There's an excellent post over at the 7MSN Ranch about auditing a Mark Rashid clinic - it really captures the "feel" of the experience, in words and photos. I did a series of posts a while ago - see my sidebar - about auditing one of Mark's clinics back in July.
And Jill has just done another excellent post over at Buckskin and Bay - this one is on the concept of your horse being "with you". I found it very helpful - see what you think!
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The recent "kerfluffle" at our barn has gotten me thinking. I can be slow on the uptake, and sometimes I have to be hit over the head with a board (metaphorically) before I sit up, look around and realize where I am. What the upset made me realize is that the barn isn't mine - never has been and never will be - it's just a place where I board my horses. Now under the circumstances, it wasn't wrong for the others to point this out to me - sometimes I do act like it's mine in an unthinking way, but I think it's less about having things my own way (although there's undoubtedly an element of that) and more about the strong identification I have with the place and my dedication to the quality of care all the horses, not just mine, receive there.
But it isn't mine. And because it isn't mine and never will be, the things that are troubling me about the place aren't going to go away. I did a post a while back about my struggles in thinking about the barn - "What Do You Do?" Part of my solution to my problems taking care of 5 horses was to send two of them to a wonderful retirement farm in Tennessee - Paradigm Farms - where they are doing very well. But although it's a relief to only have 3 horses of my own to take care of, the other issues with the barn aren't getting any better.
But just dream with me for a moment - if it were mine, all 16 acres of it, and if I had the money, here's what I'd do. First I'd take a bulldozer and level the existing barn - it's a poorly designed and constructed wooden barn with extremely high maintenance costs - I'd replace it with a lovely steel Morton barn, on the highest point in the center of the property - and it probably would be a smaller barn just for the most senior and injured/ill horses. Then, I'd take out all of the interior fencing, and maybe the exterior fencing too (although a nice exterior board fence would be good) - our fencing is a huge maintenance cost as it was poorly planned and constructed in the first place and we've been replacing boards and posts piecemeal. I'd reconfigure the pastures so they were spokes leading from the barn, so access from each pasture to the barn would be easy and quick - so low time/labor costs for turnout/bring-in. The fencing would be lower cost and lower maintenance while being as safe as possible. I'd build nice loafing sheds in each of the pastures so most of the horses could be out 24/7, again substantially reducing labor costs. Where the old barn had been - a nice level spot - I'd build an adequate, not huge, indoor arena, with an attached tackroom/saddling area. I'd completely dig up and redo the drainage and footing in our outdoor arena, while is essentially a bunch of sand dumped onto dirt and has terrible drainage and poor footing most of the time.
Now, back to reality - those things aren't going to happen. Even if I had the money, which I don't, the property's locked up in a non-profit and can't be sold. There is also no way that we can afford the improvements I described - the barn lives hand to mouth as it is and higher board isn't an option. My husband and I have been doing excessive amounts of volunteer labor for a long time - many years - and doing it as a gift - there's no benefit to us from all of our investment of time and effort into the property. Although I love the community we live in, and having the horses so close to my house, we can't (and shouldn't) continue to do the work we do to keep the place going - it just isn't worth it and maybe it never was.
Now the options are - get our own place, either here in our area or elsewhere in the country, or find another place to keep our horses. Having our own place here doesn't seem like a really good option - we love our community. Also, if I were to get a place, it would be in a warmer climate. We're locked in place right now anyway due to the fact we have private insurance and my husband has some health issues that would prevent us obtaining a new policy in another state (hello Washington - how about some health care reform?) - so we need to stay put at least until he's Medicare eligible. And we're getting a little old for having our own place anyway, unless we can find something reasonably priced so we can afford to hire the labor we can't do ourselves.
Boarding elsewhere is also an option. There are lots of horse facilities in our area, although many are of the high price/low value (fancy for people but not so good for horses) type, and I also need a place that can accommodate my doing my own training, and a place with an indoor jam packed with kids taking jumping lessons isn't going to do it. The ideal place would be a small private facility that would allow me access to a quiet indoor in the winter, and with a decent outdoor arena for the summer, and adequate (or 24/7) turnout with safe fencing and quality supervision. I may just be dreaming when it comes to that too, but I'm starting to explore my options.
If there are options I haven't thought of, let me know - things are going to have to change soon, for the better.