June 22, 2022

One Year Co-Op Anniversary

As of this month, we're celebrating one year as a co-op.

A recent Sunday morning on the farm

At our June monthly co-op meeting, I mentioned the anniversary and that I was still sometimes amazed at how smoothly it had gone. The barn owner laughed and said, "I'm amazed too, I didn't know if this was going to work out at first, but it really has!"

It's not just amazing that it worked at all: it's amazing that it worked so well. This has been the smoothest year of boarding I've ever had. Certainly the most work as well, but never so much work that it felt like I couldn't get away. 

 

My mom doing stalls on Christmas morning

In that year, not a single shift has been missed. Service complaints have been minimal, and when they happen they're something benign like someone left Shoo Fly Leggings on a horse inside when they should've been off. We've seamlessly dealt with 10 day vacations, multiple unexpected week-long absences due to family emergencies, extreme weather, holidays and business trips, and never missed a beat.

Waiting for the hay guy on my day off this week

 

Even drama has been at nearly zero. We had one moment where something could've gotten petty, but instead of letting it happen, I set a firm precedent that we are not going to use me (the co-op manager) to hide behind rather than directly sharing valid complaints and thoughts with the group. Direct and honest communication is what makes this co-op work, and I'm going to preserve it fiercely.

This isn't something we HAVE to do, but sometimes the BOs can't keep up with the landscaping and I take it upon myself to help out
 

The top picture to the bottom picture took me an hour!

I think for me the biggest lesson here is that with the right group of people and the right motivations, this might be the most sustainable boarding model of all, at least in this economy. I've seen so many full care facilities close around here recently for various reasons. I've seen so much drama boarding over the years. I've seen so many entitled boarders ask for truly ridiculous demands. 

And we have almost none of that, because we all have skin in the game of keeping the facility open and running smoothly. If one boarder asks for a change that will impact all of us, we discuss it and agree to it, or if there's disagreement we figure out a compromise. It just works.

Neatly organized feed room from last fall

This post is long enough, but sometime soon I'm going to make a list of all the things that did and didn't work in the first year of our co-op, since I've had readers come to me for ideas. Am I an expert, no, but I did write our model and have a year of experience under my belt at this point, which I think is worth sharing.

June 20, 2022

Trail Riding in Brown County

Two weekends ago, barnmate Leah and I took Connor and her baby Pyro out to Brown County for a quick trail ride with friends and fellow Castleberry Cob owners Nic and Haley. It was the last cool day before the weather was to turn sharply warmer and more humid.

Half Castleberry Cob half WB Castleberrys Rockette pictured on the left

Under threat of storms, we had to be quick. It ended up being a muddy one, about an hour long, which was more than enough for how hard the horses had to work in some spots.

As with a lot of things in life, Connor has earned the right to do whatever he wants in certain situations, such as out on the trail. I let him pick his own way down the trail, which typically meant the driest route he could find, which made everyone laugh.

Connor was making everyone laugh with his usual impatience on the trail. Once you get this pony going, he does not want to stop. Period. And if you stop, he will let you know he's unhappy. It's one of those weird personality quirks that I absolutely would have dealt with ten years ago if he was for sale, but he's not, so I didn't.

Related: even after nearly an hour on sloppy, tricky trails, he would still try to trot to go faster every so often and I'd have to growl at him. Dude is just cocky enough on trails now to be bolder than he needs to be, lol.


Once again, we were left wondering why we don't do this more often when it's just an easy half hour haul from the farm! We'll see how long before we go back out there. Hopefully not long!

 


June 9, 2022

Disco Playtime

I'm getting closer to blogging regularly again guys, I really am. My personal life is going to be in a bit of a state of upheaval through most of the summer, but I'm taking steps toward normalcy every day.

How about some photos today? First up - some of Disco having a good time playing earlier this week.

Okay but FOR REAL NOW is he ever going to get awkward? Isn't this when I'm supposed to be hiding him behind the barn? He still looks like a baby from some angles, but from others he knocks me over with how freaking gorgeous he is.

We've had the ball for several months now and he didn't really go after it much at first, but as he's gotten older and more rambunctious it's become one of his favorite things.

Pounce!

Because our pastures mostly don't have run-in sheds, our horses have to stay in when there's a chance of storms overnight when they're on night turnout, which is about one night out of every week or two during the summer. I've decided to only let him play with the ball in the indoor, so that it gives him a lot of mental stimulation when he's stuck inside for 23 hours a day.

He is beauty, he is grace, lol

Don't think the ball is his only toy though! Everything is a toy right now. Folding chairs, tarps, whatever else he finds over in our jump storage corner.

Desensitizing himself

He's just so bold, and I love it. It's hard to scare him. Between that and his incredible body awareness (compared to Connor who has...not a lot, lol), I can't help but wonder if he may want to event someday. Fingers crossed. I'd love to get back to that.

I mean...he read the distance to that first pole a mile away and then fixed the related distance by getting right up to the base of the second "jump." A girl can dream, right?!

He even has a new stall toy, which I'll review at some point. He kept popping stall bars out between him and his neighbors when he was bored, so I bought him a Hay Pillow so that even his meals could be playtime.

 

Hay feeder that he can fling around his stall with abandon = success

Disco, living the good life!

 

May 27, 2022

Disco's Growth Spurt

What's Disco been up to?

Well. GROWING.

This was what he looked like on March 15:


Then I swear, as soon as the grass greened up in early April, he went from baby horse shaped to adult horse shaped overnight, fast enough that even those of us who see him every day noticed it:

May 5. Yes, he really does have that much hair on BOTH sides of his neck, lord help me

Excuse me, what, where did my baby go?!

May 14. PC: Lisa

He's not just filling out, though, he's also putting that energy into growing up. Taller, that is. Lisa came out to see him on May 14th, and we sticked him at 13.2hh! For reference, Connor was 13.3hh and change when I got him at age 5, and finished at 14.1hh or 143cm. Also, this means he's grown an entire hand since we last sticked him in January or February.

May 5

 

Disco is almost certainly going to finish over pony, which is not surprising since his dad is pushing 15hh. It's also perfectly fine for the breed - there's no upper limit for height on D's.

His first time seeing the top half of the door open in the spring. I opened his door two days earlier than the other horses just in case I came out one morning to find an escaped Disco in the barnyard, lol. He was good though.

Even with all that growing though, he has yet to go through a stage awkward enough that I wouldn't show him. He's gotten a touch butt high occasionally, but nothing wild.

May 14

It's been a wild ride watching his body grow and change since I brought him home just over six months ago!


May 26, 2022

Slowing Down and Enjoying the Storm

I was sitting in the rocking chairs on my barn's porch with CGP last Saturday, drinking wine and listening to the steady drum of rain on the roof and thunder in the distance. She was staying at my house all weekend to coach people at a local show, and we had just started an in-person lesson, her first visit to my barn ever, when a tornadic thunderstorm blew through. So the only logical thing to do was to put Connor back in his stall, grab a glass of wine and enjoy the storm.

Same view, different day this week. It's storm season.

It was safe enough to restart the lesson, but it was obvious that neither of us wanted to break the spell of alcohol, conversation and relaxation that had fallen over us. I said, "You know, I think I'd rather just sit here and drink wine with you than do that lesson," and she said, "This is the most relaxing afternoon I've had in years, no kidding, and I was thinking the same thing. I never get to just sit and talk like this, and don't have a porch like this to watch storms from. This is amazing."

We watched the rain in silence for a while before I said, "I'm just not that motivated to train or show right now, and I'm really not fussed about it at all," I confessed. "Third doesn't come easily to either one of us, and I have [a lot going on in my personal life] to deal with. It's all I can do to ride a couple of times a week, and I'm okay with that, I'm not beating myself up over it."

Staring into the ravine on our property on a hack

She said, "You know, that's okay, I think that's very smart. There's nothing wrong with taking a step back and enjoying your horse. You're still learning and progressing, there's more to all of this than medals and scores."

She went on to talk about when she went through a similar period of time with her first GP horse, about times she's had to have tough conversations with students about putting the horse first when they were chasing a big show goal, about what it was like balancing horses and her previous non-horsey career. It was the deepest and most soul-baring conversation I've ever had with her, and it was incredible. It was validating and honest and mattered so much to hear that from her.

Bareback toodling is training, right?

And then the following Tuesday in my virtual lesson, she asked me to move him laterally in both directions at the canter, and HE GAVE ME AN EFFORTLESS CANTER HALF PASS, which I have never ridden before in my life. I actually stopped him and was like holy shit holy shit WHAT WAS THAT! I'm not sure any lateral work has ever felt that effortless, let alone a movement I've never ridden before.


It was all such a good reminder that there's nothing wrong with slowing down and listening to your horse, that slow is fast with horses, and that sometimes a good conversation over a glass of wine in the rain matters more than pushing forward with training for the sake of it.

Life is good.

No filter - the Midwest is just gorgeous sometimes