Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Boarding Has Become a Pain

I love my horses...  oh do I love them!  Unfortunately, I don't have my own farm with a nice barn and pastures.  I must board...  Here lately, I've been cursing boarding barns and wishing I didn't have to board, but that would mean giving up my horses.  So instead I suffer with boarding.

The barn I was at until June of this year was nice.  The horses were pretty well taken care of and the facilities were nice.  A few things transpired that I didn't like, and I thought the cost was a little high for the area.  So I moved to a less expensive place with less than adequate facilities.  AJ lost weight, and I didn't have a decent place to ride.  The water only worked half the time, but the people there were really nice.  I only stayed there until August after finding the the place I'm at now....  For reasons we are all well aware of, I find myself shopping around for board once again.

What they all have in common is none of them are perfect. Is there such a thing as a perfect barn?  Probably not, but I'd like to get pretty darn close!

I looked at another place today and wasn't impressed.  It was the place I had the highest hopes for, but it was a bit of a letdown.  The horses looked to be in good shape, the fences were decent, and one of my favorite trails, the American Tobacco Trail, is very close by and accessible near the property.  The owner was very nice and said the boarders get together often and trail ride on the ATT.  They'll also haul off the property on a Saturday or Sunday and ride at other nearby places.  It sounded like a lot of fun, without a lot of drama. 

There are two 4 acre pastures, (and they looked smaller than that to me) and she keeps 5 horses on each one.  It seemed a little crowded to me...  She does put out round bales to supplement the grass, but there wasn't much grass to speak of.  Her ad said "lush, green pastures".  Umm, not quite.  It isn't a big deal, though, since she puts hay out.  There's a lean-to attached to the barn for shelter, but no designated area for grooming or bathing.  I'd be fighting off the other horses in the pasture to groom or give Lilly a bath (in the mud along the fence line).  She said I had the option of putting the 3 stall board horses in the stalls, and putting AJ in a smaller enclosed area while I work with Lilly, but who wants to do that every time I want to groom or ride?

There's no arena, but I'm free to ride in the pasture after doing the same thing noted above...  or I can ride in the side yard.  She said she's having an arena put up, but the area she showed me is quite small, and from what I gathered, the horses will still have access to that area.  Nothing like what I have at my current place.

She does offer a multiple horse discount, so I would be paying the exact same amount as I'm paying now.  She doesn't charge for trailer parking either.  I told her I'd get back with her in the next couple of days and let her know, but about 3 hours after our meeting, she called to say she had another person who was interested. She can only take on 2 more horses so she wanted to know if I wanted her to hold 2 spots for me.  Well I haven't decided yet, so I told her to show the property and let me know if the spots were still available.

I want my current place to work out so bad I could scream!  The place itself is perfect and has potential to be the best boarding barn I've ever boarded with.  Unfortunately, the BO makes sure everyone is miserable, including the horses.

I was chatting with AJ's pasture buddy's mom today and she's not very happy either.  I believe she's looking for other boarding barns as well.  If we all stayed, she'd be part of the co-op we've been talking about, but there would still only be 3 of us (so far).  One of them would feed in the AM, and the other in the PM.  I'd earn my keep by doing random chores like cleaning stalls, getting feed ready, filling water buckets, etc.  I just don't know if I want to do co-op...  I love the idea of my horses actually being cared for and fed, but boarding is also about convenience.  Sometimes I can't make it to the barn, and other days I just don't feel like going.  Maybe I'm tired, maybe I'm sick, maybe I'm on vacation...  the joys of boarding is that someone else is watching over your horses for you, feeding them, watering them and making sure you don't have to go every day.  If I embarked on this co-op, I'd have to go every single day.

I've thought about bringing AJ in on the co-op too, but not stalling him.  I'd pay the co-op price but leave him outside and only bring him in when we have really bad weather.  But again, I'd still have to go every day.

I have emailed the BO to see what my options are as far as perhaps a pasture board situation where I buy the hay and grain.  That way, the horses will get what I want them to get without having to beg or pay extra.  AJ and Lilly could be pastured together down the hill and all would be rosy...  I would still need him to feed them, though.

So many options...  none of them being perfect.  Perfect would be me paying the agreed upon price, the BO providing the services we agreed on (hay twice per day), and watching over my horses.  You know, to include things like calling me when Lilly is lame... 


  1. I think your going to want an area to ride in a month or two, and having to move 3 or more horses around to do so would suck. Do you think that someone would eventuly put a manager of some sort in there? Or could you get enough borders that you could work out a rotating scedual?

    Im not happy with the indoor at the current place, so I can understand what your thinking about, but the quality of care is excelent. I dont know what I would do if it wasnt.

  2. Not having a nice arena is one of the reasons I left the last place. It's really important to me that I have a nice place to ride. Especially after waiting all this time to ride and get ready to show again!

    I'm hoping the place sells... and whoever takes over lets all the boarders stay and runs the place like it should be. The co-op will have to work for now, but we really need more than 3 people to make that successful I think.

    I wish I had the time to volunteer myself to take over the duties of barn manager, but there's no way.

    Quality care is definitely important... more so than my need for an arena, but I want to find a good balance of facilities and care.

  3. those places DO exist I promise! I am at one of them!! I left a reallly crappy situation and was so scared Id get myself into something worse but since Ive been gone I really cant believe I stayed as long as I did! Keep searching! You will find something!!

  4. Thanks, Ashley! I'd like to think there's a barn around here somewhere I could love...

    I'm sure I could find one if I wanted to pay a fortune! :)

  5. You have my sympathies, little one. That is exactly what drove us to build our own facility. We boarded for 30+ years while working. Our city kept expanding, barns turned into developments, and the remaining barns had captive clients with nowhere to go. The care got worse and worse. We were babysitting our horses, supplementing their feed, scared of what we'd find every day, and paying an arm and a leg for the privilege. Now we have our own place, we're slaves to our horses, but they are happy and well.

  6. That settles it... I'm bringing my horses to you, Terry!

    Your experiences sound a lot like what I'm going through. I wish I had a place like yours, or even like my current barn. It boggles my mind how people can have a nice place, but just not care.

  7. I think Justaplainsam is right, you will miss having a nice riding arena I think. It would be one thing if Lilly (and AJ) were exclusively used for trail riding and no showing, but those darn shows mean lots of practice and without an arena...ouch.

    I feel so bad that you're in this predicament. Honestly, I never really thought about the issues that come along with finding a nice facility for my future horses. I think I always assumed it would be easy and fun to find a barn...I think you're proving to me that in reality, it's a huge P.I.T.A (Pain in the a$$)just full of frustrating ups and downs.

    :( I hope that the current B.O. is able to sell quickly and that the new owners are motivated and responsible B.O.s

  8. My idea (or two cents). Are there other places around you that you havent looked at because of price? If thats the case, why dont you contact them anyways and see if there is a multiple horse discount? Sometimes you cna get lucky too and (if your willing to) work off part of board.

    I have never had the finances to pay for an expensive place (expensive to me being 350+). So I moved from mediocre place to mediocre place, always not 100% happy. Finally, I was at a bad situation where Milo wasnt getting fed properly, I felt Ihad to go there everyday to make sure hes safe, etc (much like your current situation). I ended up calling around to all the "nice" barns around hoping someone would let me work off board.

    I got lucky. I called the place Im at now, and asked if she was looking for some part time work to reduce board. I gave her references for my work ethic. She didnt have anything open at the time, but I asked her to save my # for reference, not really thinking anything would happen. Three weeks later I got a call from her that she had an opening in the main barn and an opportunity to work - on day a week cleaning two pastures. I can pick the day. It reduced my board by $125. Through the winter, Milo was in the indoor with a run. SHe had an opening in the pasture in the summer so I jumped on that. I paid only $200 for summer boarding. Then we were able to make it a permenant pasture board. This place has an indoor arena, huge main barn with tack storage, heated wash rack, oudoor round pen, huge outdoor arena, and access to tons and tons of trails.

    I got lucky because I called around to places I had previously not even considered.

    So, have you done that? Or is working off part board not an option?

  9. JJ, I will definitely miss a riding ring... a nice, dedicated area where I can work Lilly. Like you said, shows take a lot of work and I want a nice arena where I can practice.

    I'm sure others have had perfectly good experiences with boarding and finding the perfect barn. I seem to have a lot of caveats that make it more of a challenge (like having two horses, one needing pasture board).

    Thank you for your well wishes, and I hope you have better luck when you get your horse! :)

    Milo, thank you so much for such a detailed response!

    I've paid just shy of $700 per month to board both of my horses and I did that for a long time. That was when I started looking around for a place that's just as nice, but cheaper. (Got student loans coming next year!) So while I won't say money isn't a factor, because it certainly is, the biggest hurdle for me is that I have two horses, so everything is doubled. It would be very easy for me to find a nice place for Lilly for $500 or $600, but when you add AJ and multiply that number by 2, it's out of my price range.

    So while there are some nicer barns that are out of my price range (ones I haven't even contacted), they might be able to work with me some on the price, but I'm not sure they could do enough to make boarding two horses there affordable. A lot of the nicer barns don't offer pasture board either, so my options become limited from that as well.

    You've motivated me to contact those places anyway... perhaps they will offer pasture board but don't list it in their ad or advertise it on their website. Perhaps they'll laugh in my face, but at least I can say they're definitely off the list.

    I wouldn't mind working off board costs. I could go over a couple times per week and help out to have my board reduced. I usually don't even ask, but it could get me in to one of the more expensive barns in the area.

    Thanks again!

  10. in2paints - I understand the issue of double costs. And the factor of wanting pasture board. I know in my situation, they do NOT advertise pasture board. And Milo was in a stall and run for the winter. But it did get my foot in the door at the facility and a good rep with the BO. So I was able to leap on the opportunity of pasture board first.

    And like you mentioned, worst thing is that you know that a place is for sure off the list. But I would personally feel better about rounding all of the bases instead of assuming one wouldnt work.

    Keep us updated!

  11. Thanks, Milo... sometimes getting in the door is the best way to find that perfect situation. :)