I'm afraid I've turned into a bit of a barn snob. Either that, or I am insisting on perfection. Or maybe I have well founded fears. Please help me think about this in a calm, ration way. I've tried bouncing this off my non-horse friends but they don't know enough about horses to really participate.
My question is about barns. Again. My barn has been fantastic, but it's a little bit like jumping into the serious lap swim session at the pool and then thinking maybe you'd like to try synchronized diving or water polo. Or maybe you just want to float around contemplating life.
I will try not to go on and on and on and to be as clear as possible. Let's start with Barn A, the barn I'm currently at.
- Impeccable barn. Barn aisle is always swept. Wash rack clean. Buckets clean. Stalls clean. Not so impeccable that you wonder if horses live there, but a pretty tight ship.
- Good footing in the arena. Watered regularly. Raked regularly.
- Almost everyone there is a better rider than I am and the instruction is top notch. They went to a show last weekend and took Champion or Reserve Champion in all the divisions they entered. This was a dressage show.
- Great care for the horses. From the food to regular chiropractic adjustments as needed to vitamins, supplements and knowing when your horse is off, the care is top notch. I have never had to schedule a vet visit, a dentist visit and now even Tessa's feet are trimmed regularly. They know what the horses need and they take care of it. I trust them implicitly when it comes to my horse. If they think she needs supplements or a vet visit or anything, they let me know right away.
- Turnouts are good sized and have grass in the summer. Yes, for a solid six months they are muddy but this is the Pacific Northwest. That's how we roll. Horses go out in pairs and have access to a shelter. They are turned out every other day for 8-10 hours and they come in if the weather is super miserable. If the horses are kept in, they put them on a rotating schedule of arena time.
- The people are all nice. Most of them are serious riders, but everyone has been pleasant.
- It's only 20 minutes from my house.
- Only one small indoor arena that is often busy in the evenings with lessons. Since lessons are serious business, it can be intimidating to ride when this is happening.
- Nobody rides anything except dressage and jumping.
- The community is somewhat tight knit, but I think a lot of it revolves around shows. There are no children.
- No place for non-horsey people to hang out if they come to the barn with you.
- Everyone there is super mellow. Western. English. Bareback. Trail. They do a little bit of everything.
- The people there are more into their relationship with their horse than they are the training. I would likely be one of the 'better' riders or at least one of the more 'serious' ones. I mean, my first lesson there today she had me ride her horse in a Kimberwicke. Uh....I have never taken a dressage lesson using a Kimberwicke. However, she also put me on the longe line and then made me ride bareback! I learned a lot, even if I was riding in a non-dressage bit.
- They do fun things like bonfires, Halloween dress up parties, they have a 4-h group, they go to some local shows. Lots of community it seems.
- Their indoor arena was bigger and even with a few other horses in there, didn't feel crowded at all.
- They have an outdoor riding space. They call it an arena but it's a grass/sand mixture and it looks like it might be slick when the weather changes. However, it's outside. OUTSIDE!
- Viewing room with heat and a couch. And toys for kids. And kids ride there! Kids who could hang out with my kid!
- The barn is not as clean. I'm not talking about perfection, I just mean it wasn't as clean. It was totally functional though and not gross at all, just a little less deep on the shavings and a little messier here and there.
- The turnouts are tiny, gravel turnouts with no shelter and no trees. They are turned out for about three to four hours a day, but there isn't enough room to take more than about ten steps each direction. A horse couldn't actually canter out there. Turnout wouldn't mean much in terms of getting exercise, it would be more about fresh air.
- I wouldn't be getting the same level of perfection in my instruction. I might pick up bad habits. I might decide to screw it all and ride in a Kimberwicke and a hunt seat saddle and show Arab circuit. I think I might be okay with this because...I might be happier there.
- Thirty minute drive. That's an extra twenty minutes each time I go to the barn.
- I would have to schedule all my own vet and farrier visits.
- The school horse I rode had thrush in his front feet and it's summer. I could smell it while I was picking out his front feet. I don't know if that means anything, but I would be concerned if my horse had thrush in August. In March, not so much, but it's been dry enough around here....but again, maybe I'm being too anal.
In closing, the horse all looked fine at Barn B. There were about five of them that pinned their ears and lunged at other horses as they passed their stalls, but they also had open windows and I know some horses can be territorial that way. They all were friendly when I walked by without a horse.
Would you board at a place that didn't have great turnout? How big of a deal breaker is that for you? I have looked at barn after barn after barn and this one has come the closest to having the right sense of community and mixture of disciplines and is actually a reasonable distance from me.