Thursday, July 3, 2008

Big changes at my barn

Big changes are happening at my barn, and it doesn't bode well for my horse's future there. I was waiting to blog about it until I knew something more conclusive, but at this point it looks like I'll most likely need to find a new place for Panama.

Basically the business's owners have been leasing the property — they don't own the property. I knew when I moved in that this was the case, but I needed to move Panama pretty badly at the time, and there was reason to think the property's owners might renew the lease.

I found out about two weeks ago that they are not going to renew the lease — but they will still be running a boarding stable on the property. At first it sounds like good news, because I won't have to move Panama — theoretically. In reality this is wrong on so many levels: They are attempting to take over a business that someone else put the effort into getting established. Now that the barn is full, they're telling Karen, "Thanks for all your work, but we'll take it from here." And they're not buying her out of the business, either.

Moreover, the property's owners are hiring someone to manage the new business, and they didn't offer the position to Karen. They are also apparently hiring someone to come twice a day for feeding, mucking, and (I'm assuming) turnout.

What that means is that Karen — who is understandably upset — is taking everything that she paid for herself. And that's a lot — the property was nowhere near ready when she moved in. All of the water troughs, buckets, wheelbarrows, manure forks, grain bins, and a good portion of the fencing is hers. And of course, they also cannot use the same name (which Karen registered as an LLC) or the website that Karen set up.

Initially I thought I'd stay and see how it goes, but now I'm not so sure. They are handling it so badly that I can't help but wonder if I can trust someone this dishonest and cutthroat with my horse's welfare. Besides, there is a good chance that they won't keep the barn open long — they've said that they're going to try it for six months and see if they make any money, which of course they won't.

My other concern is that it will be a completely different place without Karen. Karen is 99 percent of what made this barn so different from all the others. She is there frequently (which it sounds like the new manager won't be), she is communicative with her boarders, and she genuinely cares. Contrary to what you'd think, barn managers who give a hoot about the animals are actually pretty difficult to find in this business.

There are three possibilities right now, and though I'm hoping for one of the first two (in order of preference), the most likely scenario is unfortunately the third:

1. Karen finds a new place for all of us. She told me before she left on vacation that she might look for a new place for all of us when she gets back (in about a week), and her husband confirmed to me the other night that they had been looking for horse property. He said they've got a good group of people and might be interested in reopening elsewhere. If they do, I'll definitely stay with them, I think several of the other boarders would, too.

2. I stay in the current location and work off my board. Karen mentioned to the owners that she's been having one of the boarders work off her board by cleaning stalls, and supposedly they sounded pretty interested in that arrangement. Technically, since I expressed interest in that arrangement months ago, I should be their first choice if they decide to go that route. If I'm not paying for board I'll be likely to stay — IF Karen doesn't find a place for all of us, that is.

3. I find a boarding stables for Panama on my own. Of course, most likely I'll have to find a new place for Panama on my own. I've been browsing Craigslist occasionally, but I am just not finding anything that appeals to me. For instance, one place claimed they were full care, but they require boarders to clean the horses' stalls — and they want only $60 less than what I'm paying now. (I've visited that place, and it always smells bad, so I rather suspect most boarders aren't very good about cleaning.) Another place won't allow outside trainers, which I won't agree to — my trainer has been with me and Panama since the beginning, and I'm NOT giving her up.

So right now I don't know what I'm doing. Since a lot of it depends on what Karen and the property's owners decide to do, I may not know until shortly before the barn changes hands. But as far as I'm concerned, that's okay — my contract is with Karen, so I actually have no obligation to give the property's owners 30 days' notice.

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