Friday, September 7, 2012

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

(Welcome to Middleburg, home of the Red Horse Tavern.)

Now that I'm finally settled, I've been starting to think about where I'm going to keep Dante when the time comes for him to end his vacation. I'm in the middle of horse heaven, so it shouldn't be too hard, right?

Of course, it's never that easy.

First, let's go ahead and assume that his hooves conform to our schedule and he is ready to compete again next spring. That means I need to bring him up in January after a month at Kesmarc in December to start trot sets, so I can flat in February, and start jumping by March.

Wheee, trot sets in January.

So first I think of all the things I want in a barn:

1) All weather footing and lights in outdoor rings.
2) Indoor or covered, if there are no lights or all weather footing.
3) Good footing in the turnout, and no more than 2 pasture buddies.
4) All day or night turnout, depending on the season and weather.
5) Deeply bedded stalls that are cleaned well.
6) No required lessons with trainer (unless it is a trainer I want to ride with).
7) I can use any vet or farrier (which is not a big deal if I like the barn vet or farrier).
8) Trailer parking (I don't mind paying a small fee for a small trailer, just needs to be available).
9) Within budget! (Which isn't super tight, but the less money I spend on board, the more I can spend on lessons. Or save for shows....)

My plan is to trailer out for lessons twice a week, once for dressage (preferably to an actual dressage instructor) and once for jumping (would love to find a jumper trainer to work with two times a month, and then to an event trainer for a touch of XC and a jump lesson maybe 1x a month.) I definitely want to build up a rapport with an event trainer so that when I go to big events (FEI mostly) I can stable with them and course walk with them, as well as have a flat and SJ warm-up. However, I can't afford the time or money to have Dante on training board with someone like I did in Texas, and I'd like to take advantage of the opportunity to train with specialists.

The situation becomes more complicated with Dante coming in January. I don't really need an indoor, I almost like the idea of riding in all the elements, so Dante gets used to being relaxed in all weathers. I can buy rain covers for my saddles, I can wear old half chaps instead of tall boots, I can oil my tack after getting wet. I won't ride if it's under 20 degrees (I might hack in certain circumstances, but no straining his lungs), but an indoor wouldn't really help that anyways. Obviously, I need all weather footing if it's raining.

Worse comes to worse, many places will allow you to use their indoor for a fee. I could do that once in a while if it's truly bad. However, I do very much need lights. With work, I may need to be riding at 10 pm on a semi-regular basis. I have no problem riding outdoors so long as there are lights and all weather footing.

I do want lessons by February, and seeing as I'm not sure that any of the trainers I would normally lesson with stay up in VA, I might be willing to board with a trainer with an indoor through the winter, then move. But moving is a pain. So we'll see.

Finally, this barn MUST be located within fifteen minutes of Middleburg OR located north of Middleburg no further north than Purcelville. My job will be sending me to work out of Germantown, MD for about a year (maybe more, maybe less), and my route home from work will probably bring me from the north out of Frederick. The commute itself is long enough that I really don't want to have to drive past Middleburg south (unless I am trailering to a lesson) and then return again.

Some things I can sacrifice on. I might be willing to let him have more of a herd if the acreage of turnout is larger. I might be willing to let him live primarily on turnout so long as he is either fed separately or I can ensure he is getting all of his food and none of anyone else's. I will not sacrifice on footing, care, or having either lights/all weather or an indoor. I won't sacrifice on location.

Luckily, Middleburg area suffer almost an overabundance of horse farms. I'm likely to find at least a few facilities that fit my parameters. Many of these farms are private with only a few boarders, and the only way to hear about them is word of mouth. So spread the word, Virginia folk!

Time to start the search.


  1. You should ask Kate Erickson (grey brook eventing blog).. .She was just out there working for the chronicle over the summer and is from the east coast. But I wanted to say speaking of dressage trainers you should see if you can take a lesson with Virginia Leary. She's a former eventer turned dressage guru and she is really fabulous. (I bought my guy from her too!) but she travels down to hill top farm in md often to take lessons herself. I'm not sure how far that is from you but I highly recommend her!

  2. I also just moved for a job although we switched parts of the country! I just moved from lex to Oklahoma and am also going through the finding an adequate boarding barn. Coming from CT and then KY this is a huge culture shock and the choices are slim pickens out here!

  3. A really, REALLY long time ago, I boarded at Bascule Farm, which is in Poolesville. I think it would be on your way home to Middleburg if you take the ferry. Good facilities, and it's an eventing barn. Of course, lots may have changed since I was there, but just a thought.

    A lot of upper-level riders trailered out weekly to train with Wofford. I was never that good, lol!

    Another thing to be sure to ask is if they are OK with you riding at 10pm. A couple of barns I have been to want everyone out by 9 or 10.

    But given that you're smack dab in the middle of Horse Heaven, I'm sure you won't have any problem at all finding a place! Good luck!

  4. Mikaela, thanks for the advice on Virginia Leary. I'll look into her.

    I also read Kate Erickson's blog, and I'm friends with one of her friends in M-burg. She boarded at Locochee briefly until a spot at Lynn Symansky's opened up. Locochee is a backup option for me, but it's for sale, so I don't want to try and stay there long term. It's also absolutely perfect and comes with a price tag to match, so I'd like to find something a little less expensive as well.

    Not sure where you moved to in OK, but you should check out Feather Creek Farm.

  5. jenj, a farm in MD would be close to work, it's least as long as I am on that job site. When the building is finished, I will be back in Alexandria or elsewhere in D.C. Metro area. I also don't want to have to drive so far on the weekends, as fuel is so expensive. Finally, I REALLY don't want to have to drive up to MD, pick up my horse and trailer, drive BACK down to M-burg for lessons, then back to the barn, then back home. Most of the trainers I'd like to ride with are in VA, so crossing the river like that becomes an issue.

  6. Yeah I checked out Feather Creek/ board there currently but moving soon (and I am in Norman) however your list and my list are very similar and F.C. doesn't fulfill 5 of your top 6 items. Great probably for a Horse Trials - not so stellar for everyday boarding. In fact my horse stepped in a huge hole doing trot sets in the middle of the field and is now lame, and hes never been even slightly off in the 7 yrs I have had him :( I am constantly reminded that I am not in Kentucky anymore! There are a couple girls though from Texas who just moved in that ride with Mike Huber and cherish his farm.

    Debating on buying some western gear and switching over at least whele I live in Oklahoma! So at least you are in horse heaven!

  7. Major bummer, Mikaela. Yeah, I boarded at Mike's while I was in Texas, and he has an absolutely top notch facility. I've only ever been to FC once for a show, their very first in August 2009, but I can see where the boarding might not be as good. That's pretty much the only place in OK that I know of, though.

    Maybe you could board at a western place and trailer out to jump lessons?

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