California Riding Magazine • March, 2014

Guilt, Balance and Horses
Return to riding rekindles an old joy in a busy life.

by Aimee Grove

Once upon a time, as a former competitive rider, now working mom stressed out with the load of a full-time public relations job, hideous commute and a high-energy preschool-age boy, I decided to add yet another thing to my already overflowing plate … a blog about working motherhood, cheekily named "Womoments."

For a while at least, this working mom found some relief kvetching about the craziness of my life in the blog, but recently it's become harder and harder to get motivated to write – and of course I feel guilty about that. Now, rather than feeling guilty about neglecting my son, I am worrying about not writing enough about my guilt. Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.

The good news is that I have something to blame for this terrible neglect, and it comes in the form of a furry, four-legged package. My latest obsession, which is actually one of my oldest obsessions back again in full force, is hunter/jumper riding. For the past three months, I have been taking lessons once a week, picking back up a sport I had pursued competitively and intensely throughout my youth and early teen years.

It's just a once a week thing – every Sunday for about two hours of sheer bliss at Heidi Cowley's stable, Boundary Gate, and on the back of a mare named Crystal – but horse fever has overtaken all my (non-working) hours. When my husband is playing video games or watching surf contests online at night, I'm watching horse jumping videos or Googling sources for field boots. Instead of seeking out mommy blogs, I'm sleuthing out equestrian forums and researching saddles. When I shut my eyes at night, the way I lull myself to sleep is by reliving the perfect course I jumped on the previous Sunday or the feel of my horse's velvety muzzle. Those Pottery Barn catalogs and Elle Décor magazines I used to covet are collecting dust beneath Dover Saddlery catalog and California Riding Magazine, and instead of daydreaming about the next vacation, I'm plotting how to save for my own CWD saddle or even squeezing in another mid-week ride somehow.

Okay, I absolutely realize that I'm going a little off the rails here. But the underlying truth of the matter is that nothing gives me as much pure peace and joy in life than being on the back of a sweet horse flying over fences and then patting her neck and feeding carrots in the barn after the ride. Other people do yoga, meditate, run triathlons, climb mountains or write poetry. For me, this is my bliss and my therapy, wrapped in one. I've tried many other things, and nothing even comes close to the mix of adrenaline and love I feel for horses and riding.

Ironically, just a few years ago I couldn't have imagined in a million years that I would ever allow myself to take two to three hours purely for my own selfish hobby on a weekend day, away from my son and husband. Working long hours and commuting every morning, I was racked with guilt about not spending every possible minute with the family on my free days. It was inconceivable to me that riding could ever fit into my life, financially or from a time perspective.

But here's the thing. Things you love have a way of working their way back into your life and you figure out a way to do it. I quit my job, went to freelance work to be able to take my son to school and cook dinner every once in a while during the week. That's enabled me to let go of the guilt of having my mom watch my son for a couple hours on Sundays while I ride. And money-wise, I look at this like therapy – it's actually about one-third of the cost of going to see a shrink and much more effective – for both my head and my body. After a ride, I'm both a better mother and wife because I am literally filled with joy that overflows into all my relationships.

If I had to share one lesson out of the experience for anyone else it would be this: Listen to your inner voice and the passions you had as a child or younger person. What gives you true joy? Instead of saying, "I can't," find ways to do. Life is too short to deprive yourself of those simple pleasures, even if you are a mom with a job and a really full life. Go for it and don't wait to have fun, damn it.

Aimee Grove lives, works, writes and rides in the San Francisco area. For more from her, visit