Are you foolish enough to move your horse across the country to join you during grad school, a time that’s full of anxiety and oftentimes responsible for bringing out the worst of your personality? Then this post is for you!
1. Pick a state where it’s impossible to find a boarding situation similar to what he’s been used to for 11.5 years.
Over ten hours of turnout? A predominant diet of grain? How about a life full of equine friends he can play with and interact with in pasture? Throw all of that away, and send your dreams to California! There you won’t be discouraged by your limited boarding budget, because the reality is that no amount of money can buy you the type of boarding situation your horse desires. Confidently choose a nice barn with a knowledgable barn owner/trainer, plant your horse there and expect him to deal with it because it’s the best that you can do.
2. Get less writing done than you should, because you’re spending 3 hours a day driving and spending time at the barn.
That horse isn’t going to exercise and turn out himself! Since you’re now 100% responsible for his exercise, entertainment and mental stimulation, change the 3-4 day a week barn schedule you’ve enjoyed for the past 20 years of your riding life and up that to six days a week, no exceptions. Definitely guilt yourself if you can’t go out one day, because you’re responsible for your horse’s happiness. Bang your hands against the steering wheel when you’re stuck in traffic on the way home from the barn, and can see your productivity slip with each stop on the freeway. Give yourself a hard time if going to the barn feels like a chore, because having a horse is a luxury and you should enjoy every second of it!
3. Think everything is okay for the first two weeks he behaves perfectly, and then laugh at your foolishness.
Guess what? He finally figured out he’s not at the world’s most boring horse show. And he is not pleased.
4. Walk into your trainer’s office and dump all your adult amateur horse owner worries on her at once.
He dropped weight. He needs more alfalfa & lunch. He’s gained weight, but he’s too fresh now. He’s peeing all the time. He still won’t drink from the auto waterer. His winter coat has grown back 2x as fast as it ever has before. He’s lonely. The farrier isn’t happy with his feet. He needs a lighter weight blanket. He needs a different kind of hay. He probably needs his owner to send him back to Texas where he was happy.
5. Exploit your guilt by buying your horse things he cares nothing about.
All the fly products (since you had no idea how bad the flies were in California). A new halter. New liniment. New skin care. Hoof products to convince farrier you’re not really a neglectful owner. Two bags of treats. And of course the new blanket, because a no fill nylon turnout leaves him sweating at 7pm before the temperatures drop but the cotton stable sheet will supposedly keep him from shivering until he turns into a wooly mammoth.
6. Sit through so many spooks, that you’re no longer afraid of horses spooking.
Here is a list of things your previously bombproof, been there done that horse will spook at in California: Stacked bags of shavings by the in-gate, horses walking on the trail by the barn, horses lunging in the other ring, horses trotting in the other ring, people walking around the property, ponies, wind rustling leaves on the ground, wind blowing leaves to the ground, a freshly watered & drug arena, retaining walls, trailers who are neither hitched up nor moving, jumps set above 3′, nothing at all.
7. Have long, internal debates about when or how you should treat for ulcers.
No really — does anyone have a cost effective suggestion besides GastroGard?
8. Put your life in your own hands, and ride in the neck rope after he’s had a day off.
Pros – started off super calm and chill. Cons – almost got run away with at the canter.
9. Plan a one month trip to Texas & North Carolina to GTFO of California, and put your horse in full training while your gone.
Use phrases to your trainer like, “Please help” and “You’re the expert.” Tell her that your only goal right now is to get him settled and happy, and appreciate any tips she has to teach your horse that turnouts are for bucking & playing (as opposed to when you are riding) or what scheduled rotation of riding/turnout/lunging is best for his overall mood. Fork over money you don’t have for this service, because you can’t stand the thought of him never making it out of his stall and tiny paddock for the almost 30 days that you’ll be gone.
10. Remember he didn’t ask for any of this, and be patient.
As far as he’s concerned, things were just fine at the old barn and he has no idea the choice is either spend two to three years without his friend (… at least I used to be his friend) in Texas or adjust to the way things are in California. Remember how long it took you to adjust to this new state and new life, and realize that it comes down to it — you’re not totally adjusted just yet. Be patient with him. Still groom his itchy spots even though he doesn’t relax and make the faces as much as he used to. Don’t yank at the reins or pop him on the shoulder when he spooks at the bags of shavings… again. Don’t think about how easy it would have been to sell him in Texas before you ruined him with this move. Instead, remember how much he helped you through the worst of your grief, and keep trying.