Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finding The Perfect Place

I have become utterly convinced that finding The Perfect Place is impossible, when you're boarding at least. We left the very first barn we were at because the fencing was dangerous and falling down/held up with baling twine, they spent money on new siding when the roofing and supports were rotting, and they generally had nasty attitudes. Where we're at now, it started off quite wonderfully: they are wonderful and flexible, let us bring our dog out to play with their dogs, let us undertake our own projects, they love the horses, etc. However, they also don't really like the day-to-day hard work like dragging the arena, fixing the fences (they're safe when they're up, but once they're down, they never seem to come back up), figuring out what's wrong with the well so we don't run out of water down at the barn . . .

Yeah. Not very much turnout (the small paddocks that we set up out of electrical tape is it), a smaller arena than I'd like, a disturbing scarcity of water, and a general attitude of apathy towards improvement projects.

So we went and looked at a new place today. The only downfalls I can see are that we can't bring our dog (which I know better than to expect at any boarding place) and it's about 5 minutes further away. They're actively remodeling the old parts of the barn, adding in beautiful new stalls, building a huge tack room . . . basically revamping everything, and doing it right. They have an all-weather round pen (it's nice to have on occasion!), a bigger arena with footing done well, plenty of turnout, and they're working on building runs for the stalls and a new hot water washrack.

I really like the facilities, and I totally love that they're improving the place. Plus we (that being me, my parents, Ellen, and Rose) are always happy to pitch in labor for a project, which I am sure they will appreciate when it comes to building new runs/the washrack/etc. We are always willing to help out when it means improvements to the barn happen faster. Oh, and they also back up to like 300 miles of trails, they're active with Pony Club and go to all kinds of Eventing stuff, and their neighbor across the road sets up small XC fences and lets boarders ride in her field.

We'll see how this pans out -- we're not really into moving without Rose and Ellen -- but honestly I'm ready to give my 30 days notice tomorrow. Fingers crossed for a better boarding situation!

Here' s my biggest requirements for a boarding situation (in vague order of most important to least):
  • Turnout. Safe, preferably daily, preferably large turnout.
  • Arena. Must have a reasonably sized, good-footing-ed, well-maintained indoor (or at least covered outdoor).
  • Attitude. Barn owners must be generally friendly, perfectly willing to do necessary work on the property (yes, if you own a boarding barn, fences will need to be repaired sometimes), and generally flexible about horse care to fit the individual horse.
  • Runs on the stalls. Unless my horse is going out every morning or is out 24/7, I'd prefer that she wasn't stuck in a stall 22.5 hours per day.
  • Washrack. I'm sorry, but I have a grey-white horse, and she needs baths to look presentable for a show.
Things that are wonderful to have and only add to my appreciation:
  • Extra riding space. Trails, fields, whatever - I am SO excited to take McKinna out on those trails that they have. I have a whole summer for riding, and doing trails would be so good for her.
  • A round pen. It's just a nice bonus to have there if you want to use it, though now that I don't have Bailey I'm not quite as reliant on one for groundwork.
  • English-minded owners. Yes, I do very much like it that you have your own standards and cavaletti (though I'll bring mine), and I like that you don't find me strange for riding in such a small scrap of leather masquerading as a saddle.
  • A big tack room. Yes, I can keep my stuff in my trailer, but if I leave leather in the trailer all winter, it will mold. No, I do not want to haul my crap back and forth in the car every day. It's nice to have room for my saddles, bridles, and storage dresser.

I know, I'm not picky at all . . .

What are your big requirements for a boarding barn?


ezra_pandora said...

I totally know what you are talking about with regards to boarding. We are also on our third barn, each of the previous two were dreams when we started there and ended up turning into not so nice places.

Barn #1 - is a super nice place with huge indoor AND outdoor arena's. Nice 10x12 stalls. Cons: You could only ride in the indoor arena (which you had to walk your horse up a really long drive to get to from the stalls) with permission AND only if THEY (the BO and their kids and grandkids) weren't wanting to use it. It was huge and no reason a ton of people couldn't be riding in it, but they always wanted exclusive use, which was always at everyone else's more convenient times as well. Then they tried raising our board and making us sign contracts. Turning out horses: their horses got the bigger, greener pastures while most of the other non-Tennessee Walking Horse boarders got the smaller dry dirt lots. Which I understand they at least got out to run around and burn off energy, but it kind of sucked they never got good grazing. They were fed extremely well with hay and feed though. We had to clean our own stalls and feed once a week, which wasn't a huge deal. Our breaking point was when some guy that had a lot of money came in and basically bought out 1/2 the riding center (they did therapeutic riding for handicapped people as well), and so that gave him the power to make rules for the place, even though he knew NOTHING about horses whatsoever. So we left and went to a really nice barn (so we thought)
Barn #2: Things were wonderful for about the 1st 4 months we were there, then they rapidly slid downhill. It's a super long story, so I won't get into it, but I'll just say the barn owner NEVER had shavings for the stalls, never watered the horses, and when hay started getting more expensive, she wouldn't buy anymore. She'd let the horses graze on weeds in the forrest and she thought that was adequate. Well, when our horses started losing weight (almost 100# each by the time we left) and they are easy keepers, it was time to scoot. Aside from no food, no stall bedding and very inadequate fencing, there was the attitude if you should dare to complain about anything. So, we got out of there to our current barn, which so far is wonderful. We've been there a year now. The owner is a stickler for rules and routine. All horses get fed at the same times every day and the same amount of food. He also does the worming to make sure it's all actually done and at the same time. There is a ferrier that comes to the barn regularly for everyone in the barn. He's excellent. There is a nice sized indoor arena. If you have about 4 or 5 people (who are considerate to each other) riding, that's about the limit, but there's only 8 boarders anyhow :) Everyone is super nice and courteous. The owner grows his own hay, so we don't run out of that at all. He's got 2 huge pastures and a smaller one that he divides all the horses between. Then he's got big hay fields that he cut paths around so that we can ride out there and then there's a bunch of woods at the back of the property that there are trails in as well. So far, everything is great and for a great price. Unfortunately it's like 30-40 minutes from our house, depending on traffic, but you have to do what you have to do I guess :) Good luck with your new barn as well.

manymisadventures said...

That sounds awesome. Yep, both of our barns have been like that too -- wonderful when you first get there, and then it all just kind of goes downhill. The very first place we boarded had a beautiful indoor arena, really big, just gorgeous. I still have to smile when I remember the look on their face when they heard we were bringing in two green OTTBs though...they were QH people. Halter horses.

I'm getting more and more excited to move -- we are moving the 1st of August! As soon as McKinna settles in, I am going to start looking for a trail buddy and hit all the trails on the property :) I'm glad for you that you found such a great place, the owner sounds like a really cool guy.

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