Although we are lucky to have a place where we can (and do) keep horses, we've boarded a horse a few miles from our place for the past four years.
It started out with our daughter who was showing her APHA Gelding, Champ. She needed a place with a covered arena where she could work him regardless of the weather.
We looked at many locations. One fairly new facility was located between her high school and our house. It would be convenient to stop by and work with her horse on her way home. She would then have time to get home to address homework and chores.
The proximity was good but I must say we were a bit hesitant about moving in. The barn represented itself as a Hunter/Jumper/Dressage facility. Our daughter was riding Huntseat and Western Pleasure and not involved nor interested in those disciplines.
Yet we were impressed with the overly spacious stalls, turnout six days a week into large individual pastures and the enclosed indoor arena and space of the outdoor arena with so many lights that it made an evening football game look dim. So in we moved.
As it seems with many kids who ride, within a year our daughter decided she no longer wanted to show. College loomed ahead of her and after showing for many years she was ready to move on with her life.
We didn't pressure her. We'd seen too many kids that had been pressed to continue to ride and then turned their noses up at anything to do with horses from that point on. Horses are a big part of our life and we'd sure like to see our daughter return to them some day. So we supported her decision to quit riding in hopes someday she will return on her own.
As with many parents, once she headed off to college my husband and I were left with Champ. I continued to board Champ and hooked up with the one and only trainer at the barn who provided English and Western lessons. We clicked right off the bat. Rachel's common sense approach to a 50+ Mom who had always ridden casually, helped me overcome confidence issues and deal with an aggressive/challenging horse.
Last summer I started working with Rachel to prepare Champ and I to join a bunch of gals who were attending a cattle sorting event. But before I could get there we lost Champ to a sudden illness.
I'd only had Poco for a few weeks when I lost Champ. Now he was my main horse. Instead of moving Poco home as I'd intended, I moved him into Champ's stall and continued to board.
That was eight months ago and during that time I've struggled. Taking lessons on Poco hasn't been the same. I don't feel challenged and I miss that.
The other change has been the facility where I board. Known as a Hunter/Jumper/Dressage barn, those disciplines had been minimal the past few years when many people moved out due to the economy. One could pretty much ride wherever and whenever they wanted.
This winter has been different. We've had a large increase in new boarders who jump but very few who ride Dressage. It seems our barn has become a Hunter/Jumper facility. With inclement weather outside, they need to be able to approach, jump and depart on their horses with a full course set up in the indoor arena. Trust me, one doesn't want to get in their way.
Outside trainers are coming in to provide lessons to boarders as well as clients who haul in, some arrive with pretty crazy horses. These days when the jumps aren't up and I can ride, it's not uncommon to have lessons taking place at both ends of the indoor arena while the rest of us try to carve out space in the middle. In addition, the barn is now starting to lease out the indoor arena for various events and it's closed to boarders.
The intent of this facility has always been for those who ride the disciplines of Hunter/Jumper and Dressage. With a large number of new boarders who jump, those who are providing training here under that discipline need the space to jump as much as they need the clients in order to generate any revenue. It's their job.
The barn needs to be able to generate revenue to keep in business. If bringing in outside trainers and haul-ins or leasing the indoor facility out will help make ends meet, then they must do this to keep in operation.
But it's left me questioning why I'm paying to board my horse when I can't ride like I used to. I'm not angry, I'm not upset. It's good to see the barn come back to life. But the fact is, it's not the life I'm interested in.
Last week I gave my notice. After four years it's time to go home where I can hop up on Poco whenever I want (except when it's pouring down rain). Regardless of the weather, I'll still get to ride him more often than I do now.
I continue to plan for a replacement horse for Champ. But I'm returning to my roots of Western riding with goals to join friends at cattle sorting events, trail ride and possibly do some schooling shows. I'd love to learn more about timed events like pole bending, etc. It looks like a lot of fun and will provide some good goals for me.
In the meantime I'm looking forward to seeing Poco outside my windows!