The news came last week. I mentioned offhand to the barn owner where I board that Casi and I are probably moving back to downtown when our apartment lease is up in December. Part of that move would include finding a new place for Halo. I drive 13.2 miles each way to see her now, and with a move to downtown that distance would double. I am a practical person...as much as any horse owner can be, I suppose.
Last week I got an email from the barn owner the day after our discussion, and she informed me that she would like us to find a new barn. She said they had been planning to ask me to leave November 1st with 30 days notice anyway. Brilliant. While I wasn't thrilled to hear that we were being booted out, for reasons I can't quite identify, I know that it is probably in the best interest of myself and my horse. But finding a new place can be such a challenge!
Behind the Bit has a fantastic checklist for the neurotic barn owner. Fortunately, Halo's requirements are minimal at this time. The biggest problem is that she is so young that it is silly for me to a) be at a fancy riding facility and b) lock her up in a stall all day. I am not comfortable with it at all. I want her to have a foalhood and be a horse. Stacey of BtB is right...finding the right barn really is like finding a nanny for your child!
To add to the complication of finding a new barn, not only are we moving in December, but my office is moving in December. At least I know where the office is going, whereas we don't have an apartment lined up yet. So I'm trying to make this decision with a lot of variables at play. Obviously Halo's well-being comes first, but I would like to be able to see her on a regular basis as well.
My options as of now are as follows (names withheld to protect the innocent):
1. Boarding/Lesson barn in Manor, TX. This is about 19 miles from the approximate location where we will be living, and 27 miles from my work. Pasture board gets a small pasture with other horses, run-in shelter, free choice coastal hay, mineral/salt lick, and Nutrena Safe Choice. The pastures are not very big, but they seem safe. The horses are all fat and friendly, and the tack room is the cleanest, most freakishly organized tackroom I have ever seen. I really like the barn owner. I rode a horse of hers for a while last winter, and he was an absolute pleasure to ride. Definitely not push-button, but very soft and responsive. He reminded me that I once was a very good rider! Also, I know that this barn owner would find me another one of her horses to ride for free until Halo is ready. $265/month.
2. Small, private boarding barn in Manor, TX. This is 23 miles from home and 31 miles from work, but in reality it's pretty close to the other Manor barn. They have 23 acres cross-fenced into three pastures. Run-in shelter, free choice coastal, salt/minerals, Safe Choice, and daily worming. I have an appointment to see this place on Sunday. This barn only has three boarders right now, and they are in the process of building an arena and possibly another part of their barn. It doesn't matter to me since I can't ride anyway, but it might be nice in the future. The downside is that there wouldn't be any extra horses for me to ride, and it is furthest away of the barns. It will be very hard for me to get out there with any sort of daylight left in the winter months. $270/month.
3. Co-op barn in South Austin. Initially I thought this was further away, but after checking distances it is no worse than Manor. That said, going south of Austin during rush hour is NOT the same as going east. Traffic is MUCH worse. Austin is a tall, narrow city from north to south, and traffic is much worse if you're trying to take one of the two main thoroughfares in either of those directions. Anyway, this place is equidistant from work or from home at 17 miles. There is a barn, 6 acres of pasture. There are three other horses - a 27 year old mare, her 10 year old daughter, and an older gelding. I don't know how that dynamic would work for Halo since she's a very playful little thing. Luckily she wouldn't have to fight for food since the horses are brought into their stalls to eat every night and turned out every morning. The cost of hay and farrier visits is split between the boarders, and I would need to buy my own grain. The only thing that initially worried me was them saying that they "just throw the same amount of hay to every horse." Hmm. Then again, if I go out and their horses look healthy and well taken care of, there's nothing to complain about. To board here, I would have to feed and turn horses in or out probably at least 3x per week. I will find out more details tomorrow when I visit. $85/month.
4. The final option is similar to the first, but much closer than any of the others. It is a H/J and dressage barn 9 miles from work and 15 miles from home. The benefit to this is that I would be able to get there fairly quickly after work, which would be fantastic on the weekdays. The disadvantage is that there seem to be lots of kids here. It's also the most expensive of the three options. On top of that, I'm not into showing anymore, and while I would like to do so again someday (and take some lessons) it's not a concern at all right now, and won't be for a couple of years. Pasture, stall, or pen board is available. Pasture board provides free choice coastal, salt/minerals, and Safe Choice. The owner told me that the pastures are "rocky" and that any horse pasture boarded would need front shoes at least. My reaction was WTF? given that I have been taught that rocks are good for a barefoot horse with good feet. (Granted, this does not mean you should ever make a habit of tearing around on gravel or pavement). I will not put shoes on Halo unless I have a reason, especially when I can trim her feet myself. Anyway, this is a nice facility with a big jumping arena and a lighted round pen, both of which would be great to have in order to further Halo's training. The round pen would be especially useful to get her longeing nicely. $315/month.
Clearly I need to SEE these places to make a decision. I hope the answer becomes easily evident, and that it turns out to be a solution that's good for me and my horse. I may be a horse owner on a budget, but I want to do right by Halo in every way possible.