Friday, November 1, 2013

Excitement served cold (with a side of guilt)

I’m not the most sentimental person in the world. In fact, not too long ago they had us take this personality test at my office to help the team understand each other better because of some conflict in the workplace blah blah blah. So now in addition to knowing I’m not the most sentimental person in the world I’ve been gifted with new descriptors in black ink on white paper: analytical, unfriendly, systematic, objective, withdrawn. 

Fine, I’m a cold fish. A loner.
I’m also a pretty decent social media coordinator for whatever reason. Fake it ‘til you make it?
So anyway, I’m maybe not the best at taking other people’s feelings seriously (because, c’mon, you guys, just suck it up and stop whining). But I am sort of worried about something I have to do this week. I have to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. I have to give notice at the barn where I board.
You see, the long radio silence on the blog has been the result of buying our first home—a process that has been better than having my fingernails removed individually with pliers but worse than taking the SATs with double pneumonia.
Other things that I have bought over the years (horses, cars, raincoats, lunch…) have been easy to acquire. I take the money that I have and give it to the other person in exchange for the thing I want. But when you buy a house, it feels like NO ONE wants your money until the day that EVERYONE wants ALL OF THE MONEY. We’ve finished the part where we go back and forth:
Please take my money.
No. Someone else gave us their money faster.
Please take my money.
No. Someone else will give us more money.
Please take my money, but first fix that obvious safety hazard.
Naw. Granpappy installed that there water heater/sauna hisself. It’d be downright unrespectful.
And so forth.
But now we’ve finally arrived at the part of the process where someone said yes. And I just write check after check after check and hope for the best.
I recognize that I am probably jinxing the whole thing by talking about it before we’ve officially closed. But that’s where we stand. If things continue on their current course, we’ll be in our new place by Thanksgiving.
Ergo, I need to move Blue. The new place is in the south ‘burbs of Portland, roughly half an hour from Salem. Silverton is another 30 minutes beyond that. I’m not driving an hour each way to ride. Sorry. No. Especially not when I am spending ALL OF THE MONEY on the house.
I’m one of those freakazoids who actually likes boarding. I know so many people who hate boarding and want their own acreage so they can do things “their way.” 
I understand that impulse. I, too, crave the freedom to have things done my way. But for me, the definition of doing things my way is “pay someone else to do the things.” My way is to leave the area on impulsive weekend trips and/or come home from work and fall asleep on the couch. All without worrying that my precious horse will starve or be standing knee-deep in his own leavings.

So I started looking for full-care board that fit my budget and was within 20 minutes of the new house (to save time and gas). I wanted access to an indoor arena, trails, daily turnout, mud-free paddocks, lessons—the whole enchilada, if I could find it.
With apologies to Allie Brosh.
Not only could I not find the enchilada, but any place that even came close to my criteria charged the same monthly fee as my mortgage. Literally. The same. 

This is partially my fault. The area we chose is kind of… ritzy. The house itself is a townhome. Not much larger than our current place. Modest. Family oriented. Close to the freeway. But the neighborhood in general? Think of the Hamptons… Beverley Hills… The Stepford Wives. Give that mental picture a light coating of soccer moms, liberal guilt and high-end chain stores.
And then laugh because Brian and I couldn’t afford to live in a more “authentic” or “gritty” neighborhood. It is much cheaper to live on the fringes of wealth.
So in this pristine suburb, I found only two possible barns that fit a reasonable number of criteria, with an emphasis on budget and convenience.
The first one I visited (option #1) was dilapidated. No other word for it. The people are nice and thoughtful; they obviously care about the horses, but the stalls are dark little caves arranged along a shockingly narrow walkway. At least each one has a small attached paddock to keep the horses from going completely nuts. The indoor arena, about a third of the size of the one at my Silverton barn, appears never to have been worked. And it is the only riding space on the small property—no trails, no outdoor arena. The turnouts looked pretty good until it was explained to me that the way they keep the grass from getting stressed is by keeping the horses in their stalls 48 hours at a time. And I would be responsible for cleaning the stall myself. I left, full of warring desires. The place was cheaper than my current barn (!). It was very near the new house. I could probably make it work. But it just didn’t feel right. I thought of Black Beauty, when he talks about stables:
“I may as well mention here what I suffered at this time from another cause. I had heard horses speak of it, but had never myself had experience of the evil; this was a badly-lighted stable; there was only one very small window at the end, and the consequence was that the stalls were almost dark.
“Besides the depressing effect this had on my spirits, it very much weakened my sight, and when I was suddenly brought out of the darkness into the glare of daylight it was very painful to my eyes. Several times I stumbled over the threshold, and could scarcely see where I was going.”
OK, yes, BB was written by a human who could only imagine the suffering of a horse. But still. I wouldn’t have wanted to live in that barn. Blue shouldn’t suffer for me being cheap.
Option #2 could not have been more different from option #1 if it tried. This was especially striking because these two barns are, at most, half a mile apart. Option #2 has stalls with beautiful sand and gravel runs. It offers the option of full-time pasture board on a hillside with rocks and trees. The barn farrier is a well-known barefoot advocate and boot fitter. There is a world-class dressage facility next door for lessons. (How world-class? One of their horses was made into a Breyer.) The downside is that there is no indoor arena onsite and it costs $100 more than the other place. Nevertheless, I think you can guess pretty easily which barn I chose.
So here we are. I need to break the bad news at my current barn. The owner, an elderly man, LOVES my horse. I know everyone thinks that their horse is a favorite, but I kid you not: Blue is like a celebrity at the barn. The old man talks to him, admires him, studies his behavior, comments on his quirks and good-naturedly asks me where I’m taking “his horse” when I trailer out.
And now I’m about to trailer out for the last time.
On top of that, there are several open stalls already (no fault of the owner, just boarders like me with changing circumstances) not bringing him any income. Another empty stall going into winter is not going to help his finances. He lives on the income the property generates, such as it is.
So, basically, this feels like a really sadistic breakup. Like I am sending a note that says, “I am leaving you in 30 days, but let’s not talk about it in the meantime. Sorry about that. Good luck replacing me.”
It seems so cold…
…even for a cold fish like me.