Friday, October 2, 2009

The Great Barn Search - Day 2

Sorry this post has taken so long. I actually made my decision shortly after seeing the fourth barn, so there's not much to tell about that one. It was the one I'd seen with my friend — self care, nice matted stalls, and a nice big outdoor arena with sand, but kind of a hokey turnout situation. I didn't like the fencing at all. And even more importantly, it didn't seem very certain that I could get in by the 29th, which is the foreclosure deadline at my current barn.

So I chose Barn 2. The corral turned out to be available, so I put down a deposit on that. But now I'm wondering if I should go for a stall instead. What would you do?

The corral is pretty big, and Panama will be in with two other horses: a gelding and a mare, both older. The woman who feeds in the evenings said she doesn't think the gelding will be much of a problem, because he's old and doesn't get around very well anymore. However, I'm still worried about the winter if the gelding doesn't let Panama into the little shelter. And what if we get dumped on this winter (as some people seem to think we will)? If the stalls are all gone I may not be able to get Panama into one, and I'm worried we could have a really rough winter.

The stalls compared to the corral are like the Brown Palace (a local reference, for anyone who knows Denver) compared to a Motel 6. The stalls are matted and bedded with shavings, and the barn doesn't get below 40 degrees in the winter. The horses do get turned out every day for about four hours, during the warmest part of the day during the winter. But when I visit Panama, I wouldn't have to go outside at all if I didn't want to — since the barn and the indoor arena are all connected, I'd just have to take him from his stall to the tie racks, and then into the arena. It also means that if I visited at night, I wouldn't have to worry about leading him across the very dark parking area to the indoor arena.

But then again, being in the corral will familiarize him with his surroundings, whereas I think being an "indoor horse" could foster some fears. There are both cows and chickens here — cows in a neighboring pasture, and chickens that run around loose during the day, right over by the corral — and Panama has never seen either, to my knowledge. If he is in a shoebox 20 hours out of the day, is desensitizing him to these things going to be difficult?

Finally, there is the issue of price. The corral is cheaper than what I'm paying now, but if I have to pay for blanketing it may be almost the same during the winter months. The stalls are more than what I'm paying now, but not by much if you figure that they provide grain, which up until now I've been buying myself. Plus I wouldn't have to worry about blanketing — they said their own horses are in the indoor stalls, and they just don't turn them out when the weather is really bad or bitter cold.

Although my concerns do include the financial aspect, I'm also trying to weigh what's best for Panama against what's best for me. He hates cold weather and snow — he's always stayed in the barn, even to pee, when it's cold overnight — so I think he'd love not having to worry about that anymore. And he would get some turnout. But is it a good idea to deprive a 4-year-old of a herd environment? He's kind of a loner, being Low Man everywhere we go, so will he miss the socialization?

And even if socialization and a herd is the best thing for him, can I give up the convenience that the indoor stalls and tie racks would offer in the winter? Also, will I be able to ride him in the indoor arena, or will his winter coat cause him to overheat? I'm not sure, never having had an indoor to ride in before.

I am stressing about this quite a bit right now. I have already put down a deposit on the corral (of which there was only one opening, as opposed to three stalls), so I'm "in," so to speak. But if I'm going to upgrade to a stall, I should probably do it in the next week, just to make sure it gets done. Which means I have to make a decision.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Panama would be happy in the Motel 6 (or the youth hostel, technically — communal living), or should I spring for the Brown Palace of horse care?



At October 2, 2009 at 12:49 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

I would want to have a stall, sounds a lot more convienient, its darn cold in Denver LOL as you know! I know its more money, but if he is in you might spend more time with him.
Dont worry about overheating because its an indoor arena, it always takes longer to cool them out when they have a winter coat. A cooler helps wick away the moisture.
Boarding is a lot more expensive over there by $100! why is that I wonder. Over here you can expect to get a nice stall with turn out for around $300 mo. or $250 for an inside stall, usually for full care. I looked into boarding in Colorado Springs and looks like its the same as where you are, I would like Sara to take Easy when she gets back from Iraq, but I dont know if she can afford it!
I am spoiled having them in the back yard!

At October 2, 2009 at 1:06 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Pam, board is expensive here, mainly because property values are higher than in many other areas. Also, this is in-town boarding, in an upper-middle class suburb, which tends to make it more expensive as well.

I know I like the idea of a stall, but my concern is also whether it would be the best thing for him? I mean, not having the socialization. I'd like to do the best thing for both of us.

At October 2, 2009 at 11:42 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

So, good news -- I talked to the barn manager today and she said the stalls in the indoor are unlikely to fill up that fast. Plus there are two addition stalls inside that are currently being used for storage, one of which she could clear out for me if needed. So I can start out with the corral and try it out, without worrying that I'll lose my chance for a stall if I don't like the corral!

At October 3, 2009 at 8:22 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That's what I was going to say. Try out the corral and see how it goes. If problems start cropping up, switch to a stall. I know that my horses couldn't stand being cooped up in stalls, even during the winter months. They have too much energy and need to run around. During the summer I don't use the stalls at all. Horses that are cooped up often develop stall vices such s wind sucking, wood chewing, head bobbing, and whatnot.

At October 3, 2009 at 12:11 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

NM, my problem with trying out the corral was that I was afraid I would lose my chance to get a stall if I waited too long. Now that I know that's not the case, I'm perfectly fine with trying it out.

I've had Panama in a stall before, though. At one place there was no turnout, and he had only a very small run. At another place he had four hours a day of turnout, same as this place except the horses were all turned out together. He does fine in a stall situation -- no vices -- and actually seems to like his stall -- he wouldn't even use his run in cold or wet weather. So I think he'd be okay if I have to move him to a stall -- I just would have preferred it if the horses were turned out together, instead of in individual corrals.

At October 5, 2009 at 8:36 AM, Anonymous Jackie said...

I'm glad you'll be able to give the corral a shot and see how that works out and still have the option of a stall. That gives you the very best way to decide ... listen to Panama!

From what you've said, it sounds like it may turn out that the stall is the way to go. Turnout with other horses can be stressful on a horse who is always bottom of the herd order. My boy is one of those too. He also prefers to be outside and hates being cooped up in a stall. His living situation (same barn, tho) recently changed; he's now in a small barn in a stall with paddock access. He's by himself, but has constant outdoor turnout, and is so much happier.

If Panama is bottom of the herd, and doesn't like the cold weather that much, I wouldn't be surprised if he's happier in a stall. Do the stalled horses get more than 4 hours of turnout in the summer?

And you are going to love having an indoor arena! Wool coolers are great for helping a hot horse dry out in the winter. And if you just pay attention and give him plenty of walk breaks when he starts to get warm, you can keep the sweating to a minimum.

At October 6, 2009 at 4:10 AM, Blogger Vectormom said...

I'm glad you were able to get the 'best of both' options, sort of. I could tell from your post, this was really gnawing at you. Sounds like a good situation. You can Panama's hoof in the door, see what happens and move inside if need be! Much luck for a great new barn for you both!!
Oh now that you're settled on that, come over to my blog and enter my contest! It should prove to be a good laugh if nothing else! LOL!

At December 3, 2009 at 10:53 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Jackie, I just realized I never responded to your comment. I actually disagree about horses being too stressed about turnout with other horses. If your kid were shy, would you tell her she never had to go to school again? Socialization is important regardless of whether the horse is in the pecking order.

Of course, I know now (hindsight being 20/20) that the corral was the best decision after all. Panama loves it -- he whinnies to the other horses, and he and his corralmates seem to get along just fine. The mare is a bit cranky, but he and the gelding do well together.

Vectorsmom, I never saw this in time -- how did your contest go?


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