Saturday, August 1, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Awhile ago, my mom and I went to audit a dressage clinic. It was held at a local barn -- the one where we boarded for two or three years when we very first got into horses. We hadn't been out there for a couple years, so driving down that gravel road and walking through the aisles brought back a lot of memories.

Really. I swear old boarding barns are like ex-boyfriends. (Or girlfriends, I suppose.)

At first, everything is great. What a fantastic place! Beautiful, close to home, well-maintained, an ideal price range, flexible, friendly and with a satisfactory answer to your every concern. You tell all your friends how excited you are. You're torn between bragging all about it to fellow horse people to show them how lucky you are, and keeping quiet because you don't want to share.

You move your horses and all your stuff to the new place, practically singing with joy. Each time you drive down the lovely gravel road to the new place, you think to yourself how lucky you are to have a boarding barn where you get x, y, and z benefits. No other barn in the area has such an impressively large arena. But of course, size isn't the most important consideration.

As the weeks fade into months, you settle into a comfortable existence. Sure, they don't sweep the aisles as often as you'd like, and the barn dog is kind of annoying when he runs behind your horse, and they're not too timely about fixing fences. But this is what you know and love: you couldn't possibly imagine being somewhere with a smaller arena, without the beautiful layout of the place, without the spacious stalls and perfect location. No, you're perfectly happy where you are.

But then some more time goes by. You start getting into disagreements - small ones, but they begin to wear at your illusion of perfection. You grumble as you drive out the long, dusty gravel road to reach the barn. The hot water in the wash rack has gradually come to a dribble, with no repairs in sight. Your horses have been in for a week because there's a board missing on one of the paddocks. That stupid barn dog will not leave your horse alone, and no matter how many times you ask, they just won't keep it out of the barn.

"Okay," you say, "enough is enough." Ah, that frustrated monologue you have with yourself on the long, dusty, potholed, windy gravel road, chewing out your boarding barn in the privacy of your car. "You never listen to me, you're always leaving stuff all over that I have to pick up, and you're just not taking care of my horses! I'm sick of it!"

But breaking up is hard to do. So you wait a few weeks, or months, while you mutter and grumble and the barn dog attempts to teach your horse to be terrified of all dogs ever. You start looking for a backup place, unless you are capable of slinking back home with your tail between your legs, which doesn't sound much better than staying here. You surreptitiously begin to move some of your extra stuff home.

So eventually you buck up and do it. Either it goes well or it doesn't - sometimes it's quiet and simple, sometimes you find yourself moving out about a month before you expected. You try to leave things on a good note, because the world is small and the horse world is smaller yet.

But it's okay, because you found this new place, and it's fantastic! You tell all your friends how excited you are. . .

Sometimes you go back and visit an old one, for one reason or another. Clinics, shows, maybe a mutual friend boards there now. It's easy to remember all the good times when you're unhappy with your current situation. "Oh, it wasn't all that bad," we began to say when we visited that barn for the clinic. "And wow, I'd forgotten how amazing this arena is." Then, of course, we remembered all the reasons we'd left, which hadn't changed much if at all. And so we came back to our senses.

But breaking up really is hard to do. More on that later. . .


Andrea said...

Man do I ever agree with you. The first barn I boarded at I THOUGHT was great - I was close friends with the trainer's kids and all the other kids there, horses were out allllll day, we had tons of fun! Except then I got a little older, and wondered why every horse on the property only ate sweet feed. Why every stall only had the tiniest sprinkle of sawdust right in the middle... just enough to soak up pee, and not a shaving more. Why my horses got hock and pastern sores from laying down. Why they looked ribby and had huge potbellies. Why their feet looked a right mess. Why dressage was putting your hands on the saddle and kicking, and why jumping was just making it from one side of the fence to the other as fast as you could. Why the arena was never, ever, ever, ever dragged or watered, for years and years and years. Why boarder horses were being used without permission in lessons with other students. Why my horse that was on very strict stall rest was
regularly getting turned out.

I got into a few rows with the trainer's kids long after I left, and while we've sort of made up since then, it can still be a little tense. They tend to be REALLY mean to people who have left for any legitimate reason. And I mean REALLY, REALLY cruel. Here's the kicker: both my geldings are buried on this property. So I am more torn about being able to go back and visit than is even possible to say.

manymisadventures said...

Isn't it a good feeling to know you got out, though?

When I think about all the stuff I DIDN'T know when we first started, it's terrible. I would have done so many things differently. I guess it's all part of the learning process.

Bummer that you're stuck between a rock and a hard place. No way to make amends with the kids? Probably not, but at least you could visit your geldings in peace.

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