I've been absent for a bunch of reasons: temporary schedule changes for myself; permanent schedule changes for Charles that involve less time together, so we've been been taking advantage of the time we do have; and 2 barn changes.
Yup, count 'em: two.
I don't post about big changes before they happen because I'm always afraid I'll jinx them. (I'm a highly superstitious person for a reason.) So here's the story: a coworker lives on horse property and had been nagging me for several months now that I should move Lily to her barn so I could help her out in exchange for board. I turned her down the first few times, as I loved the perks of the barn I was at: indoor, outdoor, concrete driveway, easy access to trails. Plus the people there made it worthwhile. And then Charles started his ER RN position, and his training schedule involved less hours than he'd initially been hired for. It's a temporary training schedule, but he had to be on it for his first 90 days. Plus he wasn't getting the overnight differential because he was training during the day. So things were getting tighter and tighter financially. My barn was the second most expensive, board-wise, in the area.
After discussing all of this with Charles for the millionth time, we decided to give the coworker's deal a whirl. While the reasons behind the move were strictly financial, I will admit that I missed taking care of Lily myself: mucking my stall, setting up her feed, going to the feed store to buy hay and grain, etc. At the new barn, I'd be in charge of the evening feeding 7 days a week, and mucking stalls (only 3) on my days off from work. The main drawback was that this place was 15 minutes farther away than the old barn: a long commute after a 12 hour shift at work.
And then the coworker became unreasonable in her expectations. I've already slaved for my horse twice before, first at the barn where I kept Cloud, and later at the barn where I had Lily. At least, in both instances, I had Diana to talk to while working my butt off, which actually made me look forward to the work. But I was physically exhausted all the time, which affected me at work (and my blogging...I didn't write consistently when living in FL because of this). I refused to do it a third time: I have a husband, I still have a physically demanding job, a horse that I like to be able to ride every once in a while, and this time there was no bestie to spend time with. So yeah: I'd either follow the original agreement, or I'd leave. Plus I hate barn drama. Hate hate hate. 0 tolerance.
Within a week of moving in, Lily and I were already out. :/
About a month before leaving my old barn, I'd gone to visit Sally and Jez at their barn. It was a smaller, quiet facility, with only a handful of boarders. About half of the stalls are occupied by the BO's horses: she has several retired, older horses living at her barn. The BO herself was very sweet and welcoming, and I was happy to meet up again with Phoebe and Kathy, two boarders from my old barn! Phoebe has the most adorable, tiny (and feisty) Arabian that she rescued and rehabbed herself after 40 years uninvolved with horses; Kathy has an elderly gaited mare that was a former cart horse in Baltimore. Kathy is currently the BM at this barn and lives on site.
It was a lovely visit. The serenity of this place felt so right. Plus they offered field board, something which my old barn didn't offer. It's an ideal setup: they have sheds with fans for the field board horses; the BO has extra doors in the barn aisles which serve as partitions: when the weather is bad, the field board horses are brought into the barn; field board horses are grained twice a day and offered free choice hay; the paddocks are mucked and raked regularly; and they get night checks just like the stall board horses do. The rate for all this was less than half what I was paying for stall board at the old barn.
It was hard to leave Sally's barn that day, and it stayed at the back of my mind during my last days at the old barn and while starting out at the coworker's barn.
As luck would have it, a stall became available at Sally's barn shortly after I received the reality check from the coworker. So that's where Lily and I went when I called it quits.
|Barn driveway. The photo is not edited. Note the jump field on the left!|
On our arrival day, I turned Lily out in the arena so she could stretch her legs and look around. I hung out inside the arena, talking to Kathy and the BO, while Lily explored. She went to the far end of the arena then walked all the way back to me, where she lay down only 4 feet away from me, and rolled. She was careful to turn away from me while rolling. I was tickled pink: horses will only do this sort of thing close to other creatures they trust. She then got up, shook herself, sniffed me, and walked away again. I was grinning from ear to ear.
|Lily in the arena, becoming reacquainted with miniature horses. There are 3 minis at this barn; their dry lot adjoins the arena.|
We rode down the driveway, did two loops around the property, and then walked around the arena a bit. She was a little looky going down the driveway but was overall a very good girl.
That evening, she went out with the mare herd. Eventually she will be on 24/7 turnout, but we have to introduce her to the two field board mares first: one is a friendly little Icelandic pony, the other, Tally, is a more dominant Standardbred who was rescued by the barn trainer from an abusive situation. We've been letting Lily and Tally meet over the fence for now. So far, so good.
|Lily and Tally. No squealing, no kicking or striking.|
In the meantime, Lily started overnight turnout with the rest of the mare herd (just 4 other mares).
Gracie and Lily seemed to hit it off right away, prancing and playing around the field.
That's Lily with the flagged tail and floaty trot.
|Afterwards they settled down to graze. Gracie is what is called a red chocolate in Rocky Mountain horse colors. It is also unique to the breed, but not quite as well-known as the more traditional silver dapple (aka chocolate with flaxen mane and tail.)|
|Lily used to be terrified of cattle. See if you can tell which mare is her. It shouldn't be difficult:|
she's the only one glancing at the camera!
We went for a jaunt around the meadows. Lily had 2 instances of hesitation where she tried to turn around and head home, but I brought her back full circle to face forward and we continued on our way. I let her choose the pace and was very pleased when she offered to trot most of the way. We saw trails that led off into the woods, but for this first ride out we just stuck with the main trail around the field.
|The long, long driveway, headed back to the barn. It is a beautiful view.|
The driveway by itself is 1/4 mile long!
Over the weekend, I made a point of visiting Lily in the field without taking her away from her new buddies. I just parked the car by the field and walked over to where she was. Every time she came to me, a couple of times at a trot! I was glad I brought treats to reward her with to reinforce this positive experience. We just stood together in the field, me scratching her withers while she groomed my leg or grazed peacefully.
I don't endorse treating your horse just 'cuz. Most horses become pushy and nippy from this. But Lily has never been particularly food motivated, and even now, at the height of our treat-giving, she still doesn't automatically seek out a treat from me. She'll snuffle my hand if I hold it out to her, but she won't harass me if my hand is empty. My goal with these visits in the field are to have her associate me with nice things: a treat, a scratch on the withers, walking around the pasture with her. I want it to be about more than just riding; I want her to enjoy my company. Something which I've been trying to do since this whole rehab thing started.
It's been nice having friends to just chill with at the barn, and it's wonderful to have trail riders galore to go out with, including Kathy and Phoebe. I've finally been able to get Lily leading on the trails again. She never lost the desire, but Houdon, Tina's boy and our only trail riding buddy at the old barn, did NOT like to follow. So we followed instead, and everyone was happy.
Why do I like her to lead? Because if she is willing to lead on a trail, she'll be willing to go solo on that same trail later on. It was my main confidence-building exercise for her when we trail rode in groups in South FL. It did wonders for her self-confidence to lead horses that otherwise would have been her superiors in a herd situation. She thrived on this. Plus I got a huge kick out of seeing my otherwise submissive mare take charge.
Our first ride with Phoebe and Kathy went like this. Phoebe's mare, Deja, prefers to follow. Queenie, Kathy's girl, is gaited and thus usually led when the two of them rode together. The minute we added Lily to the mix, Queenie took one look at her and refused to lead: she was more than happy to go behind Lily. Kathy and I shrugged at this funny dynamic and allowed it to happen. Thus Lily took the lead for the first time on a completely and 100% unfamiliar trail through the woods. She only balked at a bridge, but followed when I got off and led her across. It was not a problem when we crossed it again heading home.
|Leading into the woods|
|The woods were beautiful in the late afternoon light.|
The difference between my first week at the coworker's barn and the first week at the new barn was like night and day. I loved the old barn and I will be forever thankful to BQ, John, Jackie, Alex and Juan for their wonderful treatment of Lily, myself and Charles. They were the first to make us feel welcome in this new state. We ended up renting our current apartment thanks to BQ's advice! They are wonderful people and I hope that we can stay in touch. And I'll miss that indoor arena! And our Tuesday Trails with Tina. The one drawback of that was precisely the fact that trail rides only occurred on Tuesdays because it was the only day of the week when Tina's and my schedules matched.
Now we finally seem to have found the one thing that I missed the most from the Florida barn: a wide selection of riders to go on the trails with!