When we last left off on the barn hunt update, I was stuffing my feelings into double decker Fudge Rounds and slamming them down my throat like it was my damn job. And up until yesterday afternoon, that’s pretty much exactly what was still happening, just with rapidly increasing anxiety (and copious amounts of queso) as one barn after the next didn’t pan out. I can’t really explain the hellscape that is barn shopping in this town. Well, actually, I can try. Let’s rehash what’s happened so far.
Hillary and I knew that we really wanted to stay together, with all 3 boys. Everything is just a lot easier with a barn buddy. Granted, finding space for 3 horses does complicate things. We scoured the shit out of the internet, I don’t think any stone was left unturned. If it exists as a boarding barn within an hour of Austin, we have seen it. She was even stalking private properties on google maps, looking for suitable barns that might possibly take on a few boarders, and driving around desirable areas being a total stalker. Yeah… that is some next level creepy, in the most admirable way possible. She even called realtors for properties that were for sale asking if they would rent. We were open to self care, co-op situations… anything that looked like a place where our horses could be happy and we could have what we needed.
First of all, getting anyone at these so-called boarding barns to call/email/message/text you back is apparently a completely unrealistic expectation. We got 3 times as many *crickets* as we did replies. Then there are all the places who have dealbreaker barn rules, like… you can’t come out before 9am. Ever. How is that a thing? Or that you had to have written permission every time you left the property. Or that you could only jump if you took a lesson with them, which isn’t such an uncommon rule, but I have zero interest in taking lessons with any of those trainers, so that’s a nope. Or better yet, you had to be in a training program to board there, which I completely understand their reasoning behind, but also a nope. I’ve already got a trainer and she’s worked pretty darn well for me.
Several more desirable places were just plain out of my budget, with two horses, especially if they didn’t offer pasture board as an option. Other places seemed in budget, until you started adding up all the extra nickel and diming fees, which could easily tack on another $200+ a month. The other more desirable places were full. They’re always full.
There are a lot of things I can make do with. I don’t need anything fancy whatsoever, but I needed it to be safe. That includes no barbed wire fence. I dunno what it is with horse people here, but damn they love them some barbed wire. Preferably rusty and half falling down. I also needed people taking care of my horse that gave me the sense that they knew what they were doing. Or at least had owned a horse for more than a week. Or knew how many feet horses were supposed to have. Or which was the ass end. Boy do I have stories.
I also need good enough footing to where I’m not going to be out of the saddle for days every time it rains, and to be able to keep my horse sound with all the conditioning we do. THAT is a tall measure around here, where black gumbo soil rules the lands. God it is awful, and I wanted to avoid it. An arena would be nice, but not needed… the more important part is a big enough field to do my conditioning. I can dressage and jump in a field, but it’s a lot harder to condition in a ring. As it is I ride out in the field 99.9% of the time now, and I don’t mind it one bit.
I needed turnout. Like… more than a few hours a day and on something bigger than a tiny dry lot paddock or just a stall run (a stall run isn’t turnout, omg). One of my horses needs to move as much as possible to keep himself loose, and the other is a growing and developing 2yo warmblood. They can’t just stand still 23 hours a day if I expect either of them to stay sound in their jobs. Go ahead and cross several more off the list at that request.
We went to look at a few places. On Monday afternoon we drove out to the one that looked by far the most promising on paper and in pictures. It was… what’s the word I’m looking for here… horrendous? Animals were everywhere, of every species, the place smelled like a dirty zoo, there was shit all over the place, the barn worker was walking around barefoot, the stalls were filthy (and everything looked dried and old, so it wasn’t fresh filth), there were way too many horses crammed in the dry lot pens, and – my personal favorite part – there was a horse chilling in the crossties with wire wrapped around it’s leg. The wire had obviously been there a while, judging by the amount of swelling in the leg. Eventually someone came and cut the wire off, then they ran some water over it and gave the horse some bute. I dunno about y’all, but to me that’s an emergency vet call situation. These people were like “oh it’ll be fine, not a big deal”. WHAT. THE. SHIT.
We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and immediately hightailed it to a mexican food restaurant to stuff our faces with queso. It’s a healing elixir for PTSD.
With our standards freshly lowered and desperation mounting, we decided to look at pretty much anything and everything. Whoever would call us back and had the few basic things that we needed, we agreed to go look at. Yesterday morning Hillary went out to another place that would be great if you didn’t actually ride, but was definitely a problem if you did. Mostly because who knows where you would do that. Also the stalls were so tiny I don’t think our horses would have fit in them. Not exaggerating.
One of my vets heard our tales of woe and suggested that we call and talk to his wife. She manages his mobile veterinary business, sometimes riding with him to act as vet tech when needed, but they also have a private barn at their home and he thought she might be able to make space for us. It was an incredibly kind offer, and I know it’s not one that just anyone gets. Luckily they both quite like Henry (he can be pretty charming when he feels like it) and I’ve known them for years, so I guess we qualified. I was concerned about how far away it was, 45+ minutes, but I was willing to drive that far if it fit the bill.
Since our levels of internal panic were quickly rising to epic and overwhelming proportions, we cleared our schedules and went out to look at the farm yesterday afternoon. It’s a no-frills type of place, and they’re still in the process of building and adding things and making improvements, but it’s cute and even under construction it’s already got everything we need. The barn is really nice, lots of air flow and good sized stalls with high powered fans and good light. The wife’s ideas and methods about horse keeping line up very closely with my own, from turnout schedule to diet to blanketing and pretty much everything in between. In the summer the horses are rotated between two grass turnouts, also with round bales. In winter they’re turned out in the 6 acre hay field in the back. We can also ride on the neighbor’s property, and maybe even across the street. It looks a lot like what I could imagine having in my own backyard, if I owned property. There aren’t many people and it’s quiet and it comes with the blessed quality of freedom.
There’s a sand arena that’s definitely big enough to do dressage or put a few jumps in, and she didn’t mind if we brought ours and set them up. There’s a round pen if I need it to do stuff with Presto. She’s totally cool with us riding out in the field, parking our trailers on site, bringing all of our shit, riding whenever we want, coming and going to shows all the time, etc etc. All of the horses, even the old retired ones, look really good. They have roughage in front of them pretty much 24/7 and all seem very chill and happy and social. Everything is clean and tidy. The ground is pretty good, even with the insane amount of rain we’ve had this week. Presto wouldn’t be on full time turnout since they aren’t set up for pasture board, but he’d get at least all day or all night turnout, with room to stretch his legs.
The price for both horses is slightly more than I’m paying now, but it’s such a negligible amount that by the time you factor in what I currently pay for fan fees in the summer months (something that is included at this place), it pretty much equals out. I will have to rework my life and my schedule a little bit to make the commute work, but… there’s a lot to be said for your horses living at your vet’s house. It’s a pretty incredible offer and I feel really lucky to be on the receiving end. So on June 1, the boys get a new home.
Mostly I’m just relieved to have something nailed down, and so grateful to everyone that helped and offered us a place to land if we couldn’t find something in time. I was definitely starting to panic. Yesterday morning I came perilously close to ordering those double decker Oatmeal Creme Pies by the case from amazon, but today I’m feeling so much better. There’s plenty to be done, some things to buy, and A LOT to pack, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter.