Hey there! If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I keep Cash at a boarding facility. Although I grew up with my horses in my backyard, my adult home does not have the acreage. Boarding definitely has its perks! I have a whole post dedicated to my experiences with self care and boarding. Check it out!
I have boarded for the better part of a year now, allowing me to settle into a pretty steady routine. Unlike most of the boarders that I have met, I typically visit my horse everyday. Now, I’m aware that most people don’t have this luxury. No judgment here! I personally don’t have much of a life outside of working, so my free time is always with Cash. It’s become so normal for m e to disappear and my husband knows better than to ask where I am…because I’m at the barn. Duh!
During the week, I get off work around 5pm. I have a bit of a drive home, and by the time I change and grab a snack, I don’t make it to the barn until 6:30pm. The first thing I do is unlock the tack room and grab my grooming bucket – it’s well stocked with Cash’s treats, brushes, grooming products, and hoof care items. He pops his head out of his stall and nickers when I call his name. He immediately shoves his nose towards my pockets where there’s always an apple waiting. The next thing I do some people find strange, but for me it’s a safety issue. I use the heel of my boot to break the apple before feeding it to him. This has become so normal for our routine that I can’t afford to forget his apple, because Cash never forgets!
Next, I hold up the halter and Cash lowers his head into it. He’s learned that the halter means he gets to leave the stall, so there’s usually no argument there. I’ve noticed that a lot of horse owners choose to leave halters on most of the time. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I did growing up. The first barn I boarded Cash at always removed halters in the stall and in the pasture because it eliminates the risk of getting caught on something. Ever since, I have followed suit. It also gives Cash’s face a break and keeps my halter clean.
Not all barns practice this. It takes a lot more time to halter and unhalter 20 some horses. The barn I’m currently at usually leaves halters on, so I make sure to remove Cash’s before leaving every night. I don’t expect the barn to change their routine for me, so I simply do it myself. This is what I love about my current boarding relationship. I am a very hands on owner, and they’ve allowed me to be very involved in Cash’s care. I choose my own feed and the amount I want given. I provide the supplements that I think Cash will benefit from. I schedule all of my own vet, farrier, and chiropractor appointments. While I’m sure some boarders prefer the barn to handle coordinating such appointments and making feed decisions, I am a little too “type A” personality to hand over the reins.
Next, I clip Cash into the cross ties. He can be a bit ornery in them, but he’s learned the better he behaves, the quicker we can move on. I start by running a curry comb over Cash’s body to remove shedding hair, mud, and bedding. I follow that with a semi-soft body brush. I make sure to run the brush down each leg while simultaneously checking for heat with my free hand. This step is extremely important because horse legs can be fragile! I showed up to see Cash one time and noticed immediately his gait was off when I walked him out of the stall. I proceeded to walk him up and down the barn aisle, but couldn’t put my finger on it. After running my hands down his back legs I found a 4 inch long gash on the inside of his right hind leg. Had I not checked every inch of him, I would have saddled up for a ride.
After I’m satisfied with brushing, I pick his hooves out. I believe in always picking hooves before AND after riding. I usually show Cash the hoof pick, then move to his side and click while gently tapping his leg. He automatically picks up his front hooves and shifts weight off his back hooves with these cues. I wouldn’t say I “trained” him to do this…it was just repetition. Because he goes through this process twice every time I come to the barn, he’s learned what the clicking and tapping means. Cash also gets a treat after all four hooves are cleaned, and I’m sure that’s a motivating factor as well.
Somedays I complete all of the mentioned above within 10 minutes, other days I drag it out and just enjoy grooming my horse. Next I tack up. It’s not uncommon for me to grab the rope halter and the bareback pad instead of my saddle. Bareback riding is my favorite! I opt for the rope halter when we ride in the arena because I know it is more comfortable for Cash. Using the rope halter instead of the bridle is a huge accomplishment for us! When I first brought Cash home, he wouldn’t respond to anything other than a bit. My goal is to someday ride bridleless, and I feel like we’ve made some steps in the right direction.
Ride time varies greatly. I used to ride for over an hour on an almost daily basis. We’ve slowed down quite a bit due to his EPM and time restraints. Now, we spend around 30 minutes riding. I will often take Cash for a walk either before or after riding. Some days we forgo the ride and simply go for a walk. I enjoy this time with Cash because there’s no expectations. I walk beside him, telling him about my day, my plans for tomorrow, and anything else that pops into my head. Cash’s demeanor changes greatly when we are outside of the arena as well. His ears prick forward, eyes are bright, and he walks with purpose. Sometimes I think the arena can be depressing for him because it’s the same every time. He appreciates the fresh air and sunshine just like I do.
If the arena is empty when we return from our walk or finish our ride, I remove all tack and let him roll. Usually he opts for this, but every now and then he decides to skip the roll and asks to go back to the barn. He waits (no so patiently) at the gate and stares at the barn. Once the halter and lead rope are back on, I ask him to back up to allow room for the gate to open. This is another task that he’s learned to comply with quickly so that he can get back to the barn.
As ready as he is to hop back in his stall and finish dinner, he reluctantly endures a second round of grooming and hoof picking. I think that Cash enjoys being groomed most of the time, but dinnertime is no joke! He gets pretty inpatient with me when he knows hay is waiting in the stall.
Once he’s happy and back in his stall, he gets hugs, kisses, and of course more treats. I tell him goodnight, kiss his nose, and put away the grooming bucket and tack. After locking the tack room, I run back to pet him one last time and promise I’ll see him tomorrow.
I’m sure to some, this seems like a lot of time spent at the barn. Remember, I repeat this every day. It’s always worth it and I wouldn’t want it any other way! Someday life will change and my time may be limited. But, for now, I’m going to continue spending every free minute with Cash!
“A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life’s true priorities are clear. When you take a step back, it’s not about the horses – it’s about love, life, and learning.”-unknown