I know there are people out there who abhor the idea of 'boarding' their horse, or using a livery, or leaving their horse in the care of other people. Usually it's a matter of economics. Boarding isn't cheap.
I've kept horses here on my own property. I don't have a barn. I don't have cross fencing. I don't have the most wonderful thing of all, a covered arena. When I did keep my horses here, I had hot wire separating my five acres (2 ha) into three pastures with a sacrifice paddock, a 'run in shed' and a water trough. It was a lot of work constantly picking the manure up, no matter the weather; keeping the wire in shape, and it wasn't much fun to go trudging across mud to get to a wet horse (despite their blankets). Tacking up in the rain, subjecting my Very Expensive Saddle to mud/water/snow..........it really got to be a pain in the ass. It wasn't conducive to riding. I didn't do much riding because of it.
Yes, boarding is expensive. Sue is paying ~$450 US for the privilege of having Raven's bed made up daily, his breakfast and dinner supplied, daily turnout with a buddy, and the utter luxury of a covered arena. Thus much of our work is taken care of. We're lucky in that the barn lord is a good one. She gets on my nerves, but it's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Which paid off in an unexpected way.
There are (counting on my fingers) ten women boarding at our barn. Three of them pay off part of their board by mucking out stalls. They're all experienced horsemen.
Two days ago, Gretchen was mucking stalls. She owns two horses, a mustang mare and an Arabian gelding. She is the nicest person, a German woman married to a now retired Air Force sergeant.
She noticed something amiss with Raven. I was only made aware of the situation after it was all over, but I'm betting it's the same thing that tipped me off two years ago.
Please see the post I made about it when I was blogging on my wordpress blog, Through The Bridle Lightly:
Briefly, I was mucking Raven's stall, back in March 2013, when I realized that he hadn't pooped much. This is a horse who produces a great deal of manure, and there wasn't but a few scanty droppings. Alarms went off in my head. Ultimately, the vet was called and she found Raven in the first stages of colic. He was 'all blocked up'.
I think Gretchen twigged to the fact that something was amiss by not finding much manure when she cleaned his stall. She notified the barnlord who called Sue.
I wasn't made aware of it until yesterday morning, when a tired sounding Sue called me. She'd been up till almost midnight, walking Raven, with the barnlords' help. Raven had colicked. The vet (not ours, but still, a good one) had responded within minutes and between the two women and the vet, they pulled Raven through.
Sue was at work, would I be so kind as to stop by the feed store and pick up some electrolytes?
"Why didn't you CALL ME??" I begged, feeling a maelstrom of emotions..Raven. Colic. Resentful because she didn't trust me enough to call me? No, that can't be right, no, she knows I don't walk very well due to a war injury, ...."ah, of COURSE I will pick up as many tubes as you want." But why didn't she call me anyway? Am I being shut out? Have I transgressed in some way? But I don't know what, if anything, and she's always quick to rein me in when I have done in the past.
"I didn't want to bother you. Three people were plenty and it was late." That didn't make me feel any better but, it is what it is. No use arguing.
Gretchen, bless her, had caught Raven's colic early. In time. Again.
When I got to the barn with tubes of electrolytes, I met up with the barnlord and while I don't care for her (she treats me as if I were a moron), I thanked her for helping Sue. She blew it off, saying, "Thank Gretchen, she caught it".
Lucky for me, Gretchen was there, mucking out a stall. I gave her the biggest hug I could (she may not have felt it..it was 19 degrees at the time, so we're all bundled up like polar bears) but it was heartfelt, and she knew it. I didn't have to say much. She Knows.
I then went out to the paddock with a tube of electrolyte. Raven came to me, head down and a bit slower than usual. His eye was...tired. I haltered him. He seemed a bit lethargic. Understandably.
"Raven, what are you doing, scaring me like that!"
"Don't you go getting sick like that,you need to drink more. You scared me. Colic!"
I'm just a bit tired. Mom kept me up all last night.
"I've brought you some electrolytes."
I know a wormer tube when I see one. No.
"It's not wormer. It tastes like apple. It will make you feel better."
He tried raising his head out of my reach (and he's already tall), but I stepped on the lead rope and he didn't try too hard to fight it. He's a smart horse, but was obviously still feeling the effects of the night's medical treatments.
With an experienced hand, I put it in his mouth, and he began to try and spit it out before I even depressed the plunger. I gave him the whole tube and he spit out just a bit...and then stopped.
I then removed the halter. He stood there for several moments, then, inexplicably, walked away. I followed, wondering. What the heck? Oh. He, like so many geldings (and stallions) has a certain spot on which to poop. He raised his tail...and a fresh, steaming pile of NORMAL manure was deposited at my feet. Lots of green, moist, steaming, beautiful manure. He then turned and came to me, just like always. I love that horse.
"Not today, my beauty. You've had a rough night. Mom will be here tomorrow. Maybe then. Right now I want you to drink more water and I'll see you. Be good, big horse. I love you."
I left the paddock.
Sue called me that night from work. My worries about being shut out were needless. She can't call me while she's working and I refuse to call her there unless it's a flat horse emergency. But she called me as soon as she legally could.
Later, she called me from her home. We discussed a Probable Future.
Raven will be 22 in March. We cannot realistically expect him to live forever, and I am probably not being overly pessimistic by thinking that we might be going through this more often in the future. Horses-big ones, like Raven-don't live as long as ponies. Sue said, he might go tomorrow, or he might be around for another ten years.
I don't want him to go, no one does. But it happens.
Fortunately, because we are a member of a horseman's village..one peopled by women who know horses, and are willing to Say Something when they See Something wrong with a horse not their own, Raven is going to be okay. We are lucky to be in a barn that supports that sort of atmosphere. There's not the usual gossip, not the conceit of a few drama queens/ divas lording it over the less experienced. No, not this time.
Keeping one's horse at home has its emotional advantages: seeing him from your kitchen window, having him right at hand at all times, is a wonderful feeling. But one has to leave the homestead for many reasons, and then who is keeping an eye on him? It is exhausting to never have a day off from mucking, feeding, breaking the ice on water troughs or putting on a fly mask. Having many eyes on your horse makes it far easier to keep tabs on him.
I will never look at another person's horse again the same way. I will always do it with The Horseman's Eye...is this horse okay? I will Pay Gretchen's action Forward.