Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Having it all : Farm Life Edition

We've all heard and most likely believed at some point that the grass is greener on the other side but is it really?  This is the first installment of a many part series discussing whether the idea of "having it all" is really all it's cracked up to be. Owning your own farm as a competitive horse rider is a multi dimensional topic.  So many Pros but also many cons.  And it is mostly only for certain lifestyles. 

Seeing this as you sip your morning coffee from your dining room table is obviously a big pro.
1. If you don't have the ability to only have a part time job or even not work at all then I would not recommend it.  I know many people who have their horses at home and it is working for them.  The one thing they all have in common is, they have very flexible work hours.  If you work 40+ hours in a week and have your horses at home the only interaction you will be having with horses is cleaning up after them, fixing fences, finding hay, picking up shavings and feeding.  There are just too many tasks on a farm and it takes up far too much time to fit it all in.  I can't imagine working more than I do(which is 15-20 hours a week) and be able to keep up at all.  It was pretty much stress free and doable for the many years I didn't work at all.  Now even with as little as I work it can be a struggle to juggle it all.  And I can't say that the kids are a reason it's hard to keep up because they honestly are one of the only reasons that it works at all.  They are far more help than they aren't.  It all sounds quite entitled, privileged or spoiled but even my husband knows that me working a fulltime job is off the table.  I'm not giving up enjoying my life and if I worked any more than I do it would be all work and no play.  But I do know that that is not a realistic option and in those cases boarding is the way to go.

2. If you enjoy a social life it is not for you.  If you love riding with friends and half of the reason you look forward to going to the barn is because you know you'll see, Suzy or your trainer or the BM.  Riding is fun, we love spending time with our horses.  But if you also enjoy talking to a living being that can also talk back on a frequent basis then you most likely won't be happy with your horses at home.  Yes you can haul out for lessons or trail ride with friends.  But the every day grind of conditioning, schooling will be solo and for many that can just suck the joy and motivation out of it all. 

3. You think you enjoy barn chores, cleaning stalls sweeping the barn aisle, feeding.  Well then I would take a test before you make the plunge.  Volunteer at your current boarding facility to 2-3 times a day do all the barn chores.  Not the occasional, OH I have nothing else to do with my time I'm going to help out at the barn.  No, more like the, I have a million and 1 things to do for work, my family, my house, my friends, myself but instead I am going to go out to the barn and spend a few hours cleaning, organizing, feeding in the freezing cold for FREE!  You should try it.  Your BM will love you.  Actually I am happy to let you come do all of mine to see if you are cut out for it!  Cleaning a stall does not a good farm owner make.

4. Do you like traveling?  Or even the idea that some day you will be able to travel?  Whelp, don't buy a farm.  Does it make traveling impossible?  Maybe.  But no matter what it will definitely limit it.  I know people who haven't gone on a trip in over a decade because they can't leave their horses.  I am lucky enough to have the amazing Monica in my life that I am able to get away at times but there have been many years that wasn't the case.  And even though my vote is that Monica never moves or gets to a place that she can't just pick up and care for my babies I know that will not be the case forever.  Finding a person that is available and that you can trust not to kill your animals while you are gone is far harder than one might think.  And take the word spontaneous out of your vocabulary.  It takes days if not weeks of planning to go anywhere ever for the rest of your life.

5. If you think you'll save yourself money and time by eliminating a board payment and a drive to the barn I will try my best not to chuckle in your face.  After you factor in the expense of a  farm, a tractor, a truck, a trailer (you can get away with ride sharing at a boarding barn but not at home), hay, feed, shavings, fuel costs to pick up all of those things, fence repair, electrical bill etc..  The time it takes to shovel manure for hours, fix fences, manage pasture and the hundred other things that come up you are far better off driving to the barn, showing up riding your horse, writing a check and leaving and driving home.  So that can't be the reason you decide it's right for you. I can assure you that the board payment you make every month is worth every penny.  And barn owners aren't getting rich off of board.

6.  If you are eternally obsessed with perfection PLEASE don't have you horses at home.  You will be miserable. If you can't handle mud on your horse or walk into your boarding barn and huff because the aisle way was left a mess.  Or gasp what would you do if your horses stall didn't get cleaned for a day?  Or two?  OMG the neglect!  Well the ugly truth is it will happen if you are the sole caretaker of your horses.  Perfection is not realistic anywhere but one person and a barn of horses will be a far cry from perfection.  What if your buckets didn't get washed regularly enough?  Or your horses blanket didn't get put on at the right time?  Or your horse didn't get fed on their clock work schedule?  Would you flip?  Would you immediately text your BM and explain how your fluffy prince/princess will surely die because of their shortcomings?  If any of those things are something you cannot fathom your fuzzy Foofoo having to suffer then your horses at home is NOT for you.  It just isn't humanly possible to make all of these things happen when you cannot employ someone to be there do handle it all the time.  You might be surprised but horses are not as fragile as one might think and while inconvenient for us they do survive such travesties.

Those are the realities of having your horses at home.  It truly becomes a way of life.  You plan every thing you do around your barn responsibilities.  Going out for  a fun evening has to be thought out and planned for.  Your plans can change because of weather, water problems, mechanical problems, electrical problems.  Something always comes up.  You will undoubtedly have to choose between, a show and paying the electrician to fix your barn lights.  Or fence repair instead of XC day at Rolex with your friends.  Or you clinic fund be spent on a tractor repair.  Or miss out on a fun day shopping at the tack store because you have too much crap to deal with, literally.  Or forego blogging for months on end because you just can't keep up....ahem...  You will likely not show as much or advance as quickly as your peers in your discipline because of all of the time and money that go into having your own farm and that can be a hard pill to swallow over and over again.  And you will have many days you have to forego a ride because you just have too many things around the property to accomplish.

If I make it sound all bad it really isn't but I will say it is not for most.  It is for me for now.  I imagine when my kids are grown and moved on that I will most likely board.  For many reasons but freedom and flexibility at that phase will be a nice change.  Right now I do enjoy the brunt labor and will look for any reason to get out of a social event even if it is for shoveling shit.  I love the ability to just walk out to the barn and get a little therapy.  Or look out the window and soak in the beauty of my beloved creatures. The freedom to just run out for quick ride when time is limited.  To get a daily dose of equine interaction and not have to sometimes go days in-between seeing my horses.  These reasons, for me, outweigh the hassle and trouble of the previous 6 points.  But I know for many that is not the case.  It is just not the lifestyle that many want to lead. 


  1. So true, all of it! I loved having the horses at home, but now that I work full time and travel a lot more boarding is where it's at for me!

  2. We have not been thru an entire year yet of having our horses at home - 5 months so far. We thought long and hard about this decision and boarded for 10 years. The huge deciding factor is my husband helps with the horses - in every way and can fix most anything mechanical and structural (yes, even electrical). Yes - we plan our lives around them and both work full time. So, far, we love it and would not change a thing!

  3. Very good post! I have 2 of my horses at home. And 3 out grazing. But I do all the labour for even my horses out grazing. I love that I can care for them and to be honest I don't like the thought of someone else giving my horses their feeds. Its rewarding doing it yourself, but as you said it can be limiting. I however wouldn't have it any other way.

  4. I had horses at home for a couple years and I will never, ever do it again for all the reasons above. Drop off my check and go for two weeks of vacation without having to worry about a single thing for my horse? Yes, please!

  5. I feel like sometimes equestrians look at me like I'm crazy when I say I don't ever want to have horses at home. But... I really don't haha

  6. My horse dentist told me that if I want to ride, don't get a farm. My family is currently too young to be much barn help. ;)

  7. Your post is extremely relevant to me since 2016 began. 7 years ago my dream came true and we got a little farm after boarding for 20 years and hating every aspect of it (especially the social aspect of it, oh, and never knowing what my horse was eating).

    Now I know both sides and what I want more than anything right now is, well, one of two things: a safe place to work my horse, or someone to ride with. I have a new, young horse and no one to ride with, and nowhere to do groundwork (I'm using a parking lot next to a busy road, not really safe).

    Since I have no job I have all this time to fix fences (it's always the fences!) and clean poop, but I can't afford a trainer even if I could find a competent one (there are many, many bad ones in this town). But I don't need a horse trailer/hauling vehicle at the moment, because I have no idea where I'd take a horse.

    The thought of moving back to the city and boarding again doesn't sound as awful as it used to.

    The boarding check was less than the money we spend on my husband's commute, property fees, and fencing repairs. I enjoy this place every day - peace and solitude - but I'm not riding my horse.

  8. You are the first person who has ever admitted out loud what you said in number one to me!!! I feel the exact same way! People think I'm lazy and privledged because I only work part time, but I have to work part time. With my anxiety problem and insomnia problem I just can't function working 40 hours a week and still take care of all the house work and horse work (and dog and cat lol). That's why 2015 was an absolute crap year for me because I was working 40+ a week! All I was doing with the horses was taking minimal care of them. I didn't ride or spend time with them. It was horrible. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. Thank you so much for sharing this. It makes me feel so much better. Now that I've gone back to a part time job I am so much happier and healthier. :)

    I've always had my horses at home, so I've never experienced the boarding thing. I think I'm too anxious/OCD to give up the care of my horses. It's all I've ever known. I'm lucky that I have my parents here to take care of them though, if I have to go somewhere. The only thing I really don't like is not having someone to ride with all the time, but even at the boarding barn it wouldn't be a guarantee because so many of them have the complete opposite work schedule I do.

    I'm happy with them at home, even with all of the hard work. Those round the clock horse hugs are enough payment for me. :D

  9. Having been on both side of the spectrum and now having a hors boarded and one coming home...I can say I am NOT looking forward to horses at my house again, hahaha! Color me spoiled. I don't care.

    by the way ILY <3

    1. ^She sent me over here and wanted to say thanks to you both! Love this post!


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