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Better Homes & Boarding

A home horsekeeper becomes a boarder for the first time in decades.

By Cindy Hale | September 8, 2017

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I’ve lived the backyarder’s dream. For much of my life, the space behind my house contained a barn rather than a swimming pool.

It wasn’t the typical Southern California lifestyle, but I reveled in it. Each morning when I looked out my kitchen window and saw my horse’s face staring at me from over the fence, his eyes bright in anticipation of breakfast, my soul was rekindled.

And then my husband Ron and I decided to move to Prescott, Ariz. Believe me, it wasn’t a rash decision. The urban sprawl that had come to surround our little oasis was unnerving. Each time we visited Arizona, we fell more in love with the clean air, sparse traffic and scenic trails.

When we moved, my much-loved Paint gelding, Wally, moved with us, but I knew from the start that I’d be boarding him. Small-acre horsekeeping property is scarce in Prescott, primarily due to the mountainous setting. Plus, Ron and I have grown older and creakier, so the prospect of boarding Wally became alluring.

Needless to say, I spent weeks investigating a handful of public barns in the area. I finally settled on the one that best suited Wally’s needs and our budget: a meticulously maintained equestrian center inside a gated community.

To be clear, Ron and I purchased a rather modest home outside the aforementioned gate. What enhanced our new home’s appeal was the fact that it’s only six minutes from our front door to Wally’s stall. I timed the trip. Can you blame me?

For the first time in decades, I was entrusting the daily care of my horse to a group of veritable strangers. On top of that, I felt pangs of separation anxiety, and I soon discovered that six minutes was a long way to drive if I was in urgent need of a horse hug.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to appreciate the benefits of boarding my horse. Barn maintenance is someone else’s job. Ditto for stall cleaning duties. In fact, the calluses on my hands are slowly resolving now that they’re not melded to a wheelbarrow twice a day. Another bonus? Ron and I aren’t forced to schedule date nights around Wally’s feeding and blanketing regimens.

Yet I’m not naïve. Relocating to a new barn might seem like a simple task, but in reality, it’s fraught with potential turmoil. Irksome consequences are even more likely when transitioning from backyarder boarder.

For example, Wally and I were now on someone else’s turf, and we have to interact with other beings on a daily basis. Above all else, I wanted to avoid barn drama, because few things can sour the ambience more than unbridled gossip.

From the get-go, I worked hard to cultivate good vibes with my fellow boarders. Maybe I’m an overachiever, but it seems to have paid off. It’s been nearly a year, and it’s been a (mostly) pleasant experience.

While I can’t replace the cadre of equestrian gal pals I left behind, I have made some new friends. Even more importantly, Wally seems to be having the time of his life.

Read on for more on making the most of switching from at-home horsekeeping to a boarding barn.

CINDY HALE won more than 20 medals for hunt seat equitation during her lengthy show career. She currently serves as a judge at local and regional open horse shows.


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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