career, work came first, my own horses came after that, then time for family, then other obligations, then me. And let me tell you - after working crazy long days plus a drive to see my horses, they did not get the attention they deserved from me. Did they suffer? NO - but I wasn't truly present. How often I made it down that list to take care of me? Literally never. 

Another aspect of horsemanship and horse ownership is the emotional burden that caring for these creatures can bring. We all joke about how much money we bleed, but I rarely hear anyone discuss the empathy and compassion we need. Not to mention the physical and mental drain from worry, heartache, and second guessing. 

We ask our horses to exist, and we turn up the volume and ask them to perform physical and mental challenges. Their "jobs," as it were. The level of responsibility increases exponentially - the necessity for preventative care and just listening to their feedback increases. Over time, this can be exhausting. We make decisions that impact so much of their lives, and some of us feel that burden deeply. Is there guilt involved, too? Sometimes!

As my time with my senior horse dwindles away, I'm prepared for the last big heartbreak of my life with horses. As much as I adore all horses, it's time to change gears. I will still have them in my life, just in a different way. I'll keep going with proequinegrooms.com, teaching, and seeing you at shows. But my bank account and years of emotional labor will rest. 

Moral of this story: It's ok to switch plans because it's no longer feasible for you to continue.

And those are my stripes. 

You can follow me on Facebook HERE or Instagram at @proequinegrooms