What if the boarding facility where you kept your horse shut down? What would you do? Where would you go? That’s what just happened to contributor Jennifer Ferrell.
Top photo: Wikimedia commons
This really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. I can tell from the looks on people’s faces when I them what has happened that I am making a big deal out of a not-so-big deal. They simply don’t get it. They didn’t just receive word that their barn is closing and they have to find a new place to keep their horse.
That’s the news I received yesterday afternoon. It was not a complete surprise–a For Sale sign has been planted next to the mailbox for more months than I can count. I had talked to the current owners about their desires to downsize and plans to pursue new goals, goals that no longer included weekends spent mowing and repairing fences and cleaning stalls. They want to find out for themselves what the words “leisure time” mean and give it a try.
For more than five years, this has been my home away from home. At least five days a week, I make the 30-minute drive from Alexandria, VA to Fairfax Station, VA, leaving behind the lights of the big city, traffic, noise and congestion for a seven-acre equine therapy zone. I’ve memorized every bump and turn and could do it with my eyes closed. I’ve learned how to negotiate Interstate 95 South; discovered where every grocery store, convenience store and coffee shop is located and even found a dog park along the route. It’s my own little highway to heaven.
I first found this small Northern Virginia horse utopia when I answered an ad for a half-lease of a Thoroughbred mare named Coqui. Eventually, a stall opened and I was able to bring in a horse of my own. Gem, and he and I quickly settled into the routine. Most weekdays, we would ride in the dressage ring out behind the barn; weekends–usually Sunday mornings, was a trail ride with Elizabeth and Caroline and sometimes Meg. We’d wind our way through the neighborhood bridle paths and chat about what was going on in our lives, gossip or just ride along in silence and enjoy our horses. The power line was always good for a gallop but not too fast and never ever downhill.
A few months ago, a deal was made and new owners were found for the property. For reasons beyond our control, the barn is closing its doors for now. This is a sad but common reality in this part of the world as the city quickly envelopes the country. I have started to look for a new farm but have realized that my easy 30-minute drive is likely to become at least a 45-minute drive or worse; I hear tales of people who trek over an hour each way to ride. Finding the right barn for me is a whole other matter; one of my fellow boarders said she has spent more time and energy looking for a barn than she did looking for a daycare for her daughter.
Fortunately, I’ve been reminded that the horse community has a strong network. One mention that your barn is closing and that you’re looking for new home and horse people are quick to offer suggestions on places to call. A woman who I had never met returned my phone call and spent 45 minutes discussing possible boarding farms, giving me the names and phone numbers of other farm owners to call. She said she knew what it was like to look for a farm and had been there before. It was a horse boarding advice pay-it-forward. I hope to be able to do the same someday.
Change is inevitable. People move on. Downsizing happens. Someone told me that change gets harder as you get older and I believe it. I have changed barns before and don’t remember having the lump in my throat or experiencing the sense of dread as I look at the calendar to see how much time Gem and I have left before Moving Day. It’s likely we’ll all go our separate ways and have to say goodbye to our weekly trail rides and to our familiar, comfortable routine. I’m sure that after the shock wears off I’ll begin to look forward to the new adventure and the new trails I’ll get to explore with new friends and their horses. I just hope they don’t gallop down hills.