Being owned by a horse is an endless adventure, by which I really mean it’s an endless exercise in worrying, second guessing, and always wondering if you are doing the right thing. For Ace and I, the last several months brought about one of our biggest challenges yet: moving.
Did you know that the average time a horse stays at one barn is only about two years? Ace and I were at our barn in Ohio for exactly four years, and in that length of time we saw more horses come and go than I can begin to count. He was one of a small handful of horses who had practically “been around forever” at that point.
And then my husband got a job in another state. He accepted the job in May and we promptly got our house listed on the market. And then we waited. And waited and waited. Finally in October, we decided it was time to go anyways and move in with my in-laws while waited (and continue to wait) for our house to sell. We made the decision and set the moving date for three weeks later in early November.
And let me tell you, the stress of packing while dealing with house showings with a toddler in tow and six months pregnant (yep, I’m due with a baby GIRL one month from today) was nothing compared to the stress of finding a new barn, a hauler, and getting all of Ace’s stuff and paperwork in order. I didn’t give much thought to where I was going to live, but you’d better believe I was majorly concerned with where my horse was going to go. And I didn’t have much time to figure it out.
Here are a few of the things about moving your horse that I learned in the process:
Lesson 1: Don’t Forget To Follow Up on Your Health Papers
I did my due diligence and right away scheduled the vet to come run a Coggins and do Ace’s health certificate, both required for traveling and for the new barn. It was a tight timeframe, only about two weeks before Ace was scheduled to be moved. The vet said it would take a week for Coggins results to come back in, so I wasn’t concerned. Until the day before Ace was coming, and I’d completely forgotten about it, and hadn’t received the paperwork yet. And I had already moved and was almost three hours away from both Ace and the vet. Oops. (Can we chalk this one up to a combo of moving stress and pregnancy brain?)
My friend who was hauling Ace and I had a late night panic session about it, and decided to take the risk and haul him anyway. But my amazing vet received my late night text when he got up Sunday morning, and was perfectly happy to scan and email me the paperwork … just as Ace was leaving for his trip. The Coggins had taken twice as long and the paperwork had just come in on that Friday!
So we survived and had what we needed. But I highly recommend remembering to follow up a lot sooner than at 10pm the night before your horse is moving.
Lesson 2: Hauling Is Seriously Expensive
I’ve never had to haul a horse long distances. I’ve never had to pay to haul Ace anywhere. The one time I took him to the vet clinic, a friend hauled him free of charge. I quickly learned that our little 150 mile trip, while no big deal for us to travel, could be really expensive when you start talking a 300 mile round trip at $1 a mile. Yikes!
I work hard to keep my horse and run a pretty bare bones budget to do so; so an extra $300 on top of our other moving expenses was a hard pill to swallow.
However, having someone who could haul Ace safely with a quality truck and trailer and plenty of horse and hauling experience was critical in my book. And if that was what it took, I was willing to pay what I had to to get it.
Lesson 3: Horse People are the Best
Seriously. Friends, acquaintances, you can’t beat the generosity you will find in fellow horse people at times. I started working connections to find someone who might be willing to haul Ace for me if I paid for gas and fed them. I was striking out with some of my closest friends (for reasons outside of their control) and put a general plea on Facebook for help. And within the hour, I had an offer from someone who I only know a little bit; had worked with off and on in my marketing job, and had seen at events. And she was absolutely amazing.
And yah know why she did it? She wanted my horse to be able to join us, his family, as soon as possible because she understood how difficult it was for us to be separated by state lines for even just a week.
Lesson 4: The People Make the Boarding Barn
I did a ton of online research and worked the few connections I had at our destination to find boarding barn options to consider. But when it really came down to it, there’s simply no way to really know how well a place will work for you until you and your horse have spent some time there.
I couldn’t go to the fanciest, most highly recommended barn in the area because it was out of my price range. So it was a matter of settling on the few features that were most important to me. I wanted some place with decent turnout, that would willingly feed my slightly hard-keeping thoroughbred as much hay as needed, that cleaned stalls daily, and that had a decent indoor arena. (I practically live in Lake Erie now, so an indoor is an absolute must!). I also wanted to find something that required 20 minutes or less of driving time, which significantly narrowed my options as we are in a bigger city now and most places averaged a 30 minute drive.
But I found a barn. Talked to the owner, and like what I heard. Visited the barn to check it out first thing after I moved (5 days before Ace was coming) and confirmed that it was a clean, safe place and the horses looked well cared for. And up we came!
In the process, I really connected with the two sisters who own the barn. I like their personalities, their willingness to work with me to meet Ace’s needs, and their general philosophies with the horses. That kind of thing is never factored into the boarding fee, but is the one thing that I think makes the most difference.
One thing I’ve learned as a hunter/jumper rider who spent four years in a western pleasure barn and recently moved into a dressage barn: the people make all the difference. It doesn’t matter the discipline or the breed of horse or the extent of the facilities if you find a group of people you like and who respect you and your horse.
It’s been two months and it’s still nerve-wracking settling into a new place. I’m still on edge about my horse’s care. I still wonder about the people at the barn, because I never see anyone. (I go out around 7:30 after my son is in bed and always have the place completely to myself, so haven’t had much opportunity to meet my fellow boarders). It’s still very new, and I still second guess, but we are getting there.
Have you ever had to make a long distance move with your horse? What was it like for you and what did you learn in the process?