My horse has been off for a while due to lameness, and I was pregnant (had a miscarriage) but hope to be knocked up again soon so am going ahead with my plans to move my horse to a barn that has more turnout and costs less than the small training barn he's in now. I love my barn, and my barn owner/trainer, but it takes more than an hour round-trip to get out there and Danny's taking up (and I'm paying for) a training space. We are welcome to stay and plan to return if we can in the future, but in the meantime both of us are pretty much going to take the summer off (or at least, easy). If he becomes un-lame then I'll just hack around and get him back into condition as much as I can myself this summer.
The barn we are moving from is rather small (10 stalls) and has highly personalized care. The barn we are moving to is very safe and well-recommended (otherwise I would not be moving there) but is much much larger (~60 horses). There are a number of trainers and a very knowledgeable barn manager (sorry, I just can't bring myself to use the acronym "BM") but no one person who will have his/her eye on my boy at all times as we are used to.
I am a novice horse owner (got Danny last fall), so this is both good and bad for us. I am forced to be aware of management issues as simple as planning my own horse's rotational worming schedule (previously I would just buy the wormer my trainer told me to get that time around), scheduling the farrier myself, etc. So I'll have to get a lot smarter, but we'll have a lot less hand-holding, although the people will be there for me to ask questions of as long as I am aware of the questions to ask.
Does anyone have advice about what else to expect moving from a small barn to a big barn? Things to look out for, things to keep my eye on? Previously, if I couldn't make it out to the barn for a few days I had zero concerns because I knew he was being taken care of like one of my trainer's own horses. Now he's much closer, so I can be there on days I wouldn't have had time to before and take care of him myself, but that of course means that he's at the mercies of my novice self.
Do you have a vet visit scheduled any time soon? That's where I'd start, by letting your vet know that you are now more involved in the horse's day to day care, and asking if s/he has any advice.
If your trainer has been handling all this up to now, you may want to ask your vet about the protocol for an emergency call and figure out where the nearest hospital/surgical clinic is and how to get him there.
Do you know how to take his temperature and pulse?
When I moved Patrick first across the country from Arizona to Georgia, and then home, which is an hour from the vet's office and another 30+ minutes to Auburn, it was an experience! I now have a pile of stuff here that I never needed when he was boarded in Arizona just minutes away from top notch vet care.
What will he be fed at the new place? I didn't pay enough attention when Patrick first got here, and he was getting rocket fuel. Nice to know you can feed up a ~20 year old eventer, but I didn't need *that* much horse to trail ride and hop over logs.
Moving barns means compromise somewhere along the line. By doing your homework you will be able to find out ahead of time what you can live with, and make plans for what you may need to change.
By necessity, large barns are run differently than small barns and usually involve more standardized scheduling across the board. You will have more than one set of eyes on your horse. Your move will go better if you take some time to learn about the barn management schedule before you move there so you can better go with the flow when you can go with it, and figure out where your horse's needs will differ from the barn plan and make alternate arrangements for it ahead of his arrival there.
Hay, water, grain and bedding: Find out what the barn is using for grain or ration balancers and make sure it is a good fit for your horse. If not, make arrangements for him to fed a different product. If he is on supplements, find out if they can be fed out by the barn staff each day (SmartPaks, prebagged by you ahead of time, or left in bulk containers at the barn). Find out what type of hay your horse is getting now, and how much. Then ask the new barn what type of hay they use, and what the maximum hay allotment for each horse, and decide if you need to pay the barn for extra, or need to buy extra on your own. Ditto for the bedding--what kind, and how much in the stall each week. Keep an eye on the water buckets to make sure they are kept clean and filled, and ditto for the stall.
Turnout schedule: How many hours each day, where (are the fences safe?) and with whom? Also, take a look at the handling of the horses in general during turnout/retrieval times, and make sure it meets with your approval.
Whose vet? Whose farrier? Are they yours? Is yours even welcome in the barn? Again, research here. Ditto for any other equine professionals you may be using.
Indoor/Outdoor ring schedule: does it fit with your own? Can you make it work for you? If there is a lesson program, can you stand the drama inherent in kids and teens dramatizing their emotions around the barn? Big barns tend to have the drama component in their makeup. Sometimes the staff gets in on the action as well, which can be annoying.
Things to get/do before you move: at least two weeks before you move, get your horse's vaccinations and Coggins updated, and if the horse needs to be wormed, do that then as well, or wait until you are at the new location for a few weeks, and then do the worming if it is needed. That way you're not asking him to adjust to his new surroundings and process wormer at the same time. The move alone can be enough for some horses to manage. And buy a padlock for your tack trunk/locker. Things easily develop legs and walk off in large barns, regardless of whether it is by default, or by design.
Good luck with the move.
"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein
Good advice from Chief. To that I'd add: be friendly! meet people, chitchat, say hello, smile. You'll figure out who the crazies are and who will be your extra set of eyes when you're not there. You'll want to have a few good friends you can call in a pinch, when you're puking from being pregnant on the morning the farrier is supposed to come, or you need someone to put in eye ointment when you have an early meeting at work. Big barns can be a lot of fun and a great place to learn about horse care.
Look at it as a learning experience. With 60 other horses, you will be exposed to a myriad of opinions on horse care and riding, and none of them is necessarily "wrong" I would caution you to expect that things will be done differently from what your smaller barn did, but again not "wrong." Enjoy the variety of people, try and figure out which ones are nuts (bound to be few) and avoid the ones who annoy you (will be a couple of those too).
One other thing - pick "stable colors" and put your name on stuff. Custom stencils are about $15.00 online; get one in a size that can be used on brushes, boxes etc. The $20 spent on that & spray paint will save a lot of head aches and trips to the tack shop. Consider have sheets and blankets monogrammed, not for snob appeal, just to make life easier. I never did it until the BO at my last training barn pointed out that they had 30 green sheets in various sizes stored for owners. Finding one, even with names sewn in 3" letters was not easy.
Last edited by red mares; Feb. 15, 2011 at 04:00 PM.
Reason: missed a word
This may sound silly... but purchase the Pony Club D and C manuals, and read them from cover to cover. There will be lots of things that you will roll your eyes at (like how to put on a halter), but it will give you a thorough base of knowledge in all the necessary areas. From there, you should be able to ask enough appropriate questions to manage your horses life.
Thank you very much for all the advice. I have never read the Pony Club manuals but they are available on Amazon as Kindle books so I can get them in about five minutes! I am kind of scared, but at the same time I am pretty social (and good at avoiding drama) so in some ways a bigger barn may be a positive change for me. I'll let you know how it goes.
A professionaly run large barn will offer more choice in about everything than a professionally run small barn. But if things "go South" in a large barn it can be a can of worms that approaches Biblical proportions.
I'm wondering about the wisdom of keeping a horse with a long term lameness purchased less than a year ago by an admitted novice owner who's going become gravid and has a history of pregnancy problems and whose ability to address all these issues is problematical. (How's that for a run-on sentence?!?!?! ).
If you're not careful a horse with problems, particularly lameness', can become a real "money pit." If you're flush and have an understanding mate then that's generally not too much of a problem. But if you're on restricted activities because of pregancy related issues and money gets tight (or your SO decides that your hanging around 1000 pound animals when you're suffering from a physical limitation is a Bad Idea) then problems can arise. Problems cause stress. Stress is a Bad Thing during pregnancy.
One alternative is to sell the horse, have your child, get "back in the saddle" with some lessons, then find another horse. If you multiply the monthy cost savings over the months you're likely to be down you'll likely have an impressive number. That will buy you a pretty good horse.
This number will also tell you what it's going to cost you to keep the horse you have. They you get to ask, "is it worth it?"
Selling a lame horse will be a real challenge in today's market. But sometimes it's better to take one, quick hit than to "die the death of a thousand cuts."
All very valid points -- thanks for bringing them up. Purchasing my horse was a calculated mistake to begin with, as I bought him basically at the same time we started pursuing fertility treatments. I was sick of putting things off because I might get pregnant, including and not limited to buying my first horse, and my husband was supportive so we went for it. So, we did walk into it knowing that it was maybe not the smartest time to buy a horse but that I'd start looking, and then I happened to find one that I totally fell in love with, so... anyway, if it turns out he's lame for good and ever then I'll retire him, but in the meantime we're gonna do what we've gotta do and that's that. We are fortunate financially to be able to support my giant pet for now.
Your model is definitely the smarter one, but realistically even if I did want to sell him now I think it would be a tough sell. The market around here sucks, before I bought him he was for sale for months, and on top of the front lameness he has an OCD lesion in the left stifle that we found on PPE (never caused him any problems; according to second vet opinion had a decent chance of never causing problems). On the bright side after the PPE I got him for practically nothing -- even with the vet bills and the possibility of OCD surgery on the horizon we haven't gotten anywhere near his initial asking price. Even if I did sell him and save up my pennies for another horse by not paying board for a couple of years, the next horse would not be any fancier. He is a very nice horse, when he is sound! We could afford a more expensive horse, but I agreed not to spend that much as for my purposes a sub-$5000 horse will do quite nicely.