Monday, January 28, 2008

The Barn Dance


©Nan Rawlins 2008.  All rights reserved

I was recently informed, by barn management, that the barn would be closing its doors for good at the end of the month.  The owner wants to put in an indoor and replace the barn roofs.  Granted, these are all facility improvements that, under ordinary circumstances, I would welcome.  I just wish we didn’t have to move out to accomplish his goals.  It wouldn’t be so bad except for the very short notice we’ve been given.  Never mind that the contract states that we are to receive 30 days notice prior to eviction.  We (all 42 of us naïve fools that trusted management) have to find new homes for our equine companions in less than three weeks.  And, move out 75 bales of hay because yours truly can’t seem to do without a glut of hay in the loft. Let’s just say that there are quite a few unhappy campers around the barn these days.

I for one am not too worried.  I have my ace in the hole, my friend Rebecca.  Rebecca owns a boarding facility that is actually closer to home than Ping’s present accommodations.  She has always said that Ping and I have a home at her place whenever we need it. Well, finally we need it!

You may be wondering why I did not move Ping to her barn in the first place.  After all, it is a lovely facility – nice extra large indoor ring, large stalls, wide isles, plenty of pasture, a very nice lounge area to sit and watch the comings and goings, etc.  Sounds great, and it is except for one tiny little thing.

Over the years, I have developed a strict policy that one should never ever board from friends.  For me, it can be likened to loaning money to relatives.  It is a sea of alligators, just waiting to snap your friendly relationship off at the head.  It’s really a no win proposition for several reasons.  

Boarding management is generally just one complaint after another. The stall is too small, my horse isn’t getting enough hay, the waterer is too slow, someone stole whatever, that horse has been standing in the wash rack for an hour, so and so left their saddle in the barn isle all day, these people never clean up after their dogs… You get the drift. Even if these are legitimate complaints, one is reluctant to go to one’s friend and Equine Exposition shopping buddy to gripe all the time.  And, like forgetful parents, we tend to focus on the negative, without complimenting the positive as often as we should, or could.  Instead, we tend to harp on the negative until the cows (or horses) come home.

If your barn manager is also your friend, you have to walk a very fine line between being a complaining pain in the backside to being a friend who listens to the laments of management.  Just exactly whose side are you on anyway - your friends, or your barn manager?  Straddling this fence can become painful, as I have found out in the past.

Let’s say your barn manager’s darling kiddies keep getting into your tack boxes and ruining your pristine arrangements (okay, I admit that I’m one of those finicky people who knows exactly where she puts all of her equine accoutrements because I like to lay my hands on my stuff is when I need it – silly me).  And, foolish girl that I am, I’d like my riding helmet to be where I left it, not in the manager’s boat that is stored in the garage next to her house where her cute little kiddies left it!

Ordinarily, you could let management have it – get really self-righteous about the wandering helmet.  But when the offending children are also friends of your child and often end up camped out in your child’s trundle bed for sleepovers, things can get sticky.  I don’t like sticky…

In order to try to avoid this conflict of interest, I decided to go along with other evicted friends on a barn-shopping afternoon.  We visited many interesting establishments.  One had no pasture and a tiny dark hole of an indoor. I couldn’t tell if there was anyone in there or not… guess I’d have to purchase some of those nifty night vision goggles one sees in the movies all the time. 

Then, there was one so close to the river that when the spring rains come, you can fish right outside your stall window!  No need for a getaway fishing vacation – just drop a baited line and bobber out the stall window.  You can catch dinner and muck at the same time – just try not to confuse the proceeds of the two endeavors! 

Moving onto the next barn - the lovely new facility with a great indoor and a wonderful barn manager that knew your name and knew about Ping (maybe people really do read this column!).  Great place except for the fact that the man who owns it is a landscape architect and didn’t want to let the horses out of the barn when the grass was wet so the horses stayed in their stalls for three weeks solid! (I don’t’ think this fellow really knows much about horses, although he’s built five miles of bridal trails that Ping would have loved!).  But, Pool Boy would go berserk after three weeks in the stall. Sure, he could run around the indoor but I’m not in the mood to settle on this point. Ping really loves his time at liberty – just being one of the boys in a herd. 

Finally, saving the best for last, there was the place where the owners bred (no pun intended here… just wait) lots and lots of horses, and fed them day old bread (now you get it don’t you) they get from the bakery store for ten cents a loaf (no I’m not kidding here – this is a true story)!  Granted wheat is a grain, and whole wheat bread is a good source of fiber, and there are nutritional fortifications in the bread, but I think the folks at Nutrina® would frown upon this, shall we say,  unique equine nutritional philosophy. Besides, I don’t think horses should eat peanut butter and jelly on their breakfast unless the bread is toasted first – this is a deal-breaker!

Therefore, given the circumstances and the fine selection of pickings out there topped by the short notice we boarders received from our present management, Old Pool Boy and I have little choice but to finally, and at long last, move into Rebecca’s. 

Life at Rebecca’s will probably be just fine.  She and I have discussed all the pitfalls of friends boarding with friends.  We will be adults and work to separate business from friendship.  (I have to make this separation all the time in this business because the equine world really is such a small one.)  I know the barn, and some of the people who board there so it won’t be like the new geeky girl in school (I hope).

I figure that things could be much worse – I could not have a friend with an empty stall that is willing to take my homeless little horse and me in on such short notice.  And, best of all, Rebecca’s kids are grown and gone, and she doesn’t have a boat, or a river right outside the window to float it on!

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