Friday, August 01, 2008

Make it Work - Part 3 - Work

Part 1
Part 2

For most of us, having a horse (or two or ten horses) means that we have to have full time jobs. No matter if you board them or if you have them at home, horses are expensive. I have had a job - at least a part-time job - since I was fourteen years old, and I didn't get my first horse until I was twenty-one. That doesn't mean I didn't spend money, it just means that the majority of it didn't go towards board.

Most of the horse owners that I know only have jobs so they can afford their horses. This is true for me too. During college I had a variety of part time jobs to support my horse. My first real full time job was doing scientific research on the disease Cystic Fibrosis. The work was interesting, but I didn't really enjoy it. In fact I spent a lot of time looking for jobs that involved horses. I even went on an interview for an instructor position at a university where I'd be teaching basic horsemanship and equine nutrition. I didn't get the job, but that didn't stop me from looking constantly.

I knew that a job with horses would not pay nearly as much as I was making doing research, and that the work would be much harder physically and the hours longer. However I still wanted to get out of research. I ended up doing it for ten years before I left that job to start working in the In Vitro Fertilization lab as an embryologist. This is the best job I've ever had and I really enjoy it. However, the job has it's drawbacks.

As I've written before, this job is hugely stressful in a way that nobody can really fully appreciate unless they've done it. Every day I have tiny, growing lives in my hands, and they are so fragile, so easy to lose track of, easy to damage. The stress of that is enormous, even when you get used to the job that must be done.

Fortunately for me, going to the barn and just being with my horse takes some of the stress away and makes me feel much better. The routine of grooming, tacking up, riding and cleaning up just puts me on autopilot and I don't have to think. If I miss a spot of mud on Kaswyn's leg, no big deal. If I don't clean my tack, while it bothers me it doesn't make a difference in the big picture. If I damage, lose, or kill and embryo, THAT'S a big deal.

Besides the stress, there is also the emotional baggage that comes along with doing this job. It would be much easier if I didn't know anything about the patients, or never met them, because then I'd just be doing a job. But I talk with patients every day, and I know their stories, and I feel the heartbreak when they don't conceive. I also hear the joy when they get out of that first ultrasound and confirm that they are going to have a baby. That makes it worth it.

When I was doing research it was easy for me to fit my horse into my work schedule. The hours are usually flexible because sometimes experiments can require that you come to work on the weekend, or come into the lab in the middle of the night to read a timepoint. The primary investigators (ie the bosses) know this and realize that lab work is not a 9 to 5 thing. So I could come in early and leave early and still be able to ride my horse after work without a problem. Also if I wanted to go to a show I could just plan to have a major experiment completed before I left and put in extra time on the weekends before the show so I could take a Friday off before the show. It's all about the bottom line and how much good data you produce, so if you're productive your boss won't usually complain too much.

As far as scheduling goes for my current job, I have to be to work very early, which means getting the girls up and to school early. However it also means that I get to leave work early which gives me time to ride my horse and get done before I need to pick the girls up from school. I have to work scheduled weekends, which really sucks. With research I could plan work weekends around whatever I have scheduled, but with this job I'm assigned weekends and holidays to work. We must have someone in the lab every day. On the current rotation I'm scheduled to work every third weekend. I'm not sure how this is going to work out with a show schedule, since I haven't shown Kaswyn since I started this job. Hopefully I can make it work and I'll be able to get to some local shows, plus Regionals and Nationals.

So while a full time job is a necessary evil for most people who have horses, I'm lucky becasue I don't hate my job like some horse people. The scheduling works out for the most part too, so I can't complain too much. However I'd complain a whole lot less if I'd win that superlotto and be independently, filthy rich!

Next up - My horse


Grey Horse Matters said...

Your job seems very interesting and rewarding. The schedule is not too bad and you should be able to eventually get in some local shows. In the meantime keep buying those lottery tickets, you never know.

AnnL said...

I've found your blog a while ago and figured it was about time I left a comment and told you that I've enjoyed reading about you and Kaswyn.

While I do have to work for a living, if it weren't for the horse, I could take a less stressful job. My company had a round of layoffs last week and my first paniced thoughts were how could I find a job that will pay for the horse! Fortunately, I'm safe this go round.


Val said...

I really like your stories. Thanks for setting them up on your main page.

My first science job was in pharmaceuticals and it was 8:30 to 5, M thru F. I did not yet have my own horse and my barn did not have an indoor. Once the days became longer I realized that I was not going to be able to ride except on the weekends. I was also at the mercy of my trainer's full time job, so needless to say, the window of opportunity to ride was extremely small. It was the worst Catch 22: I finally had some money, but no time!

Thank goodness I had the opportunity to go back to school and become a science teacher. Now THIS job I love and I can find time to do what I love, but not without a supportive husband in the wings. Win!

GraceEquestrian said...

My first job was as a research assistant, and I loved working in research! I had planned on majoring in bio, but since I have changed my goals. I'm looking into a horse related career, and working part time as a receptionist. It was really interesting to read your story, and see how you make it all work. It sounds like you do a fine job at the balancing act.

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