Friday, April 24, 2009

My Horses Always Preferred the Ritz

Hi Everybody,

Well, it's in the seventies outside and my twin three year olds are throwing a football (foam, with cartoon characters on the outside) around with the sitter while my seven year old sniffles on the couch with her inevitable springtime allergies. Poor baby. She is delighted with her latest gift from Mom and Dad. We were attending a silent auction and won her a day following a veterinarian around. For a girl dedicated in all ways to animals, this is a little slice of heaven. Allergies aren't a good mix for an aspiring veterinarian, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

She's taking a break from horses right now and is doing theater, tae kwon do, swimming and wants to start soccer in the fall. In the meantime, I'm trying to get to know the area barns a little better so I'll know my way around when the time comes.

I've been at a total of seven barns in the course of my career and each barn had it's own personality. Finding the right home for your horse is so incredibly important, and it becomes even more important when you're trusting a trainer with a precious child.

When I think back on the barns I've been at, I lucked into a couple of good ones and then we relocated. I had Spencer at that time and chose a barn in the new area mostly for the physical plant, turnout, and because I really liked and trusted the barn manager, so I knew Spencer was in good hands. The training wasn't that advanced, but that was okay because neither was I.

I bought Topper and stayed there for several years until Topper injured himself and needed surgery. The barn manager had moved on by that point and I needed a barn where veterinary skills were top notch. I chose a barn, thinking it would be temporary, where the trainer was excellent training both horses and riders and was a vet assistant to boot. Now, the facility was old, the stalls were small and there was no indoor ring. This didn't worry me as I wouldn't be riding much while Topper healed up & Spencer came to live with us and was happy trotting around a few novice riders at this place. When I went I told the trainer there it would probably be for about six months and he was fine with that. Surprisingly, in that time frame I rode one of his horses and learned more in those six months than I had in the three years previously. So I learned a valuable lesson. Creature comforts come second to the quality of the horse care and the training.

Unfortunately, when I moved up into a senior management position I needed a barn where they had staff to tack & untack, etc., since I was going to be lucky to get to the barn a few times per week and time would be very tight, so off Spencer, Topper (now healed) and I went again. Now I may have been happy without a large facility with an indoor but I don't think Spencer was. Usually Spencer was a bit resistant to loading. However, when the trailer pulled up I loaded Topper first, looked back and saw Spencer take one step at a trot, one at a canter and leap the rest of the way up the ramp and into the truck, pulling the driver and his lead rope right along for the ride! Topper and I executed a sideways leap of our own just in time!

When we arrived at the new barn, Spencer pranced down the ramp, head held high, and sauntered into his new stall with an expression that was an equine version of 'finally, accommodations suiting my illustrious presence.' (Spencer was always a sweetheart, but he knew his worth & wasn't afraid to let me know it.)

Now I'm barn shopping again. First order of business will be to evaluate the quality of the training. Since my daughter isn't riding right now I suppose I'll be taking a few lessons at different places while I try to get the feel of them. Wish me luck!



Jami Davenport said...

Good luck on barn hunting. Yes, the training and the care is much more important than a pretty front. I've been at all types of barns and have a few must-haves. The rest is window dressing as long as the place is clean and safe.

mugwump said...

I worked at a barn with a tiny indoor, no outdoor and trails so technical my old mare and young horse couldn't tackle them. But my daughter was learning to ride. The barn was full of kids of all ages who rode regularly. I stayed for several years.