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People problems at the barn

From: Barbara

Several months ago we bought a home in an equestrian community which has a community-owned barn w/24 stalls. The barn is run and "managed" by the homeowner's association. Everyone buys their own feed and cleans own stalls, etc.

I am having severe problems w/a few "experts" in the barn who are unfamiliar w/TWHs, but are very vocal to me and everyone in the barn that my horses are underweight and malnourished. They have even gone as far as feeding double their usual feed at one time (of a very rich alfalfa--no longer feeding alfalfa) which led to a severe colic and another one that I caught in time. My vet has assured me that my horses are healthy, and one is even slightly fat. (They tell me my vet is wrong and I need a new vet) I've posted info about TWHs, the statement from my vet, pics from nutrition books of body condition. (It is a very overweight barn).

The barn/community has a very bad reputation within the larger equestrian city. The "experts" are continually barking out orders and criticism of what I do. As my situation has become known to the other boarders, many have shared their stories w/me, and even though I am glad to know I am not the only victim, I realize that these people are unbelievably mean and ruthless. I highly suspect that the worst one turned off one of my waterers recently--NOT to harm the horse, but to come in later to "save the day" which she announced very loudly several times to the neighborhood.

I have boarded at other stables and realize that all have their problem people and issues. This situation is far worse than any other I have been in or heard of. It is complicated by the fact that we bought into the community for the equestrian facilities and to be near our horses without paying the exorbitant prices for our own horse property in S. CA.

My immediate concern is how this situation may be affecting my horses. We've always been very comfortable and trusting. I notice now that when I go to the barn As I am trying to "get over it" I would appreciate any advice on how to best handle the horses. I can board them elsewhere, although that would be an additional cost since we already "own" 2 stalls. I don't want to let my "pride" get in the way of the best thing for the horses in the long run. They haven't displayed any signs of problems at this point.

If you don't post this but have any words of wisdom for me, I would greatly appreciate any feedback.

Thanks. Barb

Hi Barb! First, I'm sorry for your troubles - you're right, there is always going to be something about every boarding situation that is less than perfect, but in this situation, there seem to be too many things going wrong. I suspect that you now wish that you had been one of the families who investigated the barn and withdrew their offers before buying into that community.

The care of the horses must be your first and most important consideration. Proper feed, water, and turnout are the most basic essentials of that care. If your horses aren't getting what they need, you should probably take them elsewhere IF there is simply no way to convince the barn managers to run the barn properly. You sound like a straightforward, direct person who would have tried the direct approach several times before becoming so unhappy and desperate, so I'm going to assume that there's not any way to change the current situation for the better.

Your account of the two colic episodes is worrisome. Doubling the amount of alfalfa shouldn't result in colic, it should just create a happy and somewhat fatter horse. It's extremely unusual for hay of any kind to provoke a colic, and it's unusual for horses to colic if they are getting adequate exercise, turnout, and water. For healthy mature horses that haven't had a history of colic, two colic episodes in ten years would be too many - two in a few months' time indicates that there is a management problem somewhere.

The second most important consideration is your own sanity. As you say, it will add to your expense if you have to take the horses elsewhere, but I think it will be worth the money if you can find somewhere you can relax and enjoy your horses. If you have to force yourself to go to the barn, and feel tense and sick while you're there, if you are scheduling your life around the "need" to go only when "those people" are elsewhere, then you are under far too much stress to enjoy your time with your horses. This sort of stress doesn't begin when you arrive at the barn and dissipate on your way home - it's with you all the time, and that's not good for the other parts of your life. Since the problem is not with the horses nor with you, and isn't amenable to your management, you'd better do whatever you can to change the horses' environment.

Having your own horse property will probably work out best for you in the long run, but while you're waiting for the right one to appear, by all means move your horses to a happier place, even if it's a field and a shed many miles from your home. (In fact, a field and shed would probably make your horses happier than just about anything else you could find for them!) Otherwise, if your stress level continues to rise along with your concern for your horses and the overall unpleasantness at the barn, you'll be tempted to grab the first halfway acceptable horse property that comes on the market, and that's not a good way to find a new home.

If you decide that you can bear to keep the horses where they are until you've found somewhere else to live, and you find a way to deal with the personal stress, it really doesn't sound as though the HORSES are going to suffer. They may be too fat for the next six or nine months, but as long as their water and turnout needs are being met, a little extra weight is something you'll be able to take off them later when you are managing them at home.

It must be heart-breaking for you to be experiencing this just when you thought you'd found your dream home and the ideal compromise between boarding and keeping the horses at home. Good luck - and I hope that your next move will truly be your last and best!


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