Happy Thanksgiving!

I am very Thankful to have my Gen! I am also thankful to all of my amazing horsey friends. From tack store trips, to clinic buddies, to sending me a new sheet for Gen, I could not ask for any better people in my life online and in person. You all have been amazing this past year. I am trying very hard to be thankful for this break from riding I am currently having, trying being the operative word! I know I am a total Debbie Downer these days, but I really am grateful to live this amazing life I lead.

Free Gennyral :P

20131127-160216.jpg

Like most places on the east coast it is cold and rainy here today. From the mud pattern my horse was outside for a few hours this morning. Now that he is cozy and dry in his stall he is starting to think a couple of hours isn’t going to cut it 😛 my pointing to his massive pile of hay is doing little to convince him that he really would rather be inside!

10 ways to be a good horse boarder

So I figured I would take a break from my depressing posts as of late and do something a little bit lighter hearted. I am often called a “dream boarder” which always makes me laugh because both Gen and I are high maintenance. Granted we have both calmed down a lot over the years, but between my anxiety and Gen’s demandingness and ability to hurt himself in the most unlikely of places, we should be anything but! I work hard at being a good boarder and literally could go back to any place I have ever boarded at, which I think is saying something. I have a pretty good boarder reputation as well so I know that my dear Gen will never have to go homeless. It is not easy at times to always leave things in a good place, but I thought I would share 10 tips with you about being a good boarder. Please feel free to add on to this list in comments as well if I forget anything.

1) Be honest with the farm management before you even move in. As much as I think my dear Gen is angel, I know that he has his moments. I always ask about the staff that handles the horses and the feeding situation before moving him in. Not only would it be dangerous to have an inexperienced person try and bring Gen in on an off day, it could lead to potential injury which could cost the farm a lot of money. If I tell them my horse can be a jerk some times, and they admit that they can handle it, and then he is a jerk it is usually no big deal. If I say he is perfect and one day he is a fire breathing dragon that is not going to be good for anyone. I also know that my horse can be food aggressive and will destroy a stall if he is sandwiched in between two horses. If I tell them that going in, they will usually do something to try and accommodate him instead of getting mad he is kicking down his stall.

2) If you are going to leave, give the barn a time line, talk to them in person, and also put it in writing. I think “exit strategies” are highly important. It is the last impression you leave and is often where things go wrong. ALWAYS GIVE 30 DAYS PAY. Always. Even if they are terrible and you are worried your horse is in danger and you cannot let them live there for another day. If there is a problem that you cannot resolve and must leave the same day you should suck up the expense and just pay because then they literally cannot say anything bad about you if you do that. You will have taken the high road. Barns are businesses and they are counting on a certain amount of income each month. You obviously saw something good in the barn when you moved in, so be classy moving out. I also say to talk to the person in charge if possible, a text saying you are moving out can seem cold, even if it isn’t meant to be.

3) If you see a mistake once, try and be rational about it. Believe me, I know what it is like to walk in to a barn and see that your horses water buckets are bone dry with your horse banging around on them, clearly thirsty. Of course I see red and start freaking out when that happens…I am human. My first instinct is to find someone and yell about it. What I do instead is simply take some deep breaths and fill up the water buckets myself. As hard as it is to do, I will contact someone about it in a nice way. Instead of, “I PAY YOU TO TAKE CARE OF MY HORSE AND YOU ARE NOT DOING IT” I go for the “Hey, I got to the barn and Gen didn’t have water (or his stall was filthy, or his halter and boots were still on in his stall, etc) which isn’t like you guys. You don’t usually make mistakes like that, is everything okay”. I know how infuriating it can be if they are not “taking ownership for mistake kind of people” and call you a liar, but even if they are, you pointed out the mistake and odds are damn good it will not be repeated.

4) Communicate with the barn when you have people coming in to see your horse. Whether it be someone coming in to get a pony ride, your normal vet visit, or some equine specialist it can be stressful to have other people at the barn. You might not realize that you scheduled a lesson for the same time as 3 other people, or that 4 farriers are showing up to the barn at the same time. The best way to avoid all that is to communicate. I have found that a white board in the barn is a great way to just make everyone aware. A simple thing like “bringing friends by Thursday at 4 to meet Gen” or “Gen getting fall shots Tuesday at 11” on the board can help to avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.

5) Follow the barn rules. This one sounds easy, but can be really hard, especially if you don’t agree with the rule, or if it is something new that got put in to place and you feel like it is an attack on you. I know some barns have very few rules, and others have 2 pages worth. Just try and remember that the rules are there for a reason, even if you don’t like the reason, and that you are going in to someone else’s space. Think of it like going in to someone else’s house. You wouldn’t want someone coming in to your house and messing with your flow of things would you? Also remember that if you feel like the new rule is against something you do, it is not personal, you just happen to be doing something that is making barn management crazy! I also think it is fine to talk to someone about a rule, but until you hear otherwise I would advise you to adhere to it.

6) Talk to the barn management before talking to fellow boarders about an issue. Not happy with the new barn worker? Think someone might be taking your stuff? Tired of riding with someone who has no concept of the ring rules? You should always talk to barn management first. ALWAYS. Even if you see boarders every day and management only once a week. Even something simple like, “I feel like (insert boarder here) has been going in to my tack trunk and I want to talk to them about it” can avoid a lot of drama. Barn management might also not be thrilled with the new worker, or aware that this other boarder has been accused of stealing in the past, and they probably have gotten other complaints about people getting run over in the ring. For all you know, they might already have a plan in place to get the person out. You also don’t want the other person to go running to them saying that you are harassing them and end up in trouble yourself. Some of the least fun places to board at are places where it is a management vs. boarders mentality. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to management, maybe that isn’t the right barn for you.

7) Be realistic with your expectations. In my area, if you are paying $700 a month for a place with an indoor, you are out of your mind if you think your horse should get two blanket changes a day and their legs hosed off when they come in. If you can find a place that does that, that is great, but realistically you need to be paying at least $1,000 a month for that to happen by me. If you are going to be boarding at someone’s back yard barn, don’t expect that person to run their barn with the same precision and timing that a 100 stall place with 10 staff members does. Is your horse really going to die if they eat breakfast at 8:30 on weekends instead of 7:00? What can you live with and what is a deal breaker? For me, I pay for a good situation for Gen because I need to be called or sent a picture text when he has a boo boo. I need to be at a place that is willing to find a way to get someone at the barn every 2 hours to put in eye ointment if he needs it, but on the flip side I also know it is a family run place and sometimes they just can’t make it work. As long as they tell me they need help, I will find a way, but that is me. You need to figure out what you can live with. Not sure if you are being realistic? Ask your friends or go to other barns in your area and ask what services they provide for their price.

8) Keep your riding/training opinions to yourself. Period. Think Parelli is crap? That’s fine, as long as they are not doing it to your horse, it is none of your business. Can’t stand the trainer who comes in to the barn? Unless you are being forced to take lessons with them just ignore it, and even then usually you can buy out of the lessons. If someone asks you training questions you can just say, “that’s a good one, why don’t you ask your trainer” or even, “I do xyz with my horse, but just because it was right for him doesn’t mean it is right for you or your horse”. If they are doing somthing with your horse that you are not comfortable with, ask them why they feel like they need to do it. If you don’t agree with their reasoning, ask them politely to stop. It is your horse and you are responsible for how you want it trained. If they don’t respect your request it is probably time to employ that exit strategy we spoke about above.

9) RESPECT EVERYONE OPINIONS, EVEN IF YOU THINK THEY SUCK. It sounds so easy, but it can be really, really hard to respect other peoples opinions. Some people think I am nuts for loving true barefoot trimming (not just having a farrier trim). I think some people are nuts for riding horses who are obviously lame. You know how frustrating it is to listen to people justify things which put horses in harms way, but sometimes you just need to learn to live with the fact you will never agree with this person. The cool thing about horse people is that for the most part they are confident, passionate, and hold strong opinions. The flip side is that, sometimes, the worst part about horse people is that they are confident, passionate and have strong opinions. You can be respectful when hearing about other people’s opinions without agreeing with them. Listen to what they have to say, say what you feel compelled to say and know that sometimes in life you are just going to have to agree to disagree. There is no shame in being a second to last word person.

10) Spend a day helping out at the farm. Honestly, this is hands down the best way to get good boarder points. Not only is it a really, really nice thing to do, but it will help keep things in perspective for you. Don’t feel like 4 supplements a meal should be a big a deal? Can’t fathom why your horse had a cut and no one noticed? Not sure why there was grumbling when you asked to have a fly sheet put on? Spend a day in their shoes and still feel if you think the same way. If you can give then barn managers a day off they will love you forever and I know from experience it is a really great way to keep things in perspective and remind myself that we are ALL human.

So I know that this was a NOVEL, and I didn’t even go in to making sure your board is paid on time or that you give the barn what they need in order to take care of your horse (i.e. if you want to give a horse a supplement, it isn’t the barns responsibility to keep it in stock at the barn). Those are just the 10 things that I think make up a good boarder.

Not so snug and muffin tops…

I got a text at 7 this morning. Normally by 7am on a Sunday I would be sorting laundry, cleaning bathrooms and just other domesticness. Today? I was sleeping! I woke up to a text that was an hour old saying that my pony was cold! Poor Gen!

I try and keep Gen naked, but the Barn Owner likes to blanket him when it gets really cold. With it being 60 degrees and sunny just two days ago I hadn’t thought to bring Gen’s clean blankets down from my trailer. Now I was sleeping in and my poor pony was freezing for an hour!

When I finally got back to the Barn Owner she assured me that the problem had been resolved and just to bring the blankets down today. Even though it was in the 20s with massive wind, I had just assumed that Gen was warming up outside in the sun.

When I got to the barn I was in for a laugh. The problem had been resolved by Gen borrowing the Barn Owners Mares sheet…which was a little too small on him.

Had Gen managed to stand still at all (he loves chasing the wind) I would have gotten you the most adorable picture ever…Gen with the equine equivalent of a muffin too! Alas all I got was a blur if blue with a white streak coming out.

Even with his belly hanging out my horse looks adorable! I don’t know how he does it!

Thankfully the sheet had done the trick and he wasn’t cold or shivering anymore. I was able to switch it out for his real sheet…which covers all of him with no harm done.

Snug as a bug in a rug

20131123-185359.jpg

Some days time is in short supply so I just drop in for a quick Gen visit. I was on my way out tonight and worried he was going to get cold. As you can see my boy is naked, happy and enjoying a pile if hay. Seeing him all content will put a smile on my face any day!

If I had a million dollars – part 2

So I actually had a whole different post written for this part 2. I was going to post it on the same day I ended my lease with Lucky. I looked it over again to post it today, and honestly, everything is different now so it just didn’t make sense anymore. I am going to start over with my new, down to one horse perspective and see if I can’t explain some of the financial stuff that played a part in my life with Lucky.

Unless you are very, very wealthy having a horse is a pretty noticeable part of your monthly expenses. Between board, supplements, lessons and showing it is easy to spend as much as a typical person’s mortgage payment on our hobby every month. I thankfully earned a scholarship to both college and grad school so I don’t have student loans hanging over my head. Hearing what people pay for those I feel like student loans and horse expenses are often similar in price, although we all know that horses are way less predictable, and hopefully a lot more fun than student loans.

I know this is going to sound horrible, but the truth is that in my long term budgeting I plan for only one horse, not one and a half. It is horrible because I wasn’t expecting Gen to live so long. Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy he has! It is more that financially I didn’t really think I would need to pay for more than one horse long term. I feel like a jerk for even writing that by the way. I don’t want to sound ungrateful that Gen is still around! Especially now that he is responsible for so much of my sanity at the moment 😛

Anyone that knows me will attest to the fact that I am a budgeter. My salary is a matter of public record so every once and a while I get a text from a friend that will say, “I just looked you up online…how do you not make more money” or my all-time favorite “Saw your salary, you can literally multiply your salary by 2 and still not make as much as me”. While I am by no means a financial guru, nor do I think my finances are perfect, I think I do a pretty good job most of the time.

I think a big part of my current frustration is that I have had a lot of unexpected expenses this year. 2013 has been a rough one for my wallet. From a major home expense this summer, to Gen getting sick and Lucky getting hurt I just couldn’t seem to catch up. Just this month alone my dishwasher broke (thank goodness my family rocks and came together to give me a new one as an early Christmas present), my garbage disposal broke (thankfully I am pretty handy so I was able to fix it for just the $110 cost of parts) and my car is having trouble (not sure yet how much that one is going to cost me). That is life though. Unexpected expenses happen all the time.

Owning a horse I have learned that I can live without a lot of things. I prioritize my expenses and do a lot of need versus want. Most of the time I am totally fine with my strict budget, but sometimes, like when I was paying to ride and couldn’t ride, I start to get frustrated. I give up a lot to own and lease a horse, from simple things like having to say no sometimes when my friends are going out to do something fun, to more complicated things like dealing with broken or not working appliances, etc at home because I just can’t afford to get them fixed right away. I know that most everyone out there reading this feels the same way.

I am lucky in that I really don’t have to go without “needs” very often, which I know is more than a lot of fellow horse owners, but I think we can all agree that there are a lot of “wants” that are just never going to happen. I am not to fussed about my appearance so I normally don’t mind super gluing a pair of shoes back together to get a few more weeks of wear out of them or having a lip gloss that is all wrong for my coloring because it was on sale for $1. That is what it takes for me to ride and normally that is fine by me.

I think that is one of the reasons I get so frustrated with people who make the horse thing look so easy. It really is a struggle sometimes for me to stay in the tack. I have given up living a “comfortable” life so that I can ride. It is not something I am complaining about. It is a choice that I made. I still get to do a lot, but how much things cost is always something on my mind. There are also a lot of things that I just can’t do because I can’t justify the expense. I get my hair cut every few years because I could never justify paying for a nice cut when I can get it for cheap, or almost free if I just do a locks of love donation. I never pay full price for clothes, I literally have a clothing budget of $200 a year for clothes, shoes, accessories, etc and that is with riding gear included. Does it make more sense now why I get so excited when I get new breeches?

I can afford to half lease, but sometimes it feels like just barely. I am the kind of person who would rather go without than to have more bills than I can handle. I don’t mind canceling my home internet for a few months or keeping my heat at 60 degrees in the winter because getting to ride makes up for that to me. I think what I am starting to think about is if it is worth it to me anymore. Maybe I am just so down about riding because I haven’t been doing it. Maybe I am starting to realize that counting every penny is just not something I want to do anymore. A few hundred for a half lease might not sound like much, but to me it is.

I guess that is pretty much the point of this post. If riding were free I would get another horse right now. It isn’t though. I know I am not the only who has to watch what I spend. What sort of stuff do you go without? If I could have any one luxury item in the world it would be to have a cleaning person come by every other week. Maybe in a life without horses I could afford that. As long as I have them though that is so never going to happen. Does anyone else feel frustrated with how expensive it is to own a horse?

Hmmm…

Thank you for all your kind comments. I think you all might be on to something. I am not really quiting, just waiting. If another opportunity never comes along so be it. Maybe I just need to phrase it for myself that all I am going to say for now is that I am just not looking.