Balancing Horses and Family

When things are settled at home, it’s easier to clearly focus on your riding goals.

Professional horsewoman Abby Mixon and her husband, Jeff, and daughter, Logan, call Marietta, Oklahoma, home. Mixon was named the 2020 NRHA Professional Horsewoman of the year and is a regular finalist in major events in reining and reined cow horse.

You have enough to focus on to keep your riding progressing toward your goals, but that’s rarely (if ever) your entire purpose, especially if you have children and family who rely on you. The pressures surrounding competing or improving as a rider intensify when you’re also concerned with your child’s care, your spouse/partner’s needs, or a family member who requires your attention. The pressure can cause lapses in your focus, which can lead to making mistakes in the saddle that cost you a high score or, worse, your safety.

Professional horsewoman Abby Mixon is deeply familiar with these circumstances. The Marietta, Oklahoma, cowgirl competes on an elite level in reining and reined cow horse events, runs her own training business, and is a mother to 4-year-old daughter Logan. Balancing the needs of horses in two different disciplines, shows that nearly overlap, and coaching non pros on top of being an attentive mom require that she establishes clockwork routines in her life to keep everything on track and moving toward success.

“Having routines helps me feel more in control of any situation,” she shares. “I might not actually be in control, but the structure gives me the illusion that I am. It helps me stay focused on my horses when I’m riding and competing and attend to my family members when they need me.”

Here are Mixon’s best tips for establishing a routine that lets you focus on achieving your riding goals without sacrificing your family time.

It Really Does Take a Village

If you’re a parent, you know it’s not just a phrase. It really does take a village to raise your children and hold down a career, let alone win championships in the saddle. Your village can consist of anyone in your circle; for Mixon, it’s her husband, parents, and in-laws.

“When Logan was a baby, my husband and I did a lot of juggling to make it work,” she says. “I’d start riding horses earlier so I could be done earlier, he’d go to work later and come home later, and my mom helped. Logan is in pre-K now, so it’s a little easier. My husband takes her to school in the mornings, my mother-in-law picks her up, and then she can come home and play at home because we own our facility.”

For horse shows, Mixon also relies on her village. If an event is close to home, Logan stays home and comes to the show with her grandparents when it makes sense. For shows Mixon must travel to, they’ve adjusted their typical horse-show life to include Logan.

“We went to Scottsdale for a show and rented a condo,” she says. “My mom came with me, and they could go to the pool or come over to the horse show. I saw Logan every evening and still had my horses prepared and shown to their best abilities.”

Rise Early, Do the Work

“I’m an early-morning person,” Mixon shares. “I’m up and at the barn before daylight most days. I work straight through my day—without taking a lunch—so I can ride all my horses and be done in time to spend my evening with my family.”

It’s not an easy way to go about your day-to-day, but committing to making the most of your time does free up bandwidth for all facets of your life. Additionally, preparing your horse at home and doing the work every day to get ready for an event means you’re more confident when you get to the competition.

“This way, I know I’ve put everything I need to into my horses when I get to a show,” Mixon asserts.

Learn to Delegate

Some personalities have a hard time letting go of control, but delegating even a couple of small tasks can make a world of difference when it comes to your routine and allowing your mind to focus where it needs to be.

“Learn to ask for help,” Mixon advises. “I used to try to do everything myself; I didn’t want to burden anyone. But delegating even small tasks can give you an extra 20 or 30 minutes to spend with your family or to fine-tune your horse when he needs it.”

Take a Minute or Two

Getting rest and making time to center herself are key to Mixon’s preparation and should be part of yours, too.

“If I get too tired or am running around (because I didn’t stick to my plan), it can be hard to recover and focus the way I need to,” she says. “I feel like, for the most part, I have my horses prepared at home how they need to be. Maybe sometimes I don’t show as good as I could, but that’s just the way it is. I have to realize I’m doing the best I can, even if it doesn’t always work out as I planned.”

Mixon also makes an effort to take a minute or two to herself at horse shows.

“I like to get away, go sit in the stands someplace quiet, and watch people show,” she says. “It gives me a minute to chill out and focus on what’s coming up. It’s a key part of me preparing, so I make it part of my plan.”