I read this post from The Plaid Horse and thought “those are all very meta, thoughtful reasons to reconsider a trainer or barn, but surely there have to be some really good crazy stories, right?”
Reader, I have two of them.
I have been at six different barns in the fifteen years (!) I have owned Tristan.
Two have them have been truly exemplary. They’re second homes, every tiny detail is accounted for and managed, the people are lovely – they’re just amazing. My current barn is one of those two.
One of them was very good and had many, many positive things, but some noticeable drawbacks. Nothing that made me move but enough that I might not give a wholehearted recommendation to anyone and everyone seeking a barn.
One of them was just fine! It was a friend’s backyard basically and it suited precisely what I needed it for – nine months of rehab turnout for Tristan while I focused on grad school. Care was top notch but it was a fence and a run-in shed and that was that.
One of them was quite decidedly meh. On paper terrific, some really great experiences and memories, but a LOT of weirdness. Some of it concerning. Some of it just weird.
One of them was an actual three ring circus.
It had 50 stalls in two long aisles. They turned in/out by opening stall doors and chasing horses. Down a steep hill and around a corner to a turnout. They had 3 basic groups of turnout. Then they brought them in the same way, after already throwing hay. Many horses went to their own stalls and chilled. A not-small number ducked in and out of several stalls, resulting sometimes in multiple horses in a stall fighting it out.
They once quarantined an incoming horse because it had Cushing’s.
There was no actual trainer on site. There was a barn owner who was some combination of burned out/really terrible/older/sick of the whole thing. There were 20 year olds who taught up-down lessons. So there was a huge, beautiful indoor – and a tack room to die for, and a viewing lounge also to die for – that barely got used.
After about 7 weeks there, when I had already started quietly investigating other barns to move to, I arrived at the barn in the evening to discover that Tristan was colicking very badly. That they had thrown his evening grain on top of his morning grain – my horse who at that point in his life ate every scrap of everything and kicked for more – without even noticing. They did not notice he was colicking. For 48 hours, I slept in a chair in front of or in his stall because I did not trust anyone. He started colicking on Monday; on Thursday, we left the barn under literal cover of darkness and I ate my 30 day notice.
A few months later, the barn owner’s daughter’s ex-boyfriend came to the barn on a Saturday and waved a gun around screaming, then attempted to fire at both the daughter (who was sort of kind of the barn manager and was living in an apartment on site) and the barn owner. The gun misfired, and soon after the police got there.
In Googling the barn for this blog post, out of curiosity, I found that one of their barn workers was arrested for neglect after horses in her care at a private facility were seized and taken to a rescue with a body score of 2.
So, all of those would be warning signs. That barn was the first I moved Tristan to after my college barn, which was amazing. I didn’t yet know what to look for and what not to look for. I liked the facilities, the access to the local state park, the distance from my house, and many other things. The nutty management did not show up until a few weeks in. Now, I’m much, much pickier and more neurotic about the people I trust to care for Tristan.
(One of the barns I looked at to move to during that whole phase came highly recommended and the trainer spent our entire conversation, which included a tour of the facilities, chain-smoking and flicking the butts everywhere. DUDE. NO. That was a really obvious warning sign, too.)