Thursday, May 31, 2012

Boarding Woes

My first contact with my boarding barn was when I was having horse number 11 (I think) vetted.  I went and saw the place, and the barn manager showed me the price sheet and boarding contract, but didn't want me to keep them because they cost so much to print/copy.  Whatever.  We talked for a while, and I mentioned that the horse had been on pasture, and I would want him to stay on pasture, or dry lot when pasture wasn't feasible, in a herd situation.  She showed me the large dry lot and the pasture, and I said I'd let her know how the vet check went.

As you know, he failed.  I also texted the barn manager when I was coming close to vetting the Arab, but that horse also fell through.  When I bought Trigger, I contacted her again, and again said I wanted him on pasture in a herd, as that's how he was currently living.  She said she currently only had a stall available, but that she prefers to quarantine new horses anyway, but that I could move him in two weeks, at the new month.  The runs were big, and she mentioned daily turnout, so I agreed and when I moved Trigger there, I signed all the paperwork, but didn't receive a copy.  I really need to remedy that...

I waited a week or so to bring up turnout, since she'd wanted him quarantined anyway, but when I did bring it up, she said that "most places" charge up to $5, but she would "only" charge $1 a day for turning horses out and bringing them in.  She also whined about the cost of hay (I'd asked them to feed him extra flakes, which I would pay for, in order to keep food in front of him 24/7; if they turn him out to pasture, it would cut down on his personal hay consumption proportional with the amount of time he's out on pasture).  I really think Trigger needs/wants to be out with other horses, and if he does have an ulcer, constant grazing is better than wolfing down hay and waiting hours and hours for more.  So I'll suck it up and pay.  I keep forgetting to ask why he can't just be out 24/7 like the ponies are.

Anyway, I asked for him to be turned out daily, and gave the schedule of the upcoming few days via text, and through the end of June on paper, of when I could turn him out and bring him back in (weekends), which days they should take him out but I'd bring him back in (most weekdays) and which days they would need to do both (when I'm out of town).  Monday was a holiday, and I turned him out and brought him in, which I posted about.  Tuesday, they were to turn him out, and I said I'd bring him in.  I think I mentioned that it might be late, as my boss was in town and would want to have dinner, but that part wasn't in writing.  I realized that morning that I'd forgotten my sunglasses at the barn, so I went out there, and smothered Trigger with fly spray while I was there.  Sure enough, we were at the office until nearly 7, and then went to dinner, so it was after 8 by the time I got to the barn.  Trigger wasn't in the pasture, and was in his stall safe and sound, which I chalked up to the late hour, and someone wondering whether I'd ever come and bringing him in for me.

Wednesday, my boss had left town, and I got to the barn right around 5:00, but Trigger was again already in his stall.  This ticked me off a little, as I had no clue whether he'd even been turned out.  I texted the barn manager and said:
Has Trigger not been turned out yesterday or today?  It was fairly late when I got to the barn last night, so I figured someone must have brought him in.  But today I got there at 5 and he's in his stall.  Could someone please turn him out tomorrow morning?  I'll bring him in.
That's pretty polite, isn't it?  I didn't get a response from her.

Then today, at 4:22, I got a text from her:
What time will you be coming to the barn?

Immediately followed by another:
It's time for Trigger to come back into the barn.  I am having someone put him back.
I didn't see the messages right away, because I keep my phone on silent during work, but I texted her back at 4:40 that I would be coming around 6.  She immediately replied saying that he was already back in the barn.

Now, I can completely understand if a horse is penned up somewhere without food and sees and hears the other horses getting fed, that that's not cool.  Or if a horse is out somewhere at feeding time, and gets fed in a herd situation, that horse either needs to be there, or will have to be fed separately so it doesn't miss out or have to fight his buddies for food.  But Trigger was happily munching in a pasture (i.e. plenty of food), well out of eye or ear shot of the other horses being fed (the pasture is quite a distance from the barn), so he would be blissfully unaware of feeding time.  And since he lives in a stall, his food would all be waiting for him when he got back.  I'm not asking them to FEED him at a separate time from the others (which would upset all the others, to hear grain and hay being fed), just throw it in his stall, and he can eat it when he gets back, right?  In fact, I don't love that instead of feeding roughly 12 hours apart, they feet at like 8-9 a.m., then apparently at around 4 p.m.  If Trigger does indeed have an ulcer, going that long between dinner and breakfast is NOT good for him, so if I can drag out his dinner hour a bit, even better.

Anyway, I wasn't sure whether I'd see her at the barn (she has a family, and isn't usually there when I am in the evenings), so I texted her back:
I wasn't aware he had to be in at a certain time.  I usually work until 5, and when I pick my son up after, it would be at least 6 before I could get there.  Would it be alright for me to bring him in around 6 p.m. on most days?  Since he doesn't share food and can't see or hear others being fed, I just figured it would be fine, but let me know.
When I got to the barn (well before 6), sure enough, Trigger was happily eating his hay in his stall.  The barn manager wasn't there, but another gal (the potential riding buddy I think I may have mentioned here before) was, and I asked her about her opinion on the whole turnout and feeding thing.  She's totally on my side, and admitted she's been looking into moving her horse.  Which will suck for the barn manager, since the potential riding buddy gal (wow, I need nicknames like SweetPea uses!) helps feed, water, and clean stalls.

Anyway, she agreed with my impression that the barn manager isn't very organized.  I don't know how much is due to her being new to this, and will therefore settle out as she finds her groove, and how much is likely to be an ongoing issue.  But I'm tempted to move.  The place SweetPea boards probably has room for an extra horse, and is lovely pasture, but there is no arena or round pen, and I think I need the security of those features until I can get Trigger out on the trails safely.  The place where the potential riding buddy is going sounds promising, though.  It has an arena, didn't catch whether it has a round pen.  The trails are a little ways away, though, and would involve riding on a non-busy road to get there.  Probably the same distance/time from my house, possibly even a minute or two closer.

The barn manager did show up (or had already been there, just not in the barn area when I first arrived?), and we chatted.  She said since he'll be in the dry lot, it will be totally fine to leave him in the pasture as long as I want, and they'll put his feed into his feed tub and he can just chow down when he gets back.  I'm not sure why that's possible in a dry lot but not in a stall (in fact, it would be less distracting to the other horses for Trigger to be eating in his stall than visible to the other horses in dry lot, don't you think?), but whatever.

No new pictures of Trigger lately...sorry!  Probably no more updates until Monday, when the chiropractor comes.


  1. My advice: have a good face-to-face about exactly what you expect for what you're paying and if shit still isn't getting done it's barn-shopping time.

    Good luck, my friend!!

  2. It sounds like the barn owner is a control freak. She's probably going to keep being unreasonable until you are pushed to the point where you never ask for anything again. Not giving you a copy of the boarding contract is not acceptable.

    I've been a boarder both at a large boarding facility and at a smaller private residence. The private residence was by far a better situation for people and horses. It didn't have a covered arena like the large facility, but the horses were better cared for and the owner would call you only if there was some kind of emergency with your horse. Finding the perfect place is difficult and may take a couple of moves, but it is out there.

    1. Yeah, I'm positive I'll be moving at some point, the question is when and where. Having a round pen and arena will be handy when I finally get to start riding Trigger again, until he and I are secure with each other. Seems most of the places have either round pen/area OR trails, but not both.