Monday, June 1, 2020

The Feeling of Change

When I found out our previous BO wanted the horses moved, I was really, really nervous about finding a new place. I've said it previously on this blog - the immediate area we live in is not the most horsey-friendly (in comparison to the town where Barn C and most of the shows I go to are). For example, there are precisely two (private) areas in town that have enough land for horses to be on pasture during the summer. There are no boarding barns and most set ups are privately owned, so it can be tough to find anything unless you "know someone".

"I heard a noise over der"
In my case, I was lucky enough to have a family friend reach out and offer the back portion of their property for my horses. We set to work on clearing, putting up fencing, and dumping crush to stabilize the wet ground. It all got done and I'm living a little bit of a different horsey life. At first, I wasn't quite sure how I'd adjust to it and I was a bit nervous on how the horses would adjust. A lot of us are creatures of habit and change is not something we do well, especially when it is not incremental.

This is especially the case for Annie, who long-time readers will know is a specially sensitive mare (sometimes). Change is not something she does well, and long-time readers will remember my motto of "do all the things" with her the last three years I've owned her. Which, has included overnight stays at Barn C, trips to the Tree of Knowledge, short duration trailer rides to prep for long duration trailer rides, etc. I've incrementally and so carefully orchestrated Annie's life with me, knowing she can be... dramatic at times.

"Excuse me, there is something I need to go be anxious about."
- Annie, always
With the new place being quite a bit smaller than our old barn, I was very hesitant and worried about how she'd transition to a more paddock-type lifestyle. Being an advocate for 24/7 turn out on as much land as you can, I was struggling to accept the lopsided paddock I had in front of me. Don't get me wrong, I was beyond grateful for the helping hand and the opportunity to utilize a portion of their backyard to house my horses while I continue to struggle to get my own barn going. Despite this, friends assured me that since I ride often and do quite a bit with my horses, she'd be just fine.

But still, I was wary.

Hanging out in the treed area, not obsessively staring down the road.
This past weekend marked 3 weeks since the move and while it may be still too early to appreciate any long-term effects, I've witnessed such a weird and almost dramatic change in Annie that I can't help but showcase and document it for all of blog-land.

First and foremost, I've caught her cuddling with the property owner several times. Like, who is this mare?! She isn't the most personable thing - she'll hang out for grooming and scritches but I have never ever seen her seek out a person, lay her head on their shoulder and just... quietly exist and enjoy eachother's company. It was hands down the sweetest and most wonderfully wholesome thing I have ever seen. Being a complete non-horsey person, the property owner wasn't sure how to take it, but by the envious look in my eye, he recognized immediately that what he was experiencing was something special. Admittedly I was am still pretty jealous, given the fact that Annie has never in her life shown any inclination to snuggle (unless she's exhausted after a long day of showing!).

No media of the snuggling, but she's been catching a lot of Zzzzs
while interacting with the neighbor's horses. (Which, sidenote: I
figured for SURE she'd be dumb about having horses next door
and become a bit obsessive but she's actually content with them there
without being compulsive which is awesome).
Secondly, she is just overall... less stressed. She used to stand at the fenceline at our old barn, staring down the road whenever someone or something went past on the street (which was frequent). At our new place, it's much more private and she is content to mosey around and eat - almost every time I show up she is eating, which is was a rare occurrence for the first two years of me owning her. She started to be more interested in food in the last year and a half, but would still leave a full mash bucket after a long ride to go check the fence-lines.

A quick note, I don't know if I addressed it much on this blog, but I have spoke with several vets regarding her anxiety and picky food habits. I tried a few vet recommended things, as well as supplements, grains, feeds, pastes, homeopathic remedies and even changing my hay supplier for a year. I found little to no change in her and sometimes, one product would change our life for 3 months and then stop working. I did have it set up to haul her out to a vet in March for more internal and intensive diagnostics but COVID put a large damper on that. This all being said, her eating habits from point of purchase to March 2020 had vastly improved, but she still wasn't where I'd like her to be, hence the furthering of diagnostics.

OK, now back to the regular blog:

Old Place - I used to put hay here to entice her to eat, as this area
 was her favorite fenceline (behind her) to "stand and stare".
She is also weirdly quiet - any time I took her out to hand graze at the old barn, I had to either have her drag a lunge (and watch her closely) or hold her, because she'd try to take off down the driveway once she realized I wasn't paying attention. She also used to take a loooong time to convince to eat the fucking grass bc staring and being alert to every noise ever uttered was more important.

And now?

She is just... unaffected.

Her belly isn't sucked up to her spine anymore and although she will always be a little herring gutted, I have yet to see her walk away from her daily mash (which is something she did often whenever she heard a noise out on the road). She doesn't have that frantic look in her eye of being on edge 24/7 - in fact, she reminded me a lot of a stallion or "alpha mare" in the past because she always seemed to be looking for the next possible threat and always keeping tabs on everything.

She is much happier <3
She kinda just let it all go when we moved. She is curious about the going-ons, but they don't produce a high level of intense feelings and worry like they used to. I can't help but feel joy that this move has given her so much mental freedom and has eradicated a good portion of her previous anxiety and worry.

I was so concerned about moving to a smaller area, no access to a barn, no tack room (all my non-essential pony things are packed away (like winter blankets) and everything else is in my horse trailer which I am using as a tack/feed room), and no extensive land for the horses to roam that I was blown away by the changes it had on Annie (Spud could literally give two shits where he lives, haha).

Two besties, sharing some green.
It brings me so much happiness that she feels relaxed and comfortable and it really goes to show that sometimes a bigger barn or an all-amenities-included facility isn't what your horse needs. Of course, basic care and needs must still be met, but all the extra creature comforts are just that.... extras.

The narrative that is playing before me has shown me that all of these necessities people claim to need are just... not vital in the grand scheme of things. They're nice to have, of course, and they make life infinite times easier, but we're making do and the quality of life for one anxiety-ridden mare has been raised exponentially and I simply cannot ask for anything more than that. 


  1. Hooray for HAPPY PEACEFUL ponies <3

    1. It really is the best feeling in the world.

  2. It is funny how horses react to environments. I’m glad she’s doing so well. FYzo, I’ve had the same feeding struggle with Irish the ENTIRE time I’ve had him. It’s better now but still driving me batty.

    1. Is it not single-handedly the most INFURIATING thing in the world?! I've stood there countless times, "Annie, just EAT." I've lost count how many nights I've been wide awake thinking and scheming of what else I can do to prevent the fenceline staring. She never paced, which was good, but she'd just STARE for hours and it drove me insane.

  3. I'm so happy for you that she's doing so well :)

  4. It's sort of amazing when what we think they want, and what they really want aren't the same. It's also amazing when we get to see them in a situation that makes them happy and what a difference it makes. I'm glad Annie is living her best life :)

    1. Interesting, hey?
      I'm so glad that this change went as smoothly as it could and that Annie loves it there :)

  5. Having witnessed a similar transformation in Q, I am familiar with those feelings of happiness/relief seeing Annie relax and be calmer in her day-to-day. It is the best feeling and such a wonderful thing to get to witness!

  6. what a relief that she transitioned so well! it's so funny how so many qualities we just assume are 'normal' for our horses actually end up being environmental. at charlie's first barn, he was generally kinda cranky and grouchy, and you had to watch his back when in his stall (to the point where we had a warning sign on his stall). he was new to me so i just assumed.... that's how he was. after moving him tho (and naturally warning the whole staff to just be careful), he was a whole new horse. and i just had no idea. definitely a good feeling tho to see them so happy after a big change!

    1. how awesome quite a few of us bloggers have experienced similar instances! i'm so glad Charlie transitioned so well - I am sure it is such a relief for you!

  7. This is wonderful! Sophie can also one to pick at her food and worry and be easily distracted by other things. It's interesting how they show definite preferences for living spaces, often choosing something very simple. I bet you're next on her snuggle list <3

    1. The distraction is SO ANNOYING. JUST STOP STARING AND EAT.

      Isn't it?! It's so interesting, esp considering what WE think our horses need vs what our horses actually need are so different.

  8. That's wonderful she feels so much more settled at her new home. I honestly think not all horses want lots of wide open space. Jamp really preferred a smaller turnout area. He was just anxious and worried if given too much space. Maybe he felt pressured to watch over all that area? I have no idea.
    Either way, glad things are working out so well!