One of my favorite authors, Nancy Shulins, wrote in "Falling for Eli" that a horse lover never has an excuse for not being with a horse. If you cannot afford your own, there is always some stable somewhere needing workers. For the past ten years I have been able to exchange chores for riding time at various barns and have had the privilege of getting to know a variety of amazing horses.
When for whatever reason I have to move on to another barn – my favorite horse is relocated, staff changes, personalities clash (that’s a WHOLE other article) – I go on Craigslist and search “horse board” under the farm section. Many boarding facilities find good, reliable help hard to keep so I will then make a cold call, not as a boarder but as a worker looking for a ride in place of cash. Most stables have a horse that is not getting enough saddle time for whatever reason and this offer works perfectly for all involved. A few stable owners respond with an abrupt “no” but I am thick-skinned, so I call the next one.
The last ranch where I worked Saturdays to get my “horse fix” was experiencing a changing of the guard and I wasn’t comfortable with the new management. Many safety rules fell by the wayside which made for a more relaxed environment, which isn’t a good thing for a ranch. Accidents began to happen. So before I became the next casualty, with a heavy heart I hugged my favorite horses goodbye. Basically I left them before they left me, as many were being sold to good homes anyway. The new director wanted to downsize the herd which made my decision to leave all the easier.
I wished I could have bought Maybelline, the horse I had become the closest to, but at the time my husband and I had all four of our children attending college, and their admirable yet expensive agendas were demanding all of our funds. Horse owners know it’s not the original purchase price of a horse that is expensive but the day to day costs.
“I really need help, I’m so glad you wrote!” was the call I received after I sent my next Craigslist email. I was glad too. She had the perfect boarding facility and the perfect horse for me to fall in love with. If you’re in-between horses for whatever reason, there’s no need to be completely horse-less.