We Can’t Have It All

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Well, it’s been a few weeks it seems. Time flies when the weather sucks.

If I haven’t yet established the fact that I hate winter and more specifically cold weather (which I consider under 60°F), well here I go again:

There is absolutely nothing worse than winter. I hate the snow, I hate the cold, I hate the lack of sunlight, I hate poor road conditions, I hate winter coats (both horse and human), I hate having to wear so many layers only to sweat my balls off once I start moving, I hate riding in an indoor, I hate hats, I hate blanketing, I hate ice, I hate having to walk like I don’t have knees so I don’t fall on my face, I hate naked trees, I hate seeing my breath, I hate brown grass…

Okay. So if you weren’t sure before, now you see where I stand on the subject of winter.

So needless to say the last four weeks has had a solid three indoors, with all of the above hates included.

Alice has been getting bored. Real bored. Lazy bored. Despite my many different pole configurations, she has been less than inspired.

The good news is that we’ve worked on some gymnastic exercises which have really helped her straightness and basic cleverness.

She mastered the bounce:

The video is from our second day of bounces. The first day was mostly trying to get her to JUMP them as she thought it far easier to just trot through them. Which, honestly is probably the smartest choice. However, it doesn’t quite offer the same level of difficulty nor does it provide the point of the exercise which is to get on her hind end more, be round, and use herself.

I’m just thrilled that she’s so nonchalant about it all though. I’d rather her consider trotting through than being scared and running through. That is a much bigger problem to fix!

After our mastery of the bounce, I introduced the one stride grid. Which she not only got right off the bat, well, okay she trotted through a few times before I had to go to the crop to get a jump to canter to jump. BUT, after that…it was great. We even had a stumble in the middle and she took care of me and we sailed over the oxer like it was nothing. It’s hard because I want to jack the fences up a bit. She feels ready for it. But she isn’t. Not yet. Oh but it’s so tempting!

Here’s our grid:

Her flatwork has come along nicely despite the ring conditions. It’s been hard to ask her to really use herself when the ring is either too deep, too hard, or worse – a mixture of both. So when we have had some outdoor opportunities it’s been really great! I can ask a little more (though twice it was too deep outside too), and she really feels like an exceptional mover.

My official best ride over the past four weeks was when we were in the outdoor, warming up, when two other horses came into the ring. One of the two horses was what Alice calls the killer. This is a 12 hand white pony that clearly is a horse eating freak! The last time I tried to ride with this pony I ended on a good note which included NOT bolting or rearing when the pony moved. So the bar was low on my expectations.

Alice not only exceeded my lowly expectations but flat out impressed the shit out of me. She walk, trotted, and cantered in the ring with the pony doing the same. We passed the pony and the other horse with very little acknowledgement from Alice. GOOD GIRL! I was stoked! Woohoo, she’s almost normal.

Now yesterday we had some bolting issues due to the magpie that found some rabbit meat in the ring and then declared the ring magpie territory so it screamed and swooped at us for the last 20 minutes of our ride. The ride that also included a murder who were fighting over a few bags of garbage in the field. So I couldn’t really get on her too much since it was basically like a scene from birds.

Magpie

Now to the real tofu of my story. Boarding. Barns. Needs. Wants. Wishes.

My dream barn?

I don’t think I have one. I’m way past that bullshit. No where is perfect. No barn is perfect. And taking location into consideration, that perfection goes down even more.

Colorado is basically just a small step above desert if you aren’t in the mountains. Then of course it’s alpine. I live in the foothills. I board Alice just down the “hill.” She’s living in prime real estate. The market is out of control here, has been forever. Horses dot the landscape in teeny tiny little “pens” and the boarding facilities don’t have pastures. Most don’t even have paddocks. They might have “runs”. But that’s about it. You really have to head North or South about 45 minutes to an hour to find any of that.

Since I can’t commute that much, I have to deal with what’s available.

Alice has had a run on her stall with three days of turnout a week in a paddock that measures roughly 50’x75′.

It being winter, she’s not been in her run that much because of the weather (too icy, too cold, snowing…) though has been getting pretty regular 3x a week turnout.

More importantly, the barn is heated. This is an important fact when I talk about my recent health problems.

I’ve come down with some severe allergies/sinus problems. I’m snorting antihistamines and steroids. TMI? Yeah, well if you ride horses this is some important information.

Denver has some serious pollution.

Air-Pollution-Denver-Skyline-640X480-Smog-Ozone--30955059_2391_ver1.0_640_480

This picture doesn’t even do it justice. There are plenty of times I drive down the “hill” and can’t even see the city because it’s covered with a dark brown “cloud” of smog. Climate change is real people!

So at first I was attributing my health issues with the smog. But then I realized that my issues coincided with the closing of the doors at the barn and my indoor riding. The smog has been there since we moved back here, with it being worse when we first got here, summer and all.

I took a giant step back and assessed my situation.

The barn is a fucking disaster. It’s disgusting. Filthy.

I haven’t really taken that into consideration because Alice is happy, well cared for, well fed, watered…

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Right?

A lot of fancy, super clean barns are a nightmare to board at for both horse and human.

I noticed Josh had stopped coming into the barn with me in October. But he’s super sensitive. So I didn’t think much of it.

But what really hit me was how bad my clothes smelled. Not like barn, like ammonia. YUCK!

That can’t be healthy for Alice either. The barn is kept warm, 45ish degrees. Which is really nice when it’s been in the single digits (or below). But having the barn so closed up doesn’t help the air quality.

So it got me thinking.

Making lists.

What’s needed right now in Alice’s training?

Good footing
Access to jumps (regularly)
Ability to practice riding with other horses (safely)
Healthy air
Ability to practice riding with dogs around (safely)

What else is wanted in Alice’s training?

Trails
Access to cross country jumps
Turnout

What bonus things do I want?

Clean bathrooms
Clean Aisles
Clean tackroom
Clean grooming area
Clean wash rack
Clean grounds
Recycling
Barn cats (well cared for and fixed of course)

Okay, okay. Of course these lists aren’t super comprehensive. But they are the basics. I didn’t add the stuff that is non-negotiable (clean water, good feed, ample hay…)

The barn I’m at has none of the first list, all three of the second list, and none of the third list.

Not great.

So I went barn shopping. Fun.

Ugh.

What’s worse than seeking a boarding barn? Nothing.

But I found a contender pretty quick. I mean I didn’t have many to chose from with my limited area of search.

It has all from the first list, kind of two from the second list, and all in the third list (I gotta double check on the recycling, but at least I know I could start a program myself). Seems like an improvement.

But there’s always a downside. Right?

Turnout, yes. Everyday even! But a very small “pen” and no run. So she’d get the 2-3 hours a day EVERYDAY which is an improvement. BUT, no run on her stall. So inbound 21-22 hours a day. However, I do go out 5-6 days a week. Ride for 30-60 minutes, do 20-30 minutes of hand walking, plus I’d do more if needed. So it isn’t horrible. PLUS, all the horses there are SO very happy.

It’s a hunter/jumper and dressage only barn. It’s nice, clean, and has a higher level of riders. I’m not knocking beginners. But beginners/novice riders with no instruction, no understanding of safety, etiquette…it’s a disaster with a green horse.

I got the impression, the first time I visited that it was a stifling environment. Lots of rules. Not a lot of freedom.

But then I went for a second visit – spent a little more time with the barn manager/head trainer. She’s really nice and kind. She’s involved with a lot of rescue (TB’s, dogs, cats). But what really won me over…vegetarian! And been one longer than me! Forget it. Being in a barn with another enlightened person. Okay, she’s not vegan, but still. I’ll take it! There’s nothing more inspiring than being around someone who doesn’t just dislike animal cruelty, but actually makes decisions in their life to help halt cruelty.

We can’t have it all. But I think me and Alice will have a lot of it. I worry about her happiness and health. And want to do everything I can to perpetuate those two things. I do think that this new environment will be good for both of us. But it can just be temporary. I can always move back. Change is good. I will embrace it, learn from it, and hopefully Alice will grow from it.

PLUS, I’ll have access to a really good dressage trainer who I hope to take a lesson a month from! We’re gonna get our DQ on!