Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hay Can Change Your Life

© 2009 By Nan Rawlins, all right reserved

It was a good idea, but a little sad, when Ping and I moved ourselves, lock, stock, barrel, and tack trunks, from our blue home for the past four years to another barn. And, although the new barn was very nice and owned by a friend, let’s just says we were both a little down in the mouth.

I had been pretty happy with our horsey home. Even though there were things I would have done differently than current management, I really didn’t want to move. I suppose that could be said of my old four-footed friend as well. He liked his stall and his mane and tail-chewing buddies in the big blue barn.

It wasn’t so much the logistics of the move that were bugging me so much as the teary human faces and worried horses that were packing up and leaving one by one. We had really become, for the most part, a community of friends. We had been an almost daily part of each other’s lives for, in some cases, more than twelve years. We had celebrated the new arrivals of several foals and human babies along the way, wept and comforted each other as we waited for the vet to arrive to put down old friends. We had helped each other stack mountains (literally it seemed sometimes) of hay in the hot late days of summer. We had dug our way through snowdrifts packed against the barn doors in winter in order to clear a path to the paddocks for our horses so that they could get out of their stalls for an hour or two in the winter. We were a family of strangers brought together by a common love for a money burning, hay eating, manure producing animal that in many cases went un-ridden but much pampered, and always loved.

I headed up the loft steps to begin to organize and pack my five tack trunks, all the while a nagging thought began grow - to literally loom over my emotionally overwhelmed little head. All the hay! The hay I had fretted and worried over and over-bought was now stacked neatly overhead and I had two weeks to move it. Wow, Stable Boy was gonna love this!

So, just like Katie Scarlett O’Hara down in Georgia, I decided to worry about the hay tomorrow. I’d move my horse and all his stuff and enough hay to transition him to Rebecca’s hay, and figure out the rest later. After all, tomorrow was another hay.

It was enough to deal with moving knowing that Ping and I were going to be like a couple of rudderless ships in our new digs. We would wander in the desert of the nice new barn for several weeks, missing the rolling green hills and the smell of fresh oak mulch emanating from the great piles of the stuff stored across the road from our old home. Whenever we were out trailering around, we’d always know we were close to our old blue home by that strangely astringent smell that only comes from chopping fresh oak into itty-bitty pieces.

And so it was. Ah yes, the new kid drill. You know – what are the rules, where is my tack locker, how come I can’t find anything, where is Ping’s turnout sheet that was hanging over there but now seems to be missing, why won’t any of these people talk to me? I missed my friends that had scattered to the four winds.

Four-footed new kid on the block Pool Boy had his own newbie issues to deal with. He had to make nice with the new herd and he wasn’t very happy about the new situation. He struggled to make acquaintances, to find his level in the middle of the pecking order, to find the window that was no longer in his stall. In all fairness, he did like hanging his head out in the barn aisle all day – something that suited his gregarious nature perfectly. But, he stopped dealing with me altogether. When I walked in the barn, he’d turn his butt towards me, staring at the back wall of his new stall, where he thought his window should be. He was not a happy camper.

Obviously, he was a little angry with me for moving him. It’s funny but this horse really manages to make his displeasure known. The first and only time I was ever kicked (knock on mulch) by any horse was two weeks after I acquired the red head and he just wanted to let me know that he wanted nothing to do with me and I needed to send him back home to Kentucky where he thought he belonged.

Needling me in the very back recesses of my subconscious, throughout this transitional social experience, was the idea that I still had somewhat more pressing issue to deal with than anthropomorphic communication: We still had that big old stack of hay sitting in the loft of the old blue barn on the hill waiting for me to figure out just where I’d store it. Rebecca’s barn was not set up for partial care hay-hoarders. She ran a nice full-care barn and had plenty of hay of her very own. She really didn’t have room for mine.

When first purchased I thought this hay was another good idea. Keep in mind that this was just prior to the Midwest hay crunch that would have allowed me, had I been willing, to sell my relatively cheaply purchased hay for up to ten dollars a bale. I had no idea at the time that, in the long run, this horded hay was going to save both my and my red buddy’s tail when, first a late hard frost, then ensuing drought, would decimate the 2007 hay crop. I had almost a hundred bales up there. Even if I moved twenty or so bales to Rebecca’s for Ping’s feed transition, I still had another eighty plus to worry about (this running through my mind before I remembered that I had another twenty-five bales stored in another blue barn on the hill, waiting for a rainy day that literally did not materialize for most of the summer of 2007) - Yin and Yang.

Listening to my moaning and groaning about compressed dried grass, my friend Mary Beth, who’d had the foresight to see the writing on the wall and decamped a month prior to the demise of the big blue barn, had a suggestion. Why not call the owner and see if he’ll let you leave the hay there for a month or so until you figure out what to do? She suggested. Good idea! I’d always had a good rapport with the owner. He would drop by Ping’s stall from time to time in the middle of the afternoon. While I was cleaning tack or mucking my stall, we would chat.

I discussed Mary-Beth’s suggestion with Stable Boy who said he thought the talk with the owner was a good idea so I gave the owner a call and asked him if we could drop by. Sure says he. Another good idea!

Stable Boy and I drove back the long lane to the owner’s house. We talked of hay. Sure, says he, you can leave your hay there until you can move it. Turns out, he won’t be working on that barn until he gets a major part of the indoor arena built. Indoor arena? This is interesting. He really is going to renovate – make vast improvements – and reopen in two years. This is definitely better news than turning the place into a cattle farm as was suggested by one of the various rumors flying around.

We discussed our ideas for the place. I’d always thought the stable could be a great place if it had had a fair shot and someone to sink some money into it. The owner agrees and begins to ask pointed questions. How big does an arena have to be? What are some of my ideas to improve the property? Ideas fly back and forth. I begin to see a faint glimmer of an idea. But, he plans to keep the place shut down while he makes the improvements, then he’ll find a new lessee and turn the place over for them to run. He is retired and really doesn’t want to run the place, just make it a grand project - a show place.

Stable Boy and I look at each other. Silently, I wonder whether the owner would be willing to allow just a few boarders to inhabit one barn while he makes improvements to the rest of the property?

Suddenly, I hear a voice. It sounds vaguely familiar – almost, like my own - so familiar, and yet one over which I seem to have no control. The disembodied pod person voice speaks aloud: I’d be willing to run the barn! It says.

Oh no, another good idea…

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