Somewhat inspired by Carly’s recent post at Poor Woman Showing.
When I was relatively new to horse ownership, I had to move from one state to another for work. I did a lot of research online, and made a series of onsite visits to find a new boarding barn. The one I eventually chose was, on paper and via introduction, a great fit: right on a huge state park with connection to miles of riding trails, multiple riding rings, one of the biggest indoors I’d ever seen, close to where I’d be living, big enough to be open all the time, instructors I knew of (think local BNRs) and barn staff who said all the right things.
So, I moved Tristan down. Within two weeks, I had more than a vague sense of unease and started looking for another barn, but only casually. Everything was still so great on paper! All of the other barns I looked at didn’t work: the great ones were full, and some that came highly recommended were really really not the right fit – see also, the trainer who spent the entire tour chain smoking and ground his cigarettes out on the aisle floor. NOPE.
I continued at this barn, taking lots of long wonderful trail rides, and the promised instructors never materialized. The tack room was so disorganized I actually moved my things to a back corner of the hay loft, and STILL occasionally had to hunt down missing things. There were 45+ stalls in the barn, and they were all full, mostly with rank lesson horses and lease horses attached to families who had no idea what they were doing. One lease horse was quarantined outside because – I shit you not – it had Cushings.
Turnout was huge, and turnout time was ample, except it was in large herds with zero attempt made at supervision. Horses were turned out and brought back in by the expedience of creating a chute and then opening stall doors. Imagine, if you will, 40 horses galloping up a hill and into the barn, and then finding their own stalls. Now imagine that the entire barn is poured concrete. Imagine two, or three, horses going into a stall to steal another horse’s hay, all of this supervised by 14 year old working students.
My search for a new barn intensified, but still nothing ideal came up – I was still stuck on the idea of staying relatively close to home, and not driving an incredible amount.
Then one day I stopped by the barn, and with one glance in Tristan’s stall knew something was very badly wrong. He was standing, splay-legged, with his head nearly to the ground in a far corner, very still. His hay was untouched. Not only that, but his evening grain had been poured on top of his morning grain, which he hadn’t touched. His water buckets were bone dry.
I had my cell phone out to call a vet within seconds. He spent the next four days touch-and-go with one of the worst colics I’ve ever seen to this day. I slept in a camp chair in front of his stall 24/7, save for a few brief absences to shower, when my mother stayed with him instead. He started colicking on a Monday; by Thursday, he was well enough to get on a trailer, and we literally loaded under cover of darkness. I gave my notice after he was on the trailer, and forfeited my deposit.
The next barn was not ideal, but it was safe, and well-kept. (If anything, the people there were way over-neurotic; they flew a farrier in from Tennessee and had a vet out to do x-rays of every single foot every single time every horse was shod. Not even exaggerating.) He had his share of health problems there, but they were all recognized, treated, and non-issues.
A few months later, my former barn was in the news because the ex-husband of the BO’s daughter drove up to the barn on a Saturday afternoon and rampaged through it, screaming and yelling. He finally cornered the BO’s daughter and her young child in the barn apartment (where said daughter was living at the time) and pulled a gun on her. He pulled the trigger multiple times, but it jammed. The police arrived before he could un-jam it, thankfully.
And thus ends the story of the craziest barn I’ve ever boarded at.