he equestrian community — and the professional world at large — commonly applauds working moms for managing to balance a home and family life with a demanding career. People ask, "How does she do it?" The answer usually lies somewhere in the realm of being organized, attentive, prioritizing, and having an invaluable support network. Without a doubt, we’re totally impressed by the moms out there who make it all work.
But what about the dads? Well, they get props, too.
These days the child-rearing roles of father and mother are less clearly defined than the era of stay-at-home-mom tends the household and raises the kids while successful dad brings home the proverbial bacon. I bet you can think of at least one family who has a more modern dynamic — a stay-at-home-dad, for instance, and the mom is the decided breadwinner of the family. Or, maybe they both work full-time and split responsibilities equally, raising their children as a team.
Daniel Deusser celebrates with his wife, Caroline, at the Rio Olympics. Photo by Erin Gilmore.
Becoming a parent is, well, fairly easy. But being a parent is hard work. In the equestrian world especially, parenting while also actively riding and competing is a challenge in part because horses already require a huge time and energy commitment. Add a kid into the mix and you’re literally running on caffeine and necessity. Becoming a parent changes you, personally, but it also seriously switches up your routine and re-aligns your goals and priorities.
We caught up with three equestrian dads to find out how becoming a father impacted their career and garner some friendly advice on how they successfully balance it all.
Don’t Find the Time, Make the Time
Daniel Deusser, German show jumper and Olympic team bronze medalist, says he doesn’t have a particularly “special way of living” to find harmony between family and work life, but he goes to great lengths to spend as much time with his family as possible. His school-aged daughter and wife, Caroline, who also works, try to come to the shows whenever possible to support him. When they are not able to go, he sets a travel schedule that gets him home and keeps him there as long as possible.
“Before, it didn’t matter if you flew home on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Now it has to be on Sunday evening — there’s no other possibility. You have to go maybe Thursday morning to the show, now I try to go last minute — Thursday evening or Friday morning, as last minute as possible. It changed my life, for sure,” he says.
Following a particularly hectic competition schedule, Daniel makes a point to stay out of the barn and focus on his family. After Aachen last summer, for instance, the Deusser’s went on a two-week holiday in the South of France. “I’ll spend some time away from the horses and with the family in the sun.”
Setting aside quality family time in between competitions not only keeps the family bond strong, it also gives Daniel a rest from the physical and mental demands of riding at the top level. “It helps to get new motivation for the next shows.”
Solve Parenthood Problems Together
You might think you know what to expect when you welcome a new baby. For instance, you know that your priorities in life will change because now you have a tiny human to care for. But sometimes the responsibilities of parenting and paying the bills collide and you find yourself facing unexpected challenges.
Five-star Australian eventer Andrew Hoy and his wife, Stefanie, both work in the equine industry and are self-employed — him as a full-time rider and her as a public relations specialist and Managing Director of the Hoy Team. They have a young daughter, Philippa.
"We’re going to be more a family and I’m very excited."
“There are definitely challenges which every parent goes through bringing a child up,” Andrew says. “And not only are the challenges making sure that she’s comfortable and she’s happy, but the challenges to make sure our businesses keep going.”
For eight months after Philippa was born, the Hoys tried to do it all on their own — riding horses, seeing clients, traveling for meetings and shows all while taking care of a baby — but they soon agreed that they needed help.
“Stefanie’s business is very much face-to-face. She spends a lot of time in the office, but a lot of the time it’s about being there in person to meet with clients. And for me, I have to be on the horse,” Andrew says. “I [said to Stefanie], ‘you can’t do your business properly, I cannot do my business properly — we have to find a way and we have to give Philippa the opportunity for a good life.’”
So they agreed on a solution and hired a nanny. Their nanny is full-time, so Philippa knows and loves her. They go to all the shows together, and after spending a bit of time at the competition, Philippa and the nanny go off and do fun kid things. Philippa is happy and well-looked after and the Hoys can focus on their jobs. Then, having had some relief during the day, they are able to spend more relaxed and better quality time with Philippa on the off hours.
New Dad, New Routine
Israeli Olympic show jumper Daniel Bluman and his wife, Ariel, welcomed their first child last October. Before baby, Bluman said he is a man who thrives on routine and loves a good night’s sleep (and occasional late wake-up call). Knowing that would have to change as soon as he became a dad, he spent nine months tinkering with his routine to see if he could find the right balance and be ready once the baby arrived.
Daniel Bluman with his wife, Ariel, and their son, Avi.
“I like to prepare things in advance. I like to plan things. This year was kind of an experimental year to see what I’ll do next year once the baby’s around,” Bluman had said while his wife was still pregnant. “So yeah, it’s not like it’s going to change; my objective will be the same, what I’m aiming to do will be the same. I think perhaps I won’t be showing as many shows as I have in past years and that’s probably going to be a case in the future years.”
Already, Bluman takes advantage of his proximity to horse shows around the year. During the winter season in Florida, he lives near the showgrounds where he is able to compete but still “lead my normal life and keep fresh”. Likewise, he just purchased a property in North Salem, New York, so he can live and train in an area where he also competes throughout the year.
“I think that’s going to be able to help us to organize. We’re going to be more a family and I’m very excited. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I don’t think it’s going to really affect me. If I have to show a little bit less — as long as I’m able to train the horses, be around the horses, and ride every day — if I don’t compete every weekend, it’s still going to be fine for me.”
Despite the challenges of settling into a new routine and experiencing a lot of change in his home life, Daniel says he has always wanted to be a father and is determined to find a happy balance.
“I think it’s going to boost me to achieve greater things.”
Feature photo by SEH Photography.