"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The New Barn

Okay, so to go into more detail on the new place that we escaped to.

The BO is a longtime horsewoman, an avid trail rider, and used to compete in combined driving. (!!! Thank you Andrea: I was able to ask her intelligent questions!) She is proud of her trails and also knows and understands the sport of endurance. Which is a good thing: no weird looks when you say you're going for a 15-mile hack. ;)

We arrived a little earlier than planned: we thought it would take us longer to trailer over to the new place. BO wasn't at the barn yet when I called to let her know we had arrived; I apologized for our early arrival and asked if it was okay if we just went for a trail ride in the meantime. She seemed surprise but she said of course. She said to just call her when we were all done and cooled off and she'd come down to show us where to put our stuff. (She lives on the property; her house is on a small hill from where she can see both barns.)

The girls unloaded calmly and we tied them to the trailer for their electrolyte mashes. For my own future reference, Lily is currently eating her mashes with electrolytes in them IF they are made with 3 quarts of Tribute Calm Ultra + a cup of Gracie's Tribute Essential K (another low starch ration balancer; I switched over to Tribute as well so I can just get both of their feeds from the same place). The Essential K smells like a vanilla milkshake. AMAZING. I kind of want to eat it every time I open Gracie's grain bin and apparently Lily agrees. She dives into the mash as if it was crack and doesn't care about the electrolytes in it! #winning

We had parked by the new barn (aka the boarder barn; BO keeps her horses in the old barn) right next to the mare field where our two would go. Lily and Gracie nickered back and forth with the resident horses but remained cool. They had no idea we had just moved. They just thought we were at a new place to ride.

And this is precisely the method to my madness:
1. Lily has done fabulously at barns where we've arrived, tacked up, and gone for a ride before releasing her with the herd to settle in.
2. By going on a trail ride with Charles and leading at least 50% of the time, I would be able to take both mares out on their own the next day when Charles had to work.

BO had given us a pretty solid tour of the trails when we had gone to tour the farm and between the two of us we were able to piece together the different sections of trail.

Bridle path between fields. 
I think maybe he was having fun. What do you think? ;)
This is the dry-ish lot aka the Diet Field. The mares in here were very friendly and walked along the fenceline, nickering at our two in greeting.

Diet field. It's about 4 acres total.

See that road there?
It's an airstrip! As in for landing planes! BO's hubs used to own a Cessna. They have since sold it but the airstrip remains.

End of the airstrip.
It was a really hot day.
This little trail here leads onto a small but pretty badass steep hill.
Around a hayfield...

...and into the woods.

Do you see the trail in the grass leading away from us?
This runs parallel to the B&O train tracks. There's a hunting cabin off to the left that the BO rents out to local hunters during the fall and winter.
Riding in the general direction towards the barn, on a trail that took us through just-mowed hayfields.
It's perfect for a gallop!

Another loop through the woods. We saw a red fox cross the trail in front of us here.
BO had told us there was a creek crossing and we were looking for it.
It was HOT and both horses were sweating.
While cantering around a hay field, Lily flushed a wild turkey out of the grass. It flew up out of the grass right in front of her. Charles said I was the one that jumped. Lily gave the tiniest of flinches and just kept right on going. Good mare! We also saw plenty of deer and a couple of vultures. Lots of wildlife on this farm!
A river was on the other side of this grass, but the banks were way too steep and tall to be be able to go into the water.
After an hour and a half or so, we turned around and headed back to the barn and trailer so the girls could have the option of a drink, a bath, and electrolyte mashes.
The route we took back towards the barn took us past the older second barn, which is next to the arenas.
There is a regular rectangular arena with textile footing (!!!) that is marked with dressage letters. This here is the ginormous round pen...it's about twice the size of the covered round pen at the previous barn!

If you embiggen, you can see the small grass cavaletti/jump arena.

Based on later GPS app tracking, we did somewhere between 6-7 miles. There are easily over 10 miles of trails on property if you count the paths around the hay fields, the air strip, and the trail that takes you through the cross country field. 

The girls got hosed off in the shade of the indoor wash stall (which has both hot and cold water, an amenity I had given up on when starting to look for field board at this price point...) and once the water was running off of them cold, they were tied back up to the trailer for their mashes. We offered water in a muck bucket but neither of them drank. 

Wash stall. The windows are open and allow the breeze to enter and circulate.
The PVC pipe rack is for boarders to hang up girths, pads, etc to dry.

Area opposite the wash stall, where feed is stored. Supplements and any other miscellaneous items go on the shelf on the left, and grain bins go beneath it. That light blue bin is where I store Lily and Gracie's prepped grain rations.
 The two openings on the right lead out into a part of the driveway right in front of the mare field. The bins between the two doors on the right are Meesha Kitty's stuff: she is the barn cat, the cutest little gray tabby.

Looking out through the opening nearest the wash stall.
There's a sort of hitching post where Lily is tied to in this pic where horses can be bathed/tacked up.

I called BO to let her know we were back. She arrived within minutes and gave us a really warm welcome. I think we scored extra points for going out on a trail ride immediately upon arrival. :) She complimented our horses and showed us where to put our stuff. We got to unpacking while Lily in particular finished eating. Here's more pics of the barn for you guys:

Tack room.
It is air conditioned in the summer, heated in winter.

Lounge area beyond the tack room (through the French doors in the previous photo)
There's a saddle stand on the left for people that want to clean tack.

Refrigerator on the right. This is also in the lounge area.

Stall board feed room.
Meesha likes to sneak into rooms. :) Hence the note on the door.

Bathroom. It's insulated so it stays cool in summer and warm in winter.
These are all photos I took; not pulled off of the internet. Yes, the place really is this clean!

Cross aisle, walking in from wash stall area. Bathroom door first on the left, stall board feed room next on the left, tack room door on the right. The door at the far end of the hallway leads into another turnout.
BO designed the barns and her husband built them.

Barn aisle, facing the parking lot.

Other side of barn aisle, facing the fields. That's the Diet Field run-in shed off in the distance at the top of the hill.
And seriously: you could eat off of the floors in this place.

Once the trailer was mostly empty, we turned the girls out. BO has a field within a field in the mare field and my two were given the smaller field with the run-in shed so they could meet the other horses over the fence. 

There are automatic waterers in the fields that have the capacity of dispensing warm water in the winter so no need for de-icers. We walked the girls over to the nearest one and they figured it out right away. They refill automatically as the horses drink and it's a quiet system: neither of them was startled by the sound of it refilling. They were adorable drinking together.

The fences are made of electric wire, which can be hard for the horses to see so BO suggested we walk them along the perimeter of the fence so they could learn how far they could go. She has had no issues with the fencing and horses because the horses understand their boundaries. She took the time of tying bright tape to the fence of the inner field so the girls could clearly see it too.

Happy mares grazing quietly. You can see the bits of pink tape on the top wire of the fence next to the girls.
BO was surprised about how calm Lily and Gracie were over the whole thing. They settled down to eat right away. The joys of owning endurance horses. ;)

View of the barn from the mare field. I was standing by the run-in shed: there's stone dust around the shed to help minimize mud.

We followed BO to the second barn so we could park the trailer and unload all of Lily's alfalfa. They have a huge hay barn where they store all of the hay their farm produces for the winter. We were given a corner for ours. 

We checked on the girls one last time and headed back home. I slept like a log that night for the first time in weeks. 

BO had invited me to come out in the morning to help oversee introductions between the horses and I accepted. I arrived at the barn at 7:30 am sharp.

The gate between the two fields was opened and...the mares all switched fields. It was hilarious. No one really stopped to sniff noses or interact: a total nonevent. The resident mares made a beeline for the run-in shed and my two went up to the grassy hill at the back of the pasture. Temperatures were climbing fast so it wasn't long before Lily and Gracie wandered down to the run-in to poke their heads into the windows. They didn't go around to try go inside it, which was a good indicator of them being respectful of the others' "We were here first" status. 

I pulled Lily from the field, tacked her up and took her for her first solo ride on property. She was a little nervous at first but I was in a great headspace and kept on praising her until her ears finally went forward and she started to have fun. We basically did the same loop Charles and I had done on the previous day, except that this time I found the water crossings! And they take you right into the river, a river as wide as the one at the previous farm, though it's a completely different river: the one at the previous farm was Catoctin Creek and this is a tributary of the Monocacy. 

The B&O train runs right next to the property and we were on trail when it went by. I could see it through the trees from where we were riding. Lily was not concerned by the sound of it whatsoever; she was more preoccupied with the flies landing on her ears. She kept right on trotting. I took her down a side trail so I could show it to her more clearly and she came to a halt, flicked her ears forward, then was all, "Why are we stopping? Onwards!"

I love her.

We rode for about an hour. Afterwards Lily got hosed off, fed, and put back out in the field. This time it was Gracie's turn. 

I tacked Gracie up in the S-hack, which we have pretty much been using all the time on her now, and off we went. 

We also had a great ride. She had only one episode where she tried to turn around, and it was right after seeing a turkey running through the tall grass, only its head visible above the the ocean of green like the weirdest submarine periscope. I turned her around calmly, asked her to walk on, and she soon settled into a nice medium gait and we flew around the farm. 

I let her gallop up all of the hills, something which I had not really done with her in a long time: it's been Charles doing all of the hill work with her for the last several months. She felt so much stronger and confident, despite the slight wonkiness that I now knew came from her hocks. She's come such a long way in a year. I had an absolute blast with her. 

I took her down to the train tracks over by the hunting cabin and followed the trail for a bit...and realized that if you just keep going a few hundred feet, the trail leads you right into the river! 

Same photo from above. But you see that porta-john off to the left? There's a big drop in the land beyond it, right into the river. You can't see it at ALL from this distance! The trail continues on the other side of the water.
Note taken, we returned to the barn after that. It was a 45-minute ride for G-Mare. 

The barn was quiet as I hosed Gracie off. It was getting really hot though and I ended up moving her to the barn aisle so she could dry off in the shade. She didn't use to cross tie well, but apparently that has changed despite not having worked on it in 9 months. 

She always used to try to lean her butt against a wall or attempt to turn herself around. This was stellar.
She stood there quietly even when I walked off to put my stuff away.
I then sat on a stool close by to read while she finished drying off. Gracie simply took a nap on the cross ties. Good mare!

The run-in shed, with the other field board mares hanging out in it. :)
BO puts sawdust inside the run-in.
The drafty mare is a Perch/Standardbred cross!
I put G-Mare out in the field and finished tidying up. I saw when all of the resident mares walked off towards the back part of the field, leaving the run-in shed unoccupied. My two went right for the the run-in, of course, to take advantage of the shade it provided. 

Resident mares in back part of field.
I was about to leave, when I saw one of the mares, a big chestnut TB with front white stockings, lift her head, look at the run-in, and trot off towards it. I thought, "Uh-oh! She changed her mind about the shade and is going to chase my two out." It's fair: there's always some bickering when new horses are introduced in a field as the pecking order is re-established. I stayed to watch what would happen.

The red mare stopped at the back of the run-in then walked around it slowly. I saw her stand by the side of it and peer in to look at my girls. She disappeared around the side of it and of course I saw my two come out the opposite side. 

To my utter surprise though, the red mare followed them! I saw Lily turn her head and make a snarky face at the chestnut TB, but the red mare was unfazed: she had her ears pricked as she happily herded my two out of the run-in and all the way to the back of the field where the other mares were. "Stop being antisocial!" she said, "Come hang out with us!"

Lily looks pissed and Gracie was all, "Yay food!" Note the red mare's expression!
Once Lily and Gracie were among the others, the red mare walked off to graze. My two took a couple of bites of grass then realized they were thirsty and went to the automatic waterer to drink. The red mare lifted her head and trotted behind them, "Wait! Don't leave!"

She hovered next to them while they drank, pricking her ears at Lily and Gracie every time they lifted their heads from the waterer.

Red mare off to the left. Look at her: relaxed, non-threatening body language as she stands sideways to my two,  happy ears saying, "I want to be your friend! Let's be friends!"
Once they were done drinking, they wandered back to the herd, tails swishing in unison, and the red mare went off to eat, mission accomplished: she had welcomed my two into their group.

Lily and Gracie in the middle, walking off towards the hill with the others.
I left the barn that day grinning from ear to ear, my heart full of the warm fuzzies. That was one of the sweetest displays of herd dynamics I have ever had the opportunity to witness. 

A week later, it's official that the red mare is never far from Lily and Gracie in the field. I've caught the three of them hanging out together in the run-in shed. :)


  1. your new barn is gorgeous!!! so much to like about it - esp given how well your girls are settling in! :)

  2. What a great barn! I'm jealous!

    1. I never imagined we could get so much at this price point!

  3. I'm so glad things are going well for you and your horses at the new place. The barn is beautiful and it's great that the horses accepted yours into the herd. :)

  4. LOVE THIS BARN. I wanna play int he XC fielddddddd.

    Also, LOVE the anecdote about the herd dynamics. So very cool!

  5. The amenities plus the trails...wow, good move I say! And yup, I know the feeling...I definitely get weird glances from people when I say I'm going on a 5-6 mile trail ride haha

    1. Hahaha I can imagine that very well. ;) It gets even better when you have two horses that you're conditioning for the same sport at once. Then people really think you're a freak! Lol