Recently I stood in line at the grocery store behind a mom with three kids, ages ranging from toddler to 6 years old. While the kiddos were definitely cute and not necessarily poorly behaved, mom certainly had her hands full.

“I’m hungry.”

“I’m bored.”

“Give me attention!"

Mom looked happy but tired.

Wow, she’s way outnumbered, thought I, who doesn’t have children. I drove home and didn’t think much more about the mom and her children. That was until I got out of the car and saw the three eager faces of my horses looking over the gate.

“I’m hungry.”

“I’m bored.”

“Give me attention!”

Wow, I’m outnumbered, I thought.

Now, I’m not saying that managing my horses is the same or as challenging as raising children of the human variety. But in my world my horses are a huge commitment, both of time and money. And my horses are, basically, my kids.

So how did I, one person with a supportive but fairly nonhorsey husband, end up with three horses?

Well, I bred, raised, and showed my then-Quarter-Horse-futurity-prospect, Jack, who’s now 11 years old.

Then I started competing him at the lower levels of dressage.

My husband and I moved to a small horse property, and it’s best not to keep a horse alone.

So, I bought Marathon, a Hanoverian with super gaits, to go up the levels in dressage.

Marathon went lame, and I spent more than a year with my veterinarians and farrier trying to get him sound.

To lift my spirits and have a horse to show, I bought Atty, now 3, as my dressage prospect and/or resale project.

I fell hard for the filly that, besides being darn cute, has the best mind I’ve encountered on a young horse.

Then Marathon, 13, became sound.

And suddenly I had three horses I absolutely adore.

Jack is my handsome joker who keeps things interesting; Marathon is a kind horse who’s safe to show and fun to ride; and the filly is a sensible girl whose future holds nothing but possibilities.

Fortunately, my husband and I  can afford to feed and care for all three horses, and having them at home is economical and fun, even if cleaning up after them is a lot of work. They’re on 24-hour turnout and, during good weather, each gets ridden or longed at least four times a week. I have a regular afternoon routine—G1-L1-R1 (groom one, longe one, ride one). And often I can convince a friend or two to come “play horses” with me when I need a little extra help.

At times I’ve consider that, if I just had Jack and trail rode exclusively, I’d save a whole lot of money by not taking lessons or showing. If I only had Marathon, I could devote my time, energy, and money to rising into the FEI dressage ranks. Or, if I only kept Atty, I could mold her into the perfect all-purpose trail/dressage horse.

The truth is, I love all of them, and I can’t pick a favorite—to me they’re all keepers. For now, yes, my hands are full, but so is my heart.

I’m guessing that’s how that mom at the grocery store feels.

Have you ever felt like you had too many horses? How do you juggle maintaining and caring for multiple animals? And, if you have children of the human variety, how do you find balance between horses and family?