Sunday 25 August 2019

Little Discoveries

I'm content with my decision to put the horses and blogging a little on the back burner the past month, but I sure miss both! I've got commitments again this coming week, but then I'm FREE, (free at last!) and I can get back to the things I enjoy.

The only good thing about taking a time out is the enforced step back makes it so much easier to see the bigger picture and reset goals and priorities appropriately.

Here are a few of the things I've inadvertently discovered (or rediscovered!) in the past year of relatively low key horse activities, and that really solidified in my mind this past month:

- I enjoy having horses, but a huge part of it for me is having goals and riding regularly. I start to feel a bit burnt out if all I have time for is the day to day care. I'm really having a hard time being 'in between' horses at the moment while I wait for Sophie to grow up a bit more.

Hurry up and grow, already :)

- I miss lessons and having my coach in the same town SO much. This was expected, and I knew it would be hard. What does surprise me is that I don't miss the busy lesson and competition barn environment at all. I miss the people and definitely the coaching, but not the rest of it.

- On that note, my husband and I went to look at a proper farm of our own this weekend, and I felt overwhelmed just looking at it. WAY too much work. There was a time I would have been all over it, it's been the dream for so long. Now though, I think I'd be happier having the horses at a low key boarding place or in our backyard on our tiny, but manageable, place (1.3 acres!)

It seems like my ponies thrive in smaller spaces with imperfect grazing anyhow.

- I miss eventing. I miss jump schools. Who would have thought? (Plus, I sent my jump saddle back for repairs what feels like FOREVER ago and it's still MIA. Sad.) I'm admittedly a relative newcomer to jumping and a bit of a Nervous Nellie about it, but it was such an empowering feeling to always be pushing that comfort zone.

Definitely some defensive riding going on, lol

- Also, I miss showing! At first it was a relief to not have anything on the schedule. Now I really, really miss it and have to restrain myself from making show plans for next year (considering S isn't even under saddle yet, I think those goals can wait, lol) I halfway contemplated giving it another go with Bridget, but yeah, that's crazy talk (right?)

We'd have to interrupt her very busy schedule though.

- In so many ways, if I have the tools and knowledge, I actually ride better on my own. I can get anxious in lessons or get pushed past my happy place. There is value to that, but I'm finding I'm more than motivated enough and tough enough on myself that skipping the odd lesson isn't a really bad thing. I think moving forward I will try to keep to a regular lesson schedule, but keep it biweekly or monthly rather than the once or twice a week I was at previously.

I've said it a bunch before, but Bridget really is thriving with a less active schedule.

- I don't miss riding other people's horses, or taking lessons on horses that aren't mine. I've had a few offers lately to ride the type of horse I should be super excited about. But really, it just feels like work. I know it's good experience to ride more horses, but meh, I am not a pro and just riding my own horses well is a worthy enough goal.

Just warming up a month or so ago and we both look pretty unmotivated and in need of coaching intervention :)

- I have a ton of other interests and hobbies, but horses are the only thing that make me pretty miserable to put on hold, even short term.

Such a shame she's never as excited to see me as I am her.

So, with all that in mind, here's what I'm aiming for in the future. They're things I've probably thought about before on this blog, but now I'm certain about setting them as goals:

I want to build a new barn on our small property so the horses can live at home if and when my current boarding situation falls through (it's not permanent and that's OK). Building a new barn means I get the best of both worlds - a quiet little place set up the way I like, but no giant mortgage that would come with buying a new property. I'd also be able to find someone to fill in while I'm away a lot easier than if I was in the middle of nowhere on a farm.

As you'd guess from the above, I've decided to keep my current job and work schedule, so I'll continue to commute for work and the horses will stay at home rather than moving back south to board at my coach's place. I hope to get a decent trailer to make day trips for lessons once or twice a month a reasonable thing - even with ferry and travel costs (and trailer payments) I'd be saving a ton of money over paying full board so much closer to the big city.

That means there is no end in sight for me posting scenic ferry ride pictures, lol

And of course, I'll be back at it with the daily rides and outings in September and hope to get Sophie going lightly under saddle this fall. She's just had another awkward growth spurt, so it's probably a good thing that I planned to put things off for a month!

Upcoming events: Fall Fair with Bridget mid September, clinic with Sophie end of month.



  1. Many of your realizations are similar to mind from this year. Also, a 1.3 acre farm sounds absolutely perfect. If/when you start to plan out the barn I’d love to see what you’re going to do with it :)

    1. First we need to get the permits approved, tho :) I'll do a post just on general small barn ideas anyway - I have so many saved!

  2. A small farm sounds about perfect. Also, S is ridiculously beautiful

    1. And so sweet too. I hit the jackpot (so far!)

  3. Isn't it wonderful to have easykeepers! Over the years I have known many friends who have moved from boarding to home situations, and some of them have flip-flopped over time (summers at home, winters in boarding, vacations in boarding). Most of us dream of having our ponies in our backyards, and I bought myself a 5 acre property on horse trails to do the same thing 18 years ago...

    After moving in, cutting down the trees, having my building permits approved ... I changed my mind. Two key factors forced my hand.

    First, almost everyone I knew who kept their horses at home practically never rode. They would tell me that their free time was filled with mucking out, feeding, repairing the fences, stacking hay, building a riding ring, waiting for the farrier/vet, going to the feed store, etc. They would then breed their mare, and accumulate more horses (and work) because they had the room ... and now they had less time. And they almost never rode.

    Second, my property value was not going to increase proportionally with the investment I was going to make with the barn, fences, etc. Essentially I would lose 50% of my investment value overnight, which I was going to have to pay with debt and an increased mortgage. Financially, not a sound investment decision. Partly because Im not handy and would have to contract all the work out, plus I did not have access to cheap or free building materials.

    I also came to realize that the type of job I had meant I was not going to be able to provide the 24/7 supervision necessary to keep my horses safe. So I would probably have to hire someone to help during the week when I was travelling. And the cost differential of boarding vs homecare was minimal as the cost to purchase small amounts of feed, hay and shavings is quite high compared to what my barn owner pays.

    But, most important of all ... the social elements of boarding are important. Perhaps you do not have that in your current boarding situation ... but for me, it's huge. I travel 140 km return trip every time I go to the barn (almost 2 hours of driving), but the time I spend there is valuable and I can often make it out 3-5 times a week. I listen to a lot of podcasts and audible books. ;-)

    There are exceptions to this of course. I know a few people that have been successful at keeping their horses at home and riding regularly. Usually it is because they work from home, are semi-retired, and have created a low-maintenance system that reduces their barn workload, and they have a spouse that does more than 50% of the maintenance work.

    You can certainly increase your chance of success by reducing your investment burden (some paddocks with a lean-to), having a boarding situation as back-up in the cold winter months or when you need a break/vacation. You might find that having your horses at home encourages you to try other things (bareback+bridleless, liberty), and having a trailer will encourage you to meet up with others to do clinics, group classes, or group trail rides. I would definitely encourage you to invest more in the trailer than the infrastructure.

    Also, you should probably have a distinct plan for S. It's easier to start young horses with more infrastructure, support and coaching. You might also find that having the two horses alone together bonds them tightly and makes it more difficult for you to trail ride alone, leaving the other home by itself. This might be especially difficult for youngster Sophie in the early years.

    Im a big believer in the Minimum-Viable-Product philosophy, and I think if you start small with a few paddocks and lean-tos, and just bring them home for a few weeks at a time, you will be in a better position to evaluate the risks and opportunities and see how much you want to invest in this path.

    Good luck! And keep riding!

    1. I probably haven't mentioned it, but prior to the blog, the horses lived at home with us. I struggled with many of the things you mentioned, then ended up moving away for several years for work. I've been back for a couple of years now and there is literally nowhere here that offers boarding - livestock friendly land is very difficult and expensive to come by and there has been a big influx of very wealthy retirees choosing to have just a seasonal place with a big estate type property rather than hobby farms or horse boarding :) In a perfect world I'd be able to board part or all of the year, but it seems my choices are ever more limited, unless I choose to move towns again to be closer to my coach and her barn.
      Currently, I self board at a friend's house which is kind of the worst of both worlds, in a way. Paying decent money, plus the chores and maintenance, plus driving to get there and having no choice in a lot of the decisions made re: property and structure design or maintenance (eg I have to store some of my hay and all my sawdust and other supplies at home, plus bring water at certain times of the year)

  4. I am not sure i would have had my horse at home if I knew then what i Know now. You never do ride. (Or I don't)! but i do love hearing his nickers outside when i come out. AND with air ferns (You have them and I have them) HA a barn with a small grazing area is perfect. I dont even use half of my grass area. Which sucks. But I think you have a good plan in place! :) Good luck!!

    1. It's SO much work! Maybe something magical will happen before we start building and I'll win the lottery or someone will open a boarding barn! I'll take either at this point :)

  5. It sounds like you have a lot of clarity moving forward - that's got to be a good feeling! And designing your own little farmette sounds perfect. I'll be excited to follow along on that journey as you take the next steps. =)

  6. I've kept my horses at home for 20+ years and as you said there are definitely pros and cons. The farm workload can interfere with riding if you let it, but if you design things right, have a small enough place, and making riding your first priority it can all work out well. I think going smaller/less investment/less to maintain is smart especially because you have ponies/easy keepers. Good luck!