Work–horse bal­ance The fireman with an 80-hour con­tract

How I make it work: man­ag­ing an 80-hour on-call con­tract by eat­ing on the go and hav­ing top-notch or­gan­i­sa­tional skills

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents -

Ben Leathers BHSI is a part-time fire­fighter at his lo­cal sta­tion in Par­tridge Green, West Sus­sex. He is also a pro­fes­sional rid­ing coach, trainer and event rider based at Home­lands Eques­trian, a liv­ery and com­pe­ti­tion train­ing yard. My jobs…

I event up to one-star level and run a liv­ery, com­pe­ti­tion and train­ing yard along­side my wife Jo, son Joshua and a great team of staff. We have horses in to train and com­pete, as well as rid­ing and com­pet­ing my own horses and look­ing af­ter horses on liv­ery. On top of the yard and event­ing, I’m also on call 80 hours a week with the fire ser­vice. I’m on call usu­ally from 1pm in the af­ter­noon un­til 5am in the morn­ing. I have an alerter (pager) on me, so if I get a call, I have to drop ev­ery­thing and run down to the sta­tion, jump in the truck and drive to wher­ever we’re go­ing. I’m one of the drivers of the truck and we can be called out to any­thing from road traf­fic col­li­sions to smoke alarms that have gone off. You never know what you are go­ing to be called out to, which makes it ex­cit­ing.

Fit­ting it all in…

I can move my shifts around, so as long as I com­ply to the 80-hour-a-week con­tract, I can shuf­fle that around. I tend to have a morn­ing or an af­ter­noon off, so I can get rid­ing done. It’s a lot of jug­gling around, but you get into a sys­tem. I’ve been do­ing it for seven years now and you get used to it. It doesn’t really in­ter­fere with my day job, but it can dis­rupt my sleep. It’s two al­ter­na­tive uni­verses. One minute I’m fly­ing around the lanes in the fire en­gine and then I’m back in the horse­box hav­ing to re­mem­ber to drive slowly with the horses in the back.

How I got into fire-fight­ing…

I’m Aus­tralian and in Aus­tralia you spend time help­ing out at your lo­cal fire brigade so that you know how to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment dur­ing fires. I moved to the UK in 1985 and, af­ter trav­el­ling around a lot, I de­cided to set­tle here. I wanted to be a part of the com­mu­nity and give some­thing back, so I de­cided to join the fire brigade.

My typ­i­cal day…

I go off call at 5am. If I’m at home and in bed, that’s when my alarm goes off. I head to the gym for an hour and get back at 7am. I then feed or catch the horses and bring them in be­fore do­ing the school run. I come back and ride two or three horses, and then

“You never know what you are go­ing to be called out to, which makes it ex­cit­ing”

teach in the af­ter­noon or vice versa. Then it’s back to the school run later that af­ter­noon. There are al­ways jobs that need do­ing on the yard if there’s any spare time, such as pad­docks that need top­ping, hay that needs mov­ing, cour­ses that need build­ing for clear-round jump­ing and staff train­ing. Evening-wise, I spend time at the fire sta­tion or at home do­ing of­fice work be­tween 6pm and 8pm, and then try to sit down and re­lax for a cou­ple of hours be­fore bed.

Find­ing time to eat…

I eat gra­nola and a smoothie for break­fast and lunch is usu­ally a sand­wich, which I grab from home and eat on the go. My din­ner is usu­ally some­thing heated up in the mi­crowave. I like to cook when I get the chance, but be­cause my son needs to eat at reg­u­lar times, my wife will gen­er­ally do the cook­ing. Fresh meat and veg­eta­bles or sal­ads is our sta­ple diet. Be­cause of the busy life­style, it’s im­por­tant that you are eat­ing some­thing good for you.

The best part of my jobs…

I love the busy life that comes with hav­ing horses and go­ing away to events. Be­ing able to ride ev­ery day is great. I don’t mind the fact that I start at 5am and go through un­til 10pm, be­cause it means I have the priv­i­lege of hav­ing it all on my doorstep. I love the ex­cite­ment of the fire brigade and turn­ing up some­where not know­ing what’s go­ing to be there. It’s also great be­ing able to help peo­ple.

And the worst parts…

The worst part of event­ing was break­ing my shoul­der mid-sea­son. I came off and had 10 bro­ken ribs, a bro­ken shoul­der and a punc­tured lung, but I was back com­pet­ing eight weeks later. I had to be­cause I’d qual­i­fied for the novice cham­pi­onships at the Fes­ti­val of Bri­tish Event­ing (Gat­combe), which was my in­spi­ra­tion to get fit again. The worst part about be­ing in the fire brigade is get­ting a call, rush­ing down and get­ting in the truck and then be­ing stood down. It’s great in a way, be­cause the prob­lem has been solved, but you’re all pumped up and ready and the adrenaline is fly­ing. Then you have to sit down and try to wind down.

Switch­ing off…

I like watch­ing movies to switch off, but I never get past the first 20 min­utes be­fore fall­ing asleep. I am the most knowl­edge­able per­son I know when it comes to the first 20 min­utes of a film. Down­time can be tak­ing my son out for a ride on his pony and do­ing coun­try pur­suits. I try to go moun­tain bik­ing three or four times a week too.

NEXT MONTH The Lon­don-based chef with two chil­dren and a su­per-early alarm call.

PHOTO: ED­DIE HOWLAND

Ben and his fel­low firefighters never know where they might be called to next Ben h as t he m orn­ing or af­ter­noon off-call so t hat h e c an ride S R E H T A E L N E B : O T O H P

As well as com­pet­ing in event­ing, Ben runs a train­ing and liv­ery yard

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