Sunday, November 10, 2013

Boarding thoughts

Horse ownership can present quite the financial burden. That's not news to anyone. We equestrians do it because we love it and it makes us who we are, and many of us would go without food if it meant our horses could eat. My current situation isn't that dire, but being only partially employed does force me to carefully consider the financial aspect of horse ownership and figure out where I can cut corners and give something up in order to make ends meet.

One of the biggest financial hurdles for me has been boarding. In the past year Charlie has lived in four different places, all very different and with different price tags. No place was perfect but they were all good for one reason or another. Full board, semi-rough, and self-boarding, I've done it all.

Right now Charlie is getting excellent care at Connie's barn and I couldn't be more happy to have him close to home and living with a friend. This was my dream, having my horse in my backyard and free to ride whenever I wanted. But I'm increasingly concerned that this may not be the best fit for Charlie. He loves Gi, his barnmate, and I love that he has 24/7 open access to the paddock. I also like having the control to choose his feed/care and being able to visit whenever I want.

However, the biggest issue I'm running into is one of the consequences of not boarding at a facility: no exercise ring. I'm finding out the hard way how difficult it is to maintain Charlie's "rideability" in the winter on a diet of only road/trail rides. In the summer it wasn't a big deal, but now with the colder weather making Charlie more "up" and the shorter days meaning less daylight hours to ride, it makes it really hard for me to ride him safely (and there's often no one else available when I am to go out riding with me). If it is exceptionally windy, or we got a cold snap, or he's just feeling like a TB there is no comfort of having a ring in which to work him first and get his energy out.

Of course this is a never-ending cycle: the less I am able to ride the more excitable he gets, which makes me less likely to want to chance a ride out alone for fear of him freaking out about something and dropping me in the middle of the road. I don't this Charlie to emerge mid-trail-ride:

Jan 2013
I find myself asking if the pros of free boarding at home, at least during the winter, are still worth the cons: is it worth saving money if I can't really ride my horse? Is it worth the potential regression in Charlie's skills if he has this formal working time off until spring? Do I really want to rejoin a barn and all the drama that inevitably goes on there?

Obviously I don't have much of a choice at the moment - and thankfully unlike some of my previous boarding situations there is absolutely no drama and no urgent call to leave (see my posts from last summer like Evicted, Barn Update, and Moved) - but I truly feel that as a young competitive TB Charlie would be better off if we could be somewhere with an indoor where I could ride him more consistently and in a controlled environment. I wish I could bring him to the barn where I work (although there is a decent amount of drama from a select few of the boarders there). But even the discounted rate I could get there is still a decent amount extra for me to spend each month on my limited salary.

In the meantime I have decided to try something else: a band-aid to hopefully get us through the worst of it. Charlie has been on Vitacalm since I had him and it has worked decently well for the cost. However, I have always thought that SmartPak's SmartCalm Ultra, though pricier, would be a nice thing to try. The product has gotten great reviews and I've known people who have used it with success on their TBs. So since my Vitacalm is running out and SmartPak has a money back guarantee, I decided to order some SmartCalm Ultra. (Plus they had a 50% coupon for your first month of a new supplement...score!)

I hope that by spending this little bit of extra money to try to take some of the edge off, I can continue working Charlie through the winter without having to try more expensive options (like boarding somewhere else). I will let you all know how it goes!


  1. Sometimes having that ring is worth the extra cash. You guys came so far in a short amount of time, and I think you'd always have a place at Connie's. Boarding some place w an arena in the winter isn't a bad idea, as long as it's an affordable situation. You have the skills and tools that if you have to start again in the spring or when you find a full-time job, you can build that progress again. Or I'll just have to come stay with you for a week and help ^.^

  2. I agree with Maddy (shocking, I know). A lot of people move to an indoor for the winter and then move back to the barn with the better turnout for the summer.

  3. I have my horses in my back yard, and while it is awesome to have them there, I don't have a riding arena let alone an indoor riding arena. Living in North Dakota, the monsters basically have from snow fall, until snow melt off from riding because it is cold here! But my three boys are mellow no matter how much time has past since the last time you ride them.
    I would definitely try the smartcalm and see how he goes for your boy!