By Rob Jacobs
From your experience, how would you describe feelings of burnout and what are some signs?
Feelings of burnout vary depending on the person and the degree of burnout. A person may become impatient, anxious, insincere, disengaged, angry or tired even after getting enough sleep. From my experience, classic signs include feeling the previous emotions on a daily basis. It may be common to feel impatient occasionally; however, if I become impatient and insincere on a daily basis, I’m likely to question if I’m approaching burnout in a particular role.
Do the feelings occur rapidly or gradually?
Burnout does not happen overnight and is different than having a bad week. It occurs over a period of time greater than a week. Generally, these feelings occur during a phase of trying to manage expectations that may be viewed as unrealistic or excessive. Managing expectations on a regular basis is important to the longevity in any demanding industry like the equestrian industry. Every circumstance is different. For some this may occur in a month, while for others it may occur over the course of six months.
What strategies have worked for you over the past 15 years working in the equestrian industry?
Being self-aware is important. The main strategy I’ve used over the years, and continue to use, is to listen and pay attention to myself mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. I need to understand what I need to do for myself to recharge and remain fresh. The term “balance” is often used, but for an equestrian, this is almost nonexistent. I view the concept less from a balance perspective and more as routine preventive maintenance. Once identified, I make time for what’s needed, whether it’s rest on a day off or meeting friends outside the industry for dinner. I pay close attention to my energy level, knowing that “if I’m unable to fill my gas tank, the car will die on the side of the road” and it’s my responsibility to fill my own tank.
Should burnout be shared with your employer?
If a person is not able to self-implement strategies to reduce or end burnout, then yes, their feelings should be shared with the employer in hopes of reevaluating their role or perceived expectations. The conversation should be approached strategically and from the lens of improving one’s performance and ability to understand expectations, as opposed to blaming an employer for long working hours and/or challenging expectations.
When is an ideal time to share feelings of burnout?
This can be a conversation a person has with friends or family initially, with hopes of gaining insight and perspective. If the problem is not solved, ideally feelings of burnout are shared with an employer well before anger and bitterness occur. Otherwise, by this point it’s likely too late and the working environment may become toxic and unproductive. In any professional partnership or relationship, communication is essential to longevity and a successful barn culture.
Rob Jacobs, who shares his thoughts on burnout in the demanding equestrian industry, competing at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in 2021 riding Last Man Darling, owned by
Gochman Sporthorse, LLC, in the WCHR Developing Pro Challenge.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography