Skip to content
PLEASE NOTE: You may experience errors on our site when using Internet Explorer. Please consider updating your browser, or download Google Chrome.

Moving Barns: The Search for "Home"

Posted on: April 05, 2024 by Katrina Clark

I started riding when I was 5 years old and rode at the same barn until I went to college. I essentially grew up there and almost everything I know about horses I learned from that barn. I learned so much about making sure that the horses were always safe (as safe as they can be!) – making sure snaps were facing the right direction, blankets fitted properly, halters were off in their stalls but easily accessible, etc. I also grew up showing with this barn, traveling to many venues across the country with the trainer and other riders. It felt like family and I really learned so much from them over the thirteen years that I rode there as a child.

Right before I went to college there were some changes within the barn and several people with whom I was close with left. I respected these riders and owners a lot and it started to make me wonder, since I had been at the same barn my whole life, was it time to try somewhere else? It seemed like the right time. So, after thirteen years riding the same trails, lessoning in the same arena, and walking down the same aisles, my horse moved to a new facility. We left there fairly quickly, one with nice green pastures. However, that also didn't last overly long, and we ended up at yet another facility with a great indoor arena. We stayed there until my horse had retired, and with that I thought maybe I had retired from the horse world, and the stress of boarding, too.

Throughout that journey of boarding barn after boarding barn, there was one recurring thought that I had, 'they don’t do it the same way my old barn did it'. And maybe it's as simple as me not accepting how other people do things, but I just don't think that's it. I think the way I learned to care for horses was so meticulous and careful that the standard was set very high. Reflecting on my time there, I realized there wasn't a single decision made that wasn't carefully thought out and all of the horses (around 40 total!) were always treated as if they were all owned by the barn owner. Every single decision, or change, had a reason and while it didn’t always outwardly appear that way, it was easy to look back and see how they had all truly been for the best.

After being out of the horse world for a few years, I got back into riding and realized that while I had grown and changed, the struggle of finding the right place to board had not. No barn took care of my horse like my first barn, the place that I had grown up at. I realized the standards of care that I expected, were not exactly standard at every facility.

I think you probably know where this is going by now, don't you? Yep. I moved my horse again. This time, though, it was moving back, back to the barn that I had grown up at and it finally felt like I was at home again. I was back at a place that shared the same values and standards and I felt at peace leaving the barn every day knowing that my horse was being care for as I would care for him.

There was a lot of learning I gained in my years away from my barn, but there are three things that I think made the biggest impact on me and on each choice I made: 4

  1. Standards: I think one of my biggest realizations was understanding and acknowledging my standards and expectations for care. Knowing what I could live with and what I refused to live without made a big difference in the decisions I made each time I tried a new facility, and it's what ultimately brought me back home again.
  2. Communication: Knowing the style and frequency of communication that I expect from the barn manager/owner is a big component of feeling secure leaving my horses somewhere. I realized that I don’t need every minor change communicated to me, because I knew that the people in charge of my horse's care would work with me and the other boarders the moment something required our attention. I never have to wonder if I'm missing anything by not going to the barn for a day or what I might walk into when I do show up to see my horse, and that's a huge relief!
  3. Trust: All that confidence in getting the right communication at the right time stems from the third, and maybe most important thing: when my horse is being cared for by someone I trust, then I have high confidence that every decision and every communication is being done in his (and my) best interest. I know since moving back, I have felt much more at ease working with managers and staff who are truly experts at their jobs.

I know how I grew up and how I was taught, and those same people are still teaching everyone who handles the horses at the barn, so I am never worried about him. I've also learned that if I ever don't feel "at home" (which can mean different things for different riders), that's when I need to take a closer look at my situation and my options. And while I don't expect to have to move again, I also know that if it happens, I'll be able to write down a pretty comprehensive list of my expectations on care and communication, From that list I'll be able to pull out questions I would want to ask a potential new barn owner, manager, or trainer, questions that can help define my expectations and what makes me feel comfortable and happy with my horse’s living situation. And above all, I know that I should not (and will not!) ever settle until I find what works for me!