Do I give up my dream to train horses? Family or business? Hobby or dream?

“Stacy-Horses have been a passion of mine from as long as I can remember, but unfortunately I never had the opportunity to interact with them until a little less than a year ago.  A little less than a year ago I started working for an equestrian center just cleaning stalls on top of my full-time job that I work 2nd shift in.

I was fortunate enough to meet the trainer that comes to the barn to break out the horses there. He was nice enough to allow me to shadow him with shoeing and training and also to taught me how to ride, started me in barrels. With doing all of those things as you can imagine my passion grew much larger and it took up a lot more of my time. This is where I need your motherly advice.

I have a fiancé and a 3 year old daughter whom I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for, but she and I have not been seeing eye to eye with my passion. She thinks its just a hobby and it takes way to much of my time.

My ultimate goal is to be a great farrier and an even better trainer. With the full-time job, the part time job at the barn, and trying to learn to shoe, train, and become a better rider myself my time is very limited, and unfortunately my fiancé and my daughter have suffered. How do I keep an equal balance with everything going on? Do I quit cleaning stalls to apprentice more? Do I give up my dream all together to make others happy? Or I continue down the path I’m on? Or none of the above? I’m very confused. Also my fiancé is giving me an ultimatum because she just doesn’t get the passion people have for your line of work. Any advice given would be extremely helpful and appreciated. You are a great inspiration and icon. I hope to meet you some day soon. Take care.”

my response……

Choices, choices….life is full of choices and each one helps determine our path in life. I cannot tell you what to do but I can tell you what I have done and share a bit with you how I think.

It is exciting that you have now found the opportunity to express a passion you have had for such a long time. I love learning and when combined with passion….it can light a person on fire. I think I can feel your excitement coming through the computer!

Do keep in mind that in most things there is a ‘honeymoon’ period and you are still in that period with the horses. This feeling can also be magnified if you are unhappy with your current job as it will make this ‘new job’ look even more appealing…magnifying the honeymoon period and intensifying the feelings.

Stacy Westfall showing in western pleasure early in horse training career.

Stacy Westfall showing in western pleasure early in horse training career.

Your fiancé thinks this is just a hobby…and in a way, right now, she is probably correct. The IRS would agree with her. Some of the guidelines they have for business or hobby are;

• Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?

• Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?

• Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?

• Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?

• Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?

• Does the activity make a profit in some years?

Most people in a start up phase will allow for great leeway in the name of learning.

Things will go faster and smoother, both financially and with your fiancé, if you take the time to write out a plan for how- and when- this is going to turn into a business.

I highly recommend that you check out the website for Dan Miller and 48 Days to the Work You Love.  Listen to the podcasts, read everything he has. It would be my guess that the faster path to income will be in the farrier work, depending on your area, so maybe start the business around that idea.

You state that your ultimate goal is to be a great farrier and an even better trainer. I believe that you were referring to your business goals here but I will challenge you to think bigger.

My fastest path to my ‘ultimate goal’ is to imagine lying on my death bed.

Stacy Westfall priority list as seen on Facebook; wife, mother, horsewoman.

Stacy Westfall priority list as seen on Facebook; wife, mother, horsewoman.

Instantly, life shifts into a different perspective. It is not an accident that my Facebook page says, “I am a wife, a mother, and a horsewoman.”…in that order.

I could be busier than I am in my business; I could do more expos, clinics and other appearances, but I don’t. Right now that is a choice I am making because my kids are 12, 14 and 15 years old. They won’t always live with me. I can see this stage of life and I know it will likely come to a close when they graduate from high school. I choose to make the most of the time I have with them even if it isn’t the best decision for growing my business.

I am not suggesting that this is an either/or choice. I am stubborn enough to think that people can have both family and business success…as long as they decide ahead of time what both of those look like.

There are many people out there with more wisdom on this subject, Dan Miller included, that can teach you about finding that balance.

Early on in our business our life wasn’t balanced but Jesse and I were on the same page. For the first two years out of college we worked full time jobs, had children, and trained on the side. By definition it was a hobby. Three years into our marriage we filed taxes on the new business and during the next four years Jesse worked a full time job AND rode horses…enough that it was a second full time job. I had our third child, was a full time mom and horse trainer, stall cleaner, lawn mower…you get the picture.

Jesse Westfall was Congress Reserve Champion the same day his youngest son was born.

Jesse Westfall was Congress Reserve Champion the same day his youngest son was born.

It took six years of hard work before the horses became our only business. During that time our income was below or just at the federal poverty line.

For me personally, I had to look directly at the situation and decide that if push came to shove and I had to choose- I choose family.

With that in mind, consider the words of Robert Frost;

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

This was first published March 3, 2014. After publishing almost 1000 posts, I find it interesting to ‘search’ my own site and read what I have written years ago. Some of the posts ‘expire’ because they were about a time sensitive subject, but others, such as this post, are as true to me today as the day I wrote it.

From the outside, someone looking in on my business activities would not always see the pattern in my choices. That would be most likely caused by the outsider applying a different set of rules, ideals, time tables, or measurements of ‘success’. The important thing is that those close to me: family, advisors, and friends can look and see that what I am doing fits my long term goals. It takes an ‘insider’ to help keep you on track.

This is why I’m so excited to finally be moving forward in my own business as a career coach. I know I have valuable information about my industry and I want to share it with those who are looking for an advisor. The Equine Career Conference is one way that people can access my advice…and I’m planning to set up more access in the future!


  1. Jessica Nuttall on October 18, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    I just read this post for the first time. WOW. This sure gives me plenty to think about. Choices are hard, and I am like you–stubborn enough to believe that I can have both a family and a career in horses! I still haven’t figured out HOW to go about that yet. But this gave me plenty to think about. I am now more inspired to set goals–nothing does that quite like picturing yourself lying on your deathbed, as you mentioned. THANK YOU for writing this!

  2. […] Do I give up my dream to train horses? Family or business? Hobby or dream? […]

  3. Monica Huettl on March 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Stacy, I like you more and more with every post!

  4. Kathy Doman on March 7, 2014 at 2:52 am

    Thank you for asking this question and thank you Stacy for answering it. Life is about the choices we make I chose to become a teacher to provide more stability for my children, I chose to have horses as my hobby and not as my career, I will always place my children first, this does not mean that my dreams and passions are not being meet, I am just not consumed in them like I am my children. it is an eternal juggle of family, life, love and work. Good luck in all of your choices. xox

  5. Lorraine Dangieri on March 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Stacy, your response is amazing and right on. Awesome advice! For balance in my life if look to faith first (whatever that faith may be), family second and career third. When priorities are in order everything comes together and life balances.

  6. Beth Culhane on March 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    It’s hard to have a passion for horses and be with a person who does not share that passion. Horses consume time…not just physical time either. If I am not with my horses, I am thinking about them, and talking about them…to my husband. To him my passion is new. To me, my passion started when I was under 5 yrs old. I remember brushing the long hair on my doll pretending it was a horses tail. I took years of lessons as a girl. I am 49, and I would say the last four years have been consumed with horses. My husband told me I may as well be having an affair. With that said, in the last four years, I have gone from Macy’s being my favorite store, to TSC being the store I love to shop at. I went from dress boots, to cowboy boots. I went from gold to silver. He built me a little stable, said yes to a foal…foundation quarter horse foal…that I love to death. He even said yes to me buying a horse and boarding her where there are numerous trails…and people to ride with…even though we live on 20 acres. He drove me 300 miles, twice, to buy a saddle…and even talked to the cowboys at the shop…instead of sitting in the truck waiting. He does not like horses, but when I was in tears with my horse stuck in a stall because of ice, he spent and hour helping me chip ice to get her out… then held her in the freezing cold pasture so I could finish a chore I couldn’t do without her being held. He ran to my rescue and helped me with a horse that bolted with me on her back for enough time that I thought I was going to die, and the minute my body hit the frozen ground, I new I had done damage. I am fine. I guess I am telling the person who wrote you this, because it took time. 4 years of time. He still does not like horses. I still wish I could spend every minute with them, and would love to quit my job and just do horses. However, I do not do horses on his day off…except the chores that need to be done. I always ask him if he wants to join me in the barn…and twice now he has…in the last four years. I want him to like horses. It is him I would love to ride with. And, when he joins me in the barn, I don’t want him to work, I just want him to stand there and talk to me. He’s coming around, and I am patiently waiting..offering…accepting what he gives. ( OMG…It’s just like I’m working my horse. ) It takes time. Give her time. ( Both your time, and time to understand.)

    • Lesia Lowe on March 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      man…. this made a lump in my throat…. wishing you the best…

  7. Mellissa on March 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I seriously did not think you’re advice would have went that way, Stacy. I first thought after reading what He said, that I could not happily marry someone who could not see my Passion for horses as a career one day. Now what I never truly thought about, is yes, in the beginning it’s a ‘hobby’, now I say this in quotations only because it NEEEDS to start somewhere, to get anywhere, so as it may be a hobby now, it’s preparing you to build into a business. For example I want to own a rescue one day. I do NOT know everything about horses, or even enough to make a rescue profitable, or even keep my head above water. So, I like the idea of keeping ‘hobby’ in quotations, because a passionate horse lover, has the will power to make it a business/career.
    But! I seriously love your advice, because you didn’t just say the nows, you broke it down to the when’s and how’s, I will definitely look into that book too! Thank you for being so kind and using your God gifted talent to even give amazing advice, and personal experience! <3

  8. Scottie Treesh on March 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I gave up my 2 horses when i was pregnant with our 3rd baby nearly 19 years ago ..after many years of raising 4 kids and not having my dream I bought my youngest son a pony {he was 13 the pony was 3.. my husband wasn’t so sure about the venture} that was 4 years ago..after helping my son learn the fine points of gentling {and remembering a few things i had forgotten} We then bought his older sister her own horse and teaching them both how to groom, pick hooves and feed them I determined i am NOT to old to pursue my son has been taking riding lessons at the local stable {Brett Walters in Bourbon IN} this guy works great with my son…i told him that i wanted to learn to ride correctly..Learn the reining with lead changes and pick ups and barrel racing..even though i am 42 he said there is not one reason why i cannot start over and learn what i was not taught properly.. {i have some wight to lose first as i gained 80 pounds sitting in hospital rooms with our oldest daughter when she was going through chemotherapy} its a heck of a goal but i intend to strive for it in the coming months and hope to be on a horse by late do give me inspiration when i see what you are bravely doing with your family ..thank you stacy

    • Scottie Treesh on March 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      I do intend to learn some training for our own horses in the future

  9. Lesia Lowe on March 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I just re-read this blog…and still in awe of your ability to say just the right words to people you don’t even know…… BUT…..did I read that right??? under the photo??? (Jesse Westfall was Congress Reserve Champion the same day his youngest son was born) ??? ….so you left there and had your baby?? just Add another “notch” in your hat!!! WOW!!!

    • Stacy on March 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Lesia-I really need to write up that story…It shows the true depth of our insanity including picking my hospital due to proximity of the Quarter Horse Congress because of my due date…

      • Lesia Lowe on March 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm

        hey… that’s a great idea….. “master the art of Living while I’m in Labor”…. you don’t even look Pregnant……

  10. Liseanne R on March 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

    This has been a huge concern of mine, I don’t have kids yet. But I have a fiancé and our future plan include kids. My fiancé is a bit older than me, and is set in his career. But I am just starting out, and my goals all involve horses. I work full time on the side and work my own horses early mornings during the week and on weekends. I’m taking lessons, studying for my trainer’s certification and dealing with life as well. I don’t want to hold my fiancé back in life, while I’m striving for my goals, but I also know giving them up totally will make me bitter in the end. It makes me very hopeful for the future knowing there are people out there raising families at the same time as they make their own dreams real as well. Thanks, Stacy

  11. Linda on March 5, 2014 at 5:16 am

    I must agree with the others…..thoughtful and wise advice. (Really glad I subscribed to your blog!)

  12. Janette on March 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    This is another fine example of Stacy’s generosity.
    One thing that stands out here is, Stacy and Jesse share the same passion.

  13. Phoebe Papaeliou on March 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    This is such an awesome post, Stacy. I believe that you have your life priorities aligned, and provided great advice and guidance. Kudos to you and your family for the hard work and dedication to achieve success and raise a family. God bless!

  14. johanna on March 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    that is just an awesome post-
    wonderful work in answering that question.

  15. Donkey Whisperer Farm on March 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I say pray and never give up! GOD is amazing… Melody http://WWW.DONKEYWHISPERER.COM

  16. Gail on March 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    When I first started this I thought, OK, she’s a trainer — not Dear Abby. But apparently you wear many hats. Awesome advice!

Leave a Comment




100% Private - 0% Spam

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.