In looking at all this, and thinking more about what I really want out of my relationship with horses, I'm coming to the conclusion that I both want less, and more. Some of you may have read my earlier post about losing the thread. Less heavy work involving horse care - I'm not really physically up to a lot of the work now - stall shoveling, dealing with frozen water tanks, and doing the morning job which involves a fair amount of hard work. Our barn is not my barn and never will be, and I really don't want to find another place to live so I can keep my horses at home, although this might have been ideal when I was younger. I also find that all the heavy labor leaves me without the energy to do what I really want to do, which is work consistently with my horses, year-round. But I'd also like to have the chance to take a break now and then and know my horses are cared for. I've decided to give up my morning job no later than September 1 - Scout and Joe's owner may be interested in filling in some over the summer and might even take the job in the fall.
Our barn has no indoor, which is one of its biggest deficiencies. There are a number of months every winter, and days when it rains (and days thereafter for our arena with its poor footing) when I can't really ride, and the winter care at our barn is brutal. There is no way to keep horses in consistent work, which makes it difficult to work with Maisie and almost impossible to work with Dawn. And I'm increasingly of a mind that our lush pastures aren't necessarily the advantage they seem to be. Due to Maisie's condition, she probably shouldn't be on grass pastures like ours, and we have none that are skimpy other than one very small paddock occupied by Charisma. We need to do a lot more mowing, but have neither the equipment nor the money to do it when we should. Due to the length of our grass, grazing muzzles just don't work very well.
So I've pretty much decided that, if Maisie recovers well, which I expect she will, I will move her to a nearby barn - the same one my older daughter works at now - it's about a 10-15 minute drive from my house. The barn manager is pretty accommodating and easy-going. There are good points and bad points about this barn - it's considerably more expensive, but has much, much larger stalls - 14'x14' (ours are 10'x12'), nicely bedded. The stalls don't have outside windows, but the ventilation is very good - nice high ceilings and big screens on the ends of the aisles. There are decent sized paddocks, but the horses don't go out all day - usually about 5 hours, but there's an indoor to lunge in if the weather is bad. There is a lovely large indoor, and two outdoors - one with jumps and one without. The rings are dragged and watered daily! The facility is well-maintained. The barn and indoor are somewhat heated in the winter, which I don't prefer but it does have the advantage that horses can be body-clipped and can then work hard without getting excessively chilled if they sweat. There are automatic waterers in the stalls, and the manager watches water consumption closely. There are indoor wash stalls with running hot and cold water. Grass hay is fed 3x a day, and they grow some of their own - the quality is acceptable. They will feed supplements you provide. There are no trails, although there's a big field to ride in and there are nearby trails that are easy to trailer to, and I have my own rig. There are two safety features I really like - hay and equipment are stored in a separate building a good distance from the barn, and the barn has a fire sprinkler system. The guy who supervises the barn labor lives on the property right next to the barn.
It's quiet - there are two trainers with small groups of clients, and some Standardbreds kept for racing by the barn owner. Although it's a pretty traditional hunter/jumper facility, and they undoubtedly do training in ways that might not jibe completely with what I do, there's enough quiet times that I can work in my own way. I might have a chance to actually make some good progress with Maisie, and Dawn if I move her over in the fall after my daughter goes back to college. Working with Dawn everyday, she could be a great riding horse. I will lose some degree of control over my horses' care, but I think they will be well-cared for - and I can ride consistently, devoting my horses hours to working and being with my horses and not just doing heavy labor. The extra hours that will be freed up in the early mornings can be used for other things - reading, writing, photographing and studying nature, all of which I've been short-changing. And the long-suffering husband will no longer have to do any barn work!
It's not perfect, but it'll do, I think. Noble will stay right where he is for the moment - he's the hard-keeper retiree who is the type of horse who benefits from our lush pastures, and I no longer ride him. He won't even miss Maisie (or Dawn), since they aren't in his herd. I think this rearrangement will allow me perhaps to take up the threads of my horse life in a different, and I hope more effective, way.