Along with the good, may come the bad…

5 Dec

Excitement is in the air – but along with excitement comes nerves as well as questions about whether you’re doing the right thing.

First some background information to set the stage. The Boss is 75 years old. She rents her property, including the barn, and she doesn’t ride at all. The barn has 12 stalls in the main section and then there are an additional 3 stalls in the back area, but we avoid using these stalls when possible just because they’re not very accessible (especially in the winter when snowdrifts easily block access). At the present time, there are 13 horses at the barn: the Boss owns 4 riding horses (Corona included), there are 3 brood mares owned by a boarder, and then there are a total of 6 standardbreds which are at various stages in their racing careers. These standardbreds are either owned by the Boss, the Trainer, or the “Owners”. In addition to the Boss, the Trainer, and the Owners, the other main characters at the barn are myself and my 2 other riding friends, who I’ll hereby refer to as SM and CG, as well as the Boss’ ex-husband (who is also around 75 yrs old). I’ll be very blunt here – horse people can be extremely shady folk. I’ve had various experiences throughout the years, but all in all I think I was relatively sheltered from horse related drama. It seems this streak has been broken, and over the last couple of years, I have been exposed to more drama at the barn than should even exist. Some of the drama is the regular run-of-the-mill stupidity and looking back is actually quite funny, but there is also the type of drama that nobody should have to deal with and that makes you question whether or not you should stay or go.

The Boss doesn’t have any paid help at the barn. Up until about 2 years ago, she would do the majority of the work around the barn including turning the horses in/out, feeding, mucking all the stalls, etc. The Trainer and the Boss go way back, they have both been involved in racing for years. Since the Trainer has worked out of the Boss’ barn, he has essentially taken over turning the horses out each morning. Since the Boss’ ex-husband has been back on the scene (also for the last 2-3 years), he has come to the barn faithfully each afternoon and has taken over the duties of bringing in the horses each evening. He also has taken over mucking duty the majority of the time. Us riding girls go out to the barn on average about 2-3 times a week. I have a Monday-Friday 9-5 job, SM has a job that involves shift work, and CG is actually still in school as well as working, so we do work where we can, but it’s not at defined times throughout the week.

Over the last year or so, it has become more and more apparent that age is catching up with the Boss and that she cannot do what she used to, despite what she’ll admit. The Boss is a wonderful woman, she has an enormous amount of knowledge about horses and life in general and is a great friend. She is also a very proud woman and along with this trait comes a stubbornness to ask for help, or admit when things are not going so well. While I adore the Boss and greatly appreciate everything she has done for us over the years, I’ll be the first to state that we also don’t have all of the same principles about horsemanship. She has done things that I whole-heartedly disagree with, but that I have had to step back and bite my tongue or risk the relationship. This has been the same with the other girls as well and there have been a few major incidents this past year, in particular the last 6 months or so that have really left us asking each other, “what is going to be the last straw?”. Many of these incidents have also involved the Trainer who, to be blunt again, I cannot stand and do not trust.

The situation is that much more convoluted as a result of us girls not actually owning the horses we ride. We lease them from the Boss. All the times we have wanted to up and leave, we feel somewhat tied to the fact that if we leave, there is a chance that we may not be able to take the horses with us. Also – that we would jeopardize our relationship with the Boss.

It has always been the medium-term goal of CG to purchase a farm with her husband. It was in their 5 year plan. Luck struck about 2 weeks ago now and they’ve found a wonderful hobby farm of about 10 acres, complete with a new barn with 6 box stalls! The offer to purchase was submitted, accepted and now the only outstanding condition of sale is the successful sale of their current house! The original intention (time-wise) was that the purchase of this farm would coincide with the retirement of the Boss from the horse business and us girls would have a place to bring our horses. Tthe problem was that the Boss has always been non-committal about her intentions within the business and how long she was planning to stay in it. Now that CGs farm is purchased, somewhat earlier than anyone had initially thought, it is formally raising the question of, “what is everyone’s plan!?”.

In an ideal world, the Boss would see this purchase as a positive thing, would let us have our leased horses because she has no use for them (and she got all of them for free herself) and mentor us in new farm ownership tactics. In reality, the Boss’s reaction hasn’t been so encouraging or supportive, there has been nothing committed to about the horses, and no warm fuzzies about offering advice and guidance.

I think that the Boss has mixed feelings – I think this is forcing her to think about her intentions and what her plan is, especially if she doesn’t have us girls there. While she does have the Trainer there, they do not get along very well. There is a funny relationship there that is based on mutual dependency but there isn’t a lot of mutual respect. Also, it’s just not a sustainable operation, there is nobody there on a consistent basis who is able to look after the barn full stop. While I recognize that maybe the Boss doesn’t want to stop out of fear of what comes next, I really need to play the common sense card. I worry that if things continue the way they are, that someone is going to get hurt and also that the care of the horses will be sacrificed.

It’s a really tough position to be in, for myself as well as the other girls, and also for the Boss. I just wish that an honest discussion could take place so that we could start to make some progress and start to sort out all of these questions. I’m so excited about the new opportunity – but I don’t want to ruin relationships or rain on other people’s parades in the process. Advice welcomed!

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