In a strange criss-cross of my blogosphere with my reality (and just in time for the second “Good Horsekeeping” post to extol the virtues of keeping a horse at home), last week I found my perfect horse place. Well, I didn’t find it, actually. A friend found it and insisted I come look. I couldn’t resist.
Now, mind you, I’m not in the market right now for a move. Things are pretty good. I have one of those a great boarding facilities and the barn community I always dreamed of for one of my horses and the other is over at my parents’ house, keeping dad’s horse company (and, I suspect, entertaining my dad with his antics) . . .so all in all, everyone’s reasonably happy most of the time.
And yet, the longing continues. Right alongside the curiosity. What would it really be like to have my horses right where I can see them from morning to night — and to spend time with them without a timeframe? This super-sized combo question drives us to keep looking at places we hear about, stomping around in all kinds of horsekeeping options from the aptly names Paradise, Texas all the way down to Stephenville, Hico and Hamilton. We even daydream about the Texas Hill Country near where our friends, the McCormicks, own and operate their fabulous ranch and retreat venue, Hacienda Tres Aguilas. (You’ll hear more about them in coming posts about the time I spent there last week and the difference a few lessons on or off their horses can make.)
So when my insistent friend made arrangements for us to go see this place, I went with no expectations. And, just like the list we’re advised to make in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses of all the attributes of our “ideal” horse, I have that same kind of list in my head to describe my perfect horse place. And last weekend, as if someone peeked at my list when they built this place, I checked off item by item as I walked around.
Decent house, check. (This house, unlike most of the ones we’ve found on places where the land and horse amenities are top notch, is actually quite wonderful and deserves its own list. In a word, it felt like home. So much for my poker face.) Solid barn AND good turnout spaces with shelter? Check. Nice, but small hayfield that would allow for ample coastal harvest for my horses? Check. Good, safe fencing and functional layout of pens and turnouts? Check. Water? Check. Quality gates and pens in good repair? Check. (In fact, I don’t think there was a single sticky latch or warpy board on the place) Enough land to get by with the house and pens and turnouts, and another 25 acres adjacent if we wanted more? (Which, of course, I do, but you have to be realistic somewhere.) Check. Arena with good footing AND lights? (I told you this was a wish list. For me, lights on the arena are the perfect antidote to both Texas heat and an erratic schedule.) Nice, big trees in all the right places? Check. Enough open space to ride and work horses? Check. Outbuilding suitable for an office/meeting space separate from the main house — with windows looking into the pasture to console me during deskbound days? Check. And a great big sigh.
I can’t even imagine what kind of financial gyrations it might take to make this deal happen — or if we’re even going to try — but if I had been clever enough to get myself into a position to write a check on the spot for this place, I’d be calling the moving folks right now. (I’m not what you’d call a coy consumer.)
So coming back to why we’re here . . . if keeping your horses at home is your dream, what’s on your wish list? If you’re already keeping horses at home, what is your best advice for those of us walking around with this particular yearning?
One of the things that scares me most about home horsekeeping is that I’ve never lived in the country. I don’t even know what I don’t know. Just like people who cut their teeth on a trailer hitch don’t realize how much they know about hauling horses that the rest of us don’t have any idea of, those who grew up on a ranch can’t begin to imagine the knowledge gap a couple of aging city kids might have in moving to the country. And yet, people do it all the time, with varying degrees of success. What makes the difference between a good transition to country life and a more challenging one? What can we do to mitigate the information gap?
Although I’m pretty sure this place is out of my reach for now, I can’t help but wonder what it is I would need to know if I had written that check. Comments, suggestions, advice, anyone? I can’t be the only one with these kinds of questions. What are yours?