How to Have a Horse in Grad School in 10 Easy Steps

How to Have a Horse in Grad School in 10 Easy Steps

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.

34 thoughts on “How to Have a Horse in Grad School in 10 Easy Steps

  1. I had all those worries and then some when I was considering moving Connor to CA if I got the Facebook job. Hugs! It’s tough. I do have a suggestion for the ulcers. Karen and I both used Nexium on Connor and Hampton this year with great success, although I haven’t blogged about it yet. Total cost was about $50.

    1. Also, can I please beg you and Karen to blog about your experiences using Nexium? I would love to hear about some real world successes. How many capsules per day? For how many days? Did you taper off? If so, how many capsules per day/how many days did you taper? Results? Was it effective? Did you need to repeat?

  2. Awwww. Poor you 🙁 I can totally relate (moved my large pony, who previously had lived an idyllic life out in the field with her herd) to my trainers barn. Immediately she develops an ulcer and I am driving the hour each day to the barn just to administer her gastrogard (she was WAY too much of a nightmare to ride at that point) and being torn between hating that I have to do this, and remembering that none of it is her fault.

    It will get better. Horses are very adaptable. Careful not to anthropomorphize (pretty sure I didn’t spell that right) 😉

    Also, while there are many less-expensive things out there, in my opinion (after dealing with 3 bouts of ulcers) there is nothing that cures them like gastrogard. Except ulcergard, which might be less expensive where you live. Where I live, it has to be shipped to me and ends up not being a whole lot cheaper. I do use a product from a company called Omega Alpha, it’s called Gastra-FX. I’m not at all convinced it would heal an ulcer, but I’ve been giving it to the pony daily and have had no further flare-ups. I give it to her right before I put her bridle on. It coats her stomach and acts like a bit of a calmer too. You might give it a try?

    Good luck! And don’t be so hard on yourself. x

  3. My vet told me to use papaya juice for ulcers. I don’t have a dosage because my BO laughed hysterically at the thought of having to run to the other side of the farm to get fresh juice from the fridge at feeding time. But it’s a cheap option to try.

  4. Ugh, I’m so sorry. It’s ridiculously hard. I worked full time while I was in grad school, and had Tris with me. I don’t remember whole chunks of that three year period. It’s a whole new level of horse stress.

    Tums can be a good intermediate step for ulcers. They won’t heal an ulcer, but they will ease stomach discomfort. I feed Tristan 10 before a ride. You can also add them in as supplements.

  5. Having horses in grad school is rough, but I don’t think I could maintain my sanity otherwise, though it sure would make my life easier without them! Like you said, I’m sure with time Simon will adjust. For Jetta, getting her a slow feeder for her hay made her tummy so much happier, especially since she eats her hay like a vacuum cleaner in 30 minutes then stands around all day with no food.

    1. 10/10 recommend slow feeders – I am local (next town over) from the Hay Chix folks, and their nets have been amazing. Keeps my stall walkers happy, keeps fat horse from being fat and skinny horses look great… and all standing around that is done is their choice. Plus they are super easy to deal with compared to other nets (besides hay hoops, which are probably the easiest, ever, as long as your barn owner allows you to put one up).

  6. I can definitely relate to the 3 hour drive bit. 🙁 Sorry if things are going as smoothly but I need to catch up with you over gchat or text message soon anyways cuz I want to visit youuu

  7. the last one is probably the most important.

    time will heal, and he will live.

    (also ulcer treatment and cost effective will never be in the same sentence, unfortunately)

  8. I’m giving my mare U7 by Finish Line to treat/prevent ulcers and am happy so far. You can also put Simon on the new SmartPak aloe pellets. They are like $19/month and the U7 is $50 for the liquid bottle I buy which I think lasts 30 days.

  9. Check out They seem to be reasonable on prices for ulcer meds. Also aloe vera juice is good for helping with a healthy gut. As are probiotics.

    I moved my mare twice in a month due to the new place not feeding her proper. So at the newer place it’s taken her a month and a half to settle in. She’s finally getting back to her normal self. It may take him a while so don’t beat yourself up. Just love him.

    I have found that trick training is a good mental stimulant. Horse Tricks 101 isn’t too pricey for the amount of lessons. It’s helped me get rid of some spooky things for my girl.

  10. Ugh! Sorry y’all’re having a rough go of it. If you’re looking for ulcer prevention (not treatment), i recommend Daily Gold Stress Relief Natural Healing Clay ($17/bag on amazon). My TB (who gets ulcers like crazy) does very well on it.

  11. Try feeding alfalfa if you aren’t already. There have been several studies that show that alfalfa both cures ulcers and prevents them. I feed Freedom soaked hay cubes (50/50 alfalfa/timothy) precisely for this reason. I also second the slow feeder. Don’t be too hard on yourself. And try using voice dictation when you’re stuck in traffic! I am beta testing a product called Senstone but you can also do it iPhone. The voice to text isn’t perfect but it gets you part way there.

  12. I was going to recommend the straight alfalfa and slow feed nets. The ex asshole’s mare coliced really bad, then about a month later did it really, Really REALLY BAD again. She developed ulcers from the high doses of banamine and seriously she looked like a feedlot rescue bound for the kill pen at the local crap auction. No lie!

    We gave her an assortment of over the counter antacid, acid reflux inhibitors- omeprizol products (Zantac is the only one comes to mind at the moment) and was also dosing her with bottles of Mylanta- orange cream flavor was her favorite and we were buying it by the case. (That got some sideways looks at the checkout line.) The not so wonderful vet was going thru a divorce and kept Forgetting to order the UlcerGaurd and UGaurdEx (a bit cheaper). The ex had suposedly studied organic chemistry in college and put the horse back on straight alfalfa. She turned around pretty quick after that. Of course there was no riding or working her going on because she had blown weight so badly, but that didn’t last long either and she put the weight back on, shiny coat and all.

    Slow feed nets in FUN colors for about $8 at Just for Ponies 9Hopefully the clicky link works) and the quickest/easiest way to fill them is to put them over a laundry basket, toss the hay in and pull the string shut and if you put a snap on the string, you can wrap that over/around the rail, and snap it on the net- no tying it up. Quick and easy to take it down too.

      1. I wish the comments had an editing feature! The listing says the hay nets hold about 2 flakes of hay. HA! I have crammed a lot more than that in one of them. They hold a lot more than that

  13. I know your horse didn’t ask for the move to Cali, but keep in mind, other animals (like dogs/cats) and even children don’t get a say when their families move. It’s a little bit of tough love here. You do what you REASONABLY can to keep your horse comfortable, but mostly you do it so you have a less to non-spooky horse, of good health and that you can safely ride. Anything else is icing. Consider if you sold him to someone in your old barn, so he could stay at his TX home, that owner might not do all the things he knows and loves about you – as lovely as they might be. Don’t freak out, don’t indulge in guilt. Just keep on the path to REASONABLE comfort and health for him – NOT keeping up with the Jones’ in TX (ie. awesome turnout etc). The fact that you go out there extra times just to lunge him, because he’s used to more turnout, honestly has me baffled. I’m not trying to criticize, and I know you are responsible for him, but as a parent, just because my kid used to own and iphone, doesn’t mean i have to replace the lost one with another iphone. A flip phone makes calls just as well 😉 Much love in your time of transition.

  14. I’m sorry both you and Simon are stressed out, but this too will pass. I’ll say that California is almost like two different states, here in Nor Cal there are a multitude of places where you can have all the turnout/horse friends/hay you need. But it’s not where you need to be unfortunately. Unless you need a vacation!

    I have had good luck using Abler for ulcers. The first time I did the whole Gastrogard/Ulcergard protocol but the next year after another competition season and the same behavior, I tried Abler with great results. I did the paste, though I know many people prefer the “blue pop rocks (COTH/Chronicle of the Horse has lots of posts about it) (full disclosure, I did not scope either time, vet was in agreement and after treatment both times horse showed the improvement I was hoping for)

  15. Aw, Lauren! I’m sorry things are a bit rough for you and Simon right now! I hope he settles into a routine and good behavior soon. We’ve had a lot of success with a supplement called Daily Gold. It’s cheap and mineral based, you just add a scoop on top of grain. It’s targeted for various issues, ulcers being one, but also naughty/spooky behavior too! At the very first inkling of ulcer-y behavior from Scout (grouchy for grooming + tacking) I started him on it and he’s back to his normal self again after 2 weeks!

  16. Ughhh so sucky!! Sorry things aren’t going smoothly at the moment. Hopefully after another few weeks everyone will settle in and start to enjoy themselves.

  17. For Ulcers check out GUT

    When i first got my gelding he kept get ulcers and having little colic’s. I put him on this stuff as a daily supplement and he has never had an issue since. I’ve keep him on it because it so cheap and he does so well. If you call the manufacture they can also send you some samples to see if he will eat it. It smells like vanilla pudding.

  18. I can relate to your troubles as a parent of two young children. My horse definitely gets the back seat now and I get to experience guilt for not visiting my horse enough and for being away from my kids when I do. Hang in there.

  19. Long time reader, first time commenter – my writing productivity hack when I’m stuck in the car for long periods is to dictate it. There are all kinds of voice recording apps out there, and you’ll be shocked how much faster you go when you’re speaking (you’ll feel pretty silly at first…but it’s worth it). I can do 3000 words in an hour! Not so helpful for revisions but for content generation or working through thoughts it’s pretty amazing. You can revise as you go when you transcribe later – pretty tidy. 🙂

  20. Girl, I know I’m a month late (it’s been a little crazy over here) but I’m sorry that what we consider normal here is so different for you. I hope you and Simon adjust eventually. Nothing to be done about the shitty traffic though.

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