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Horse First but We Follow

Lauren doing yoga with her cat watching

So let’s talk about the fact that the horse comes first... but WE do have to come second.

The phrase “The horse comes first” has been ingrained in my mind probably since I was in middle school and, as a trainer running my own barn, it's more significant now than ever. 

It is our responsibility as professionals to take care of the horses. We are entrusted with their care by our clients who expect us to watch over their beloved four legged partners in sport, do everything we say we are going to do in the boarding agreement, and have the know-how to handle equine emergencies. This all falls under our job description. While the horse really does come first, we can’t forget about ourselves.

So, let's talk about the fact that I was at a horse show over the summer, and I was on the way to the end gate to check in at 7am and passed another trainer halfway through her first Monster energy drink of the day. 7AM! 

Then, when I really started thinking about it, my horse show diet consisted mostly of muffins, energy drinks, and alcohol, so who am I to judge. But, it occurred to me that something had to change.

A horse and rider jumping at a horse show

Let's face it, this is a hard industry to be in. The days are not a standard 9-5. Horses still have to get fed on holidays, and they tend to have terrible timing when it comes to colic scares, pasture accidents, abscesses, breaking fences or whatever else you can think of. And then there are horse shows where we get up stupid early, stay on our feet or our horses all day long and then inadvertently stay up way too late. Then start the whole

thing all over again. It’s so easy to get burnt out in this sport 

but we are all just crazy horse lovers who suffer through it all for the sake of the horse.

So, what are some ways to amend the lifestyle to prevent burnout and create a longer, healthier future career?

First, let's talk about taking care of our bodies.

Fitness is a big one. I wanted to be a better balanced and stronger rider, which motivated me to start my fitness journey, but working out also became a detox for me. I started going to the gym regularly when I was a working student, so finding the time to workout was hard, and I wasn’t looking for a super intense program. 

My body was already going through enough. That’s when I discovered yoga 

and resistance band training: targeted exercises I could do from anywhere that would leave me feeling energized, not more exhausted. 

I have posted some of these exercises on my website for anyone interested (

Lauren chatting with a rider on horseback at a horse show

Staying fit also prevents injury. We talk about this all the time when it comes to conditioning our horses, but I very rarely hear professionals talk about getting themselves fit so that their bodies last longer. I want to continue to be able to ride for a

very long time. Working out now is a way for me to invest in the longevity of my athletic career. I have also started investing in seeing the chiropractor. I work with young horses a lot, and with that comes some falls. I have seen too many older trainers and riders walking with a perpetual limp. I’m still pretty young, 

so if I can prevent my body from crippling, I think it's worth the investment. Besides, my body’s capability is directly linked

to my ability to work, so taking care of my body ensures I can continue working and riding. 

My last point on this note is this: I started wearing an air vest. 

I was against vests for a long time. I changed my mind when I got married. I figured that if there was a device out there that could protect me from breaking my back and ending up in a

wheelchair it was probably, again, a worthwhile investment. 

And that thing has SAVED me on a number of occasions, let me tell you.

So what about the mental strain of the job?

I realized quickly starting out that if I was to keep going at a million miles an hour, I was going to crash and burn. I think being a perfectionist is a common trait in the equestrian

community. It's why our horses look spotless at shows, and it’s what keeps us coming out to practice every day. The flip side of this is that our work never seems to be done. There is always, literally ALWAYS, something that needs to be done at the horse farm and when I was first branching off on my own I felt like I had to do everything all at once. I’ve since learned to take a little “me” time, even if it means telling a client, “No, I can’t do a lesson at that time.” I was really bad at trying to please everyone when I was starting out, and the reality is that's impossible.

If I am burnt out, I can’t help anyone. 

One thing that has helped me keep going 

is taking Sundays off. It's my day to spend with my husband, and I try to leave stressing about the barn or adding side projects out of it. Another thing that has helped me is prioritizing. Of course, the horse comes first. I make sure all the horses are safe, cared for, and ridden, 

then I get to the other stuff. And if I don’t get to mowing the lawn one week, I TRY not to beat myself up about it (even though it’s very hard to not let it get under my skin). We give our horses a rest day, 

it's fair that we take one too.

Finally, let's talk about nutrition.

Nutrition doesn’t just mean eating healthy. As a professional rider and trainer, I consider myself an athlete, and so I figure I need to take care of myself like one. We give our horses joint supplements, PEMF treatments, chiropractic work, liniment baths, compression wraps, beamer blankets and so many other various things to keep them feeling good and competing their best but hardly do anything for ourselves.

I have always been conscious of trying to “eat healthy” but it wasn’t until this past summer that I really started to think about nutrition as more than just what I am eating. 

Lauren pouring Liquid Biocell into a small cup

I was at one horse show this summer that was just close enough to home to make getting a hotel nonsensical, but just far enough away that I was having to get a gas station energy drink EVERY DAY on the way home just to stay awake. That same drive would leave my shoulder in so much pain. I had a nasty fall a few years back that left me with some soft tissue damage under my shoulder blade.  I realized then that I had to be missing something. I started looking into more natural ways to gain energy. I moved away from Monster drinks or Red Bulls, and even coffee, and 

I started substituting matcha which makes me much less jittery, sustains me for longer, and has lots of antioxidants in it.

Lastly, I discovered Biocell this summer which is a collagen/ HA/chondroitin sulfate supplement that I now 

use on myself and all my horses (Self: (Horses: 

My old shoulder injury feels SO MUCH better after taking this stuff, and I’ve seen a remarkable difference in my horses too from coat health to soft tissue health to gut health to just overall feeling better. This stuff has been a game changer for me!

So, this is just a snippet of what I have been learning on my journey to be a better, healthier horseman, and I hope it helps.

Article submitted by Lauren McCord

BuckWild ShowJumpers is a hunter/jumper show barn located in Fountain Inn, SC. They specialize in young horse development. They have the highest standards for the quality care and management of their equine athletes. Diets, training, care, and living standards are carefully managed to keep their horses healthy, happy, and in shape by using scientific knowledge, veterinary advice, and attention to cleanliness. 

They strive to make their barn a positive, team building environment that exhibits professionalism and attention to detail.

Learn more about BuckWild ShowJumpers at:



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