…that needed answering in the five days since I bought Oakley:
Where is he going to live?
I’ve spoken before about how much I love my current barn, but I knew that once I had to foot the bill for full board and training, it would be time to part ways. Trainers M&L run a wonderful program but it’s oriented towards having horses in full training and showing on the A-circuit essentially year-round. That simply isn’t me. I’ve taken a hiatus from showing for the past 4-5 years to concentrate on academic and career pursuits, and when I jump back into showing, I definitely won’t be pouring my dollars into showing at A shows; I’m really B-circuit girl at heart. So I informed M&L this week that we’d come to the end of our relationship for now. I feel really lucky to have been a participant in their program for so many years; their dedication to great care, crazy high standards, and ability to have a good time wherever they go has made for a great run together. But: onwards. I stopped by yesterday to pick up my stuff and say goodbye to Schmoodle, who refused to pose for pictures but instead insisted on trying to munch on my hair. It was poignant to drive away for the last time in the foreseeable future, having said ‘goodbye for now’ to my barn friends and my Schmoods. I’m sure life will intersect our paths again down the road in due course, though.
Luckily, I’ve been casually horse shopping since the beginning of the summer so I have had plenty of time to think about new boarding options. One option crystallized in my mind quite early on: former barnmates of mine at my current place, two teenage sisters, moved here last year when their family decided they needed a less expensive option. Their mom is a life-long rider and horse show mom who has been around the area’s horsey scene forever, so her opinion bears a lot of weight with me. I reached out to her and she gave the new barn two definite thumbs up: they’ve had great results at the new place over the past year.
Another factor: my best friend, KPT, is moving to Ottawa imminently from a city six hours away (YES!) and is bringing her horse with her. We grew up riding and showing together so our plan was to see if we could find a program that suited both her seasoned 1m10 jumper and my greenie (and our limited budgets).
On Tuesday, I headed out to this barn to have a visit. I brought with me the handy dandy Excel spreadsheet KPT and I obsessive-compulsively put together to ensure we asked all the necessary questions, because we are data fiends.
I was pretty impressed by all the answers – so this is where Oakley will be moving! It’s not as fancy as my old place, but the horses all looked slick and happy, and the barn manager seems to have that necessary obsessive streak; their clientele is about 80% B-circuit to 20% A-circuit; they won’t be going to Florida this winter and leaving us sans trainer; and they have a track record of producing well-educated horses and riders at all levels. AND they had two open 14×14 stalls for our
giants horses who are 18h and 17.2. Fingers crossed, but I think Oakley and I will be happy there.
How is he going to get here?
My Ottawa shipper (Trainer M) was heading out of town this weekend (it’s Canadian Thanksgiving), and my Montreal shipper has retired, so I scrambled on Thursday to find someone who could ship Oakley up here ASAP. I ended up with the guy who shipped KPT’s horse the eight hours to his new home last year. They’re a small operation but they have a big, well-appointed trailer complete with cameras, and they’re going to pick Oakley up on Monday morning for his journey westward. As it’s a long weekend up here, I’ll be able to spend that afternoon with him at the new barn. Yay!
What is he going to do in the interim?
Oakley has been living a leisurely life of turnout and longeing while he awaits his ride to Ottawa. He also got a new set of shoes on Friday so he will be ready to rock and roll when he gets here. We’re going to stop by the barn in Montreal on the way to family Thanksgiving today so I can drop off wraps and a fluffy shipping halter [side note, fluffy shipping halters are my favourite thing, every horse looks so adorable and cuddly in them.]
Very importantly: What stuff does he need that I don’t already have?
As I alluded to earlier, I started shopping for Oakley basically immediately upon agreeing to purchase him. Upside of buying a horse well within your budget: more cash money to spend on fun things! So far I have bought or ordered a halter, schooling boots, a saddle pad, a new bridle, and assorted first aid-type things (mostly to treat the dermatitis he’s got on his hind fetlocks – more on that soon). I’ll be sure to report back on all of these.
The BIG things that still remain to be acquired are:
1. Blankets. I have a stable sheet but no heavy blankets for Mr. Oakley. I think I will wait for the vendors at the Royal Winter Fair in a couple of weeks to get the bulk of these, and will probably mooch off KPT’s discards in the interim.
2. Possible saddle fit remedies: Oakley is high-withered and has no developed topline to speak of. I will need to pay close attention to my saddle fit on him, and it may need to be fixed with padding, a breastplate, etc. I sure don’t want to take any more permanent measures, as with any luck he will be muscling up significantly in the coming months.
I am SO excited to get started with a new horse and new program now that all the moving parts have come into place, and I can’t wait for all my family and friends to meet him. I have to admit, though, that part of me still feels like the other shoe is about to drop, or that I’ve overlooked some crucial problem that is staring me in the face. I tend towards fatalism when I’m really excited about something: maybe I’m afraid of disappointment if something goes wrong? Maybe I just can’t believe that after all this time, I have decided I’m financially stable enough to buy a horse and have it in consistent training, and I have trouble trusting my own judgement to this effect? Can you guys relate to this or am I unique in this aspect?
In any event, in this case I’m just going to lean in to the excitement and embrace every bit of the new horse honeymoon. Can’t wait to see that chestnut face – MY chestnut face! – peeking out from the stall on Monday!