The importance of Rest

Rest and the Equine Professional

Do you really understand why rest is so important to you as a business owner and facility manager? 

First, let’s get a clear understanding of what rest is.  Rest is when you stop using the part of your brain that is active while working.  When your brain rest, it can organize the information that it has gained during periods of work. According to research we should spend 42% of our lives resting.  It is sad, but I am sure the majority of equine professionals just rolled their eyes are that tidbit of information.  

Just like other muscles, our brain will become fatigued when used non-stop.  Our brains work best when we alternated between work and rest.   As horse trainers and instructors, we all agree that our horses need rest.  There are days with no riding, days of cross training for horses, days with no lessons for our lesson horses, but what about for us.  We need rest too.

When we talk about rest we are not talking about sleep.  Sleep is important, but we really need rest.  Research shows that without rest, we will not be able to sleep well. So one builds on the other.  

Our brains are built to bounce back and forth between work and rest.  And when we let this happen.  Or rather make this happen we work better, we think better, and we are over all healthier. Rest gives your brain time to process.  

I would put money on it that every trainer reading this has stopped a ride because you got something really good from your horse, and you want that is “sink in”.  Our brains and our horse’s brains are very similar and learn after absorbing information not during the gathering of information.   When you brain muscle is used and rested it becomes stronger. The idea that you can grit your way through and stay focused and productive every minute, day in and day out is ridiculous.  It is damaging to your brain and to your health.

Being busy in the horse industry is a badge of honor. We define ourselves by what we do and the more exhausted we are the better.  I have actually had colleagues make smart remarks and laugh because I take vacations.  I have heard things like: “How the hell do you manage that?” or “must be nice”.

And my response was, “Well, I put it on the calendar”.  Rest and vacations should not dirty words in the horse industry.  Our work is mentally exhausting and physically demanding. We have three plates in the air at any given time. There has to be time to recover.  And that is not being selfish or self-indulgent, it is self-preservation.  You will not be able to maintain your business without rest.  

I have also heard other instructors say, “when I take time off I am just bored.  Well, Boredom happens when your brain is in the active mode and you don’t have anything to focus on.  To help your brain get into resting mode, plan a day off the farm and out of the barn.  Something other than watching TV.  Watching TV and playing games on your phone does not allow your brain to stop processing.  And that is what you need to truly rest. 

Remember that research says that we need to rest up to 42% of our lives. That is about 10 hours per day. This 42% includes time for activities like eating, and socializing.  Most instructors have a very difficult time imaging 42% of their time resting.  How many of you eat while you are driving to the next lesson? Or skip meals altogether? Don’t answer that.  Because we all have done it.

So, the effects of lack of rest on our businesses is staggering.  On average, adults make about 35,000 decisions a day.  For small business owners and horse trainers these decisions have to do with the well-being and advancement of our businesses, ourselves, as well as the wellbeing of our horses.  We have a lot at stake, so it is import that we are able to make the best decisions possible.  And yet, lack of rest and exhaustion is known to cause people to make riskier decisions. According to Rand Corporation, lack of rest cost American businesses over $400 billion a year.  

Lack of rest throughout the day can also effect your ability to sleep well.  And lack of sleep effects your memory and attitude.  And bad attitudes chase students and clients away.  Lack of sleep also contributes to heart disease and diabetes.  So, you may need to schedule “rest breaks”.  Go for a trail ride, so you and your horse can have a change of scenery. Take a nap.  Schedule time off.  Get off the farm.  Read a book.  Pay someone to do morning feed a couple times a week and enjoy your coffee.  You will be more productive and happier.

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