Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

Changing Barns: Out with the Old and in with the New

Confession: I’m moving barns at the end of the month.

Lancaster Equestrian Stables
Lancaster Equestrian Stables

This was a terrifying decision to make. If I’m being honest, which let’s face it I always am, I love being at my current barn for many reasons. There are so many good things about an equestrian facility. There are 500 acres of trails, multiple barns, generously-sized paddocks, and I have a lot of friends there.

Beautiful vistas

However, I have been at Lancaster for eight years. I’ve been a newly returning rider, a working student, and a horse owner. In many ways I have grown as a horsewoman here. The thought of leaving is terrifying.

I have learned how to tack a horse, how and when to blanket, turn in and turn out, feeding, and many more important things. In so many ways I became the person I am today because of this place. I can never thank the Lancaster Family and my trainer enough for everything they have taught me over the years. However, this is an equestrian facility and lesson barn. For much time, I adored the social aspect and taking lessons here either privately or in a group was priceless.

The Search

For some time, however, I’ve been wanting a quieter, private stable. Where I used to crave the social aspect of riding, more and more I found myself going to the barn first thing in the morning when it is quiet. I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable riding with others watching me even in passing, and dodging children learning to steer. It just didn’t feel like a perfect fit anymore.

I hope that means I am growing as a person and a rider as opposed to the opposite. My priorities have changed as a horse owner. While taking lessons this barn was the perfect fit. As a horse owner, I want to focus on groundwork and going out on the trails, which is not the normal at a Hunter/jumper facility. So I started passively keeping my eye open for a good fit for Ferrous and myself.

What to Look for in a New Barn

  • Location
  • Number of Horses
  • Maintenance of the facility and paddocks
  • Discipline (similar interests)
  • Trail access (if you’re into that sort of thing)

I really wanted a small, private barn with an indoor ring and access to trails within 20-30 minutes of my home. In the heart of New Jersey horse country there are a number of equestrian facilities, show barns, and private farms but none that fit perfectly.

By chance I had a new massage client at a nearby farm. As I was working on the two beautiful Quarters Horses, the owner informed me she was moving to Florida and stalls would be opening. She couldn’t say enough good things about the facility and the people. Funnily enough, the owners of the small farm used to board their horses at Lancaster until they built their own stable just down the road. As a working student I cared for their young colt, now grown, and their other horses as well.

The barn was only a few years old, well-maintained with indoor/outdoor stall access and with a bright indoor arena. As if that wasn’t inviting enough, the property has direct access to a natural preserve and public park with multiple horse trails.

It seemed too good to be true and I couldn’t ignore the timing. I loved the idea that this was a small facility with boarders, no lessons, and the riders enjoyed hacking out regularly with more timid riders and more adventurous riders as well. So I inquired about boarding.

Giving Notice

All this seemed perfect. The only down side was the sinking feeling in my gut at leaving my barn. I am not good at change and didn’t want to leave my friends. However, a part of me realized that I rely on them too much and haven’t challenged myself like I should. 8 years meant feeling much too comfortable. I needed a change.

I didn’t sleep at all the night before I told my trainer I was thinking of leaving. I cried when I told her in person, scared to leave and yet feeling like I was abandoning her. I am always afraid of disappointing others. It was horribly awkward but she understood.

Then I told my barn owner and signed the paperwork at the new barn. I felt relief and yet so much anxiety. I made sure to give more than the standard 4 weeks notice and I do not want to burn any bridges. After all, I have nothing bad to say about Lancaster and my daughters will still lesson there. In fact, I think they will blossom riding other ponies rather than just their own.

Planning the Move

For an anxious person like myself, the anticipation can be worse than the reality. Now that I committed to moving stables, I have to prepare Ferrous and myself for the move. As a former show horse, Ferrous has been trailered often, however not at all since I bought him. Even before, I was told that he could be difficult to load. Luckily, the new barn owner is willing to trailer him or accompany me through the woods if he wouldn’t load well. Yes, I may be moving facilities but I am not going very far!

Of course, I am slow to adapt to new things and change can be very anxiety-inducing. I like to be prepared for the transport and the transition so I’ve come up with a plan.

Preparations

  • Practice trailering or taking the planned route on horseback.
  • Organize all your belongings and your horse’s belongings.
  • Prepare any calming agents that may be necessary, like CBD oil from Treatibles, our favorite!
  • Inform your veterinarian of the new address for their records.
  • Change your SmartPak Autoship settings if you use any supplements.

On Moving Day

  • Get an early start and plan to take your time. Rushing will create more anxiety.
  • Unload your horse and walk him or her around the new barn. Explore the new sights and smells but with you, it will be a little easier.
  • Don’t expect anything, just explore.
  • Introduce your horse to their new stall.
  • Set up your tack and get settled in to your new barn.

Settling In

  • Don’t expect a quick transition. Give your horse at least a week to settle in before riding.
  • Ground work is your friend.
  • Expect a little abnormal behavior at first.
  • Enjoy getting to know the new people and environment!
Beautiful Ferrous

I’m most nervous about the transport, so I plan to give Ferrous his phytocannabinoid oil an hour before we begin transport. More, since he is very food-motivated I will have high-value treats in my pocket at all times. The good news is that he will only be in the trailer for less than 10 minutes.

I cleared my schedule for the day so that Ferrous and I can settle in together, explore, and get organized. Unfortunately, I leave the next day for a conference where I’ll be gone for four days out of state. Less than ideal and I really hope he settles in okay. The good news is I hear there are stall cameras so I can check on him remotely!

Ultimately, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone in the hope that it will help me grow as a rider and horsewoman. I don’t know whether it will be successful, but I do think we need to at least try. I will miss the friends I’ve made at Lancaster but I know that I will see them when my daughter’s take their lessons or when I’m massaging clients at the barn. I’m not leaving on bad terms. At the very least I’ll learn a lot about my horse since this is the first time I’ve taken him off property. Go big, right?

Subscribe to the blog!

8 Comments

  • Liz Goldsmith

    You and Ferrous will be fine. I’ve been at small, private barns for the past 15 years or so. While I miss the friends, I love the solitude. It sounds like you are only a hack away from your former barn mates, so you will have the best of both worlds. Also, sometimes riding right away helps your horse settle in. I know mine do best when they have a job and are a bit tired. After all, we frequently trailer them to events, foxhunts or trail rides, so I wouldn’t worry too much about riding.

    • Heather Wallace

      Thank you Liz! That makes perfect sense. Ferrous always surprises me but I’m the worrier in the family. He’ll probably be fine, while I”m the one running around all looky. I’m very much looking forward to a quiet barn especially since I relish my quality time with Ferrous. And yes, we are a very easy hack from my current barn- only down the road!

  • Pam Levy

    How brave of you! Well done! It’s a hard decision to make, but you must always do what’s best for you and Ferrous and this sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Being at a small, private barn is amazing. You will learn to challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible, and the sense of freedom you’ll feel at being able to just do your own thing is going to be liberating for you. Best of luck with the move (which is going to be fine, I promise!), and with this next phase of your journey xx

    • Heather Wallace

      Thank you Pam! Ferrous has settled in nicely and I’m still figuring out the social dynamics, but liking it a lot so far! We had a few rides in the indoor, played with some desensitizing equipment, and even went on a trail ride with two others. I love that this place is much quieter and the riders love to explore the trails. So far so good!

  • Roosa

    You and F will be fine! It’s always scary moving to a new place but it does sound like the time was right and this was 100% a step in the right direction! It’ll lovely to see the progress you make at the new barn, looking forward to reading about it!

Leave a Reply