Guest Author - Susan Hopf
In the last few weeks several people have asked me varying questions with regard to keeping horses on their own property. With this is mind I offer the following advice and suggestions – run – run fast – and don’t look back!!!!!
When one thinks of a horse farm the usual (uninformed) picture is one of an idyllic setting. Lush green pastures with beautiful horses peacefully grazing, tree-lined trails, well-groomed sand arenas, cupola accented barn roofs silhouetted against the rising sun and charming people gathered in breeches, spit and polished boots, all happily discussing their ride over ice tea is a lovely vision. This scene plays out before you as you sit contented on your wrap- around porch, in your rocking chair, sipping a mint julep as the hounds softy snore at your feet.
Zip, zam, zoom…reality is not far away…so WAKE UP!!!!
Unless you are independently wealthy horses are a great deal of work to have in your backyard – whether that back yard is only a few acres or a thousand acres. Read on (if you dare) to learn what keeping horses is really all about.
1. "I can set my own schedule" – hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
Horses set your schedule. Since these four-legged mowers are grazing animals they need small meals many times a day. Want to step out for lunch with some girlfriends? – okie dokie but only if you can bribe someone to stop over to give the beasties one of many meals throughout the day. And if you think they won’t miss just one little meal – hope your fences are made of steel because while you are out munching on your yummy salad at the new little bistro in town the horses will be talking and plotting to ensure that this will be the very last time they are made to wait for their lunch. And I absolutely guarantee that if you try this again they will be successful.
2. "I can make some money boarding a few horses" – oh you silly person. The cost of keeping one horse may not be all that much but the cost of each additional horse rises exponentially. One horse = one, two horses = four, three horses = nine, nine horses = 81. This must be a typo you say – guess again!!!!!! Feed costs, veterinary costs, farrier costs, repair costs, gasoline and travel expenses all go up and up. And then there are those expenses for things that you never even dreamed of. For instance - that outrageous bill from a landscape company for replacing the young trees in your neighbor’s field. The day you receive this strange looking envelope you anxiously tear it open (perhaps in hopes that you just won a year's worth of feed) but sadly it is bad news and, as you count up all of those zeros, you can't help but exclaim in complete horror – what the heck??? But then you remember - the big beasts did escape one day and get into the neighbor's field - yes indeedy it was, in fact, the fool hearty second attempt at having lunch out with the girls – see I told you – oh and let’s not forget the cost of fixing that beautiful new four-board PVC fence you had installed five days before the incident. Like I said – silly person.
3. Oh yes and the work involved – exponentially times two - sorry you can do the math for this one. But suffice it to say that each additional horse eats that much more hay and grain, makes that much more manure (that you have to remove in some way), destroys that many more fence boards, creates that much more need for storage, causes you that many more back aches, makes that many more neighbors complain about the smell and flies, makes that much more mud that your boarders will complain about and takes that much more time away from what you got into horses for in the first place – which brings me to my next and final point.
4. "I’ll have lots more time to ride since I won’t have to drive to the barn". Well once you’re done cleaning the barn, feeding the horses, repairing the fences, feeding the horses, shoveling the mud (snow or sand), feeding the horses, dealing with boarder issues, feeding the horses, grooming the arena, feeding the horses, picking up feed, storing the hay, picking rocks out of the pasture, feeding the horses, reseeding the pasture, watering the reseeding, feeding the horses, paying bills and speaking with neighbors and promising that you will never, ever, ever again leave the property for any reason whatsoever you may just have enough time in between to shove the hounds out of the way so you can collapse on that colonial blue floor of that wonderful wrap-around porch and catch a few winks. Unfortunately as you lie there you notice some peeling paint that you, without thought, start picking at until you regain your senses and realize that the whole darn thing needs painting again at which time you jump to your feet and start running.
See I told you – and if you had listened you would already be where you wanted to go – which is no where near having a horse farm of your own – so why waste time? - start now – run – run fast – and don’t look back.