Two weeks ago it got cold here in Bend, Ore., and started snowing. Then the ground froze solid and it snowed some more—a lot more. Winter had made her grand entrance on the high desert, bringing temperatures that dipped close to zero degrees Fahrenheit at night and barely broke freezing during the day.
This is the time of year when I usually give up riding my two horses. Instead, I wrap them up in blankets, feed them mass quantities of hay, and let them know we’ll have fun again in the spring. When the opportunity arises, I do take my barefoot gelding out for a trail ride in the snow or haul my dressage horse, Marathon, to my trainer's arena to stretch his legs. But, for the most part, my geldings spend winter getting wooly and playing pasture ponies until April rolls along.
Honestly, after five years living on my own horse property, I’m tired of the annual routine.
This winter a serious bout of cabin fever had me considering the once unthinkable: Maybe I’d be better off if we sold our small property and moved into town. I could board the boys at a facility with a beautiful indoor arena and (do I wish for too much?) heated grooming area. My husband and I could buy a condo, with no lawn or maintenance, next to one of our city’s beautiful parks along the winding Deschutes River. For breakfast we could amble to a locally owned corner coffee shop for fresh pastries and espressos while some other poor schmuck spent the frigid morning hours breaking ice from troughs and slinging feed to my horses as they beat their hooves against the stall doors.
I got far enough along in this fantasy to pull comps to our property and flag several downtown rental prospects in my Zillow account. My husband eyed me over the kitchen counter, wondering if I was serious. He probably had his own version of this downtown daydream—no garage roof to replace come spring, hay to stack despite his grass allergies, or fences to mend in the middle of windstorms. And, I’m not kidding, people who live in town can walk to the river’s edge and fish just about any time they want. I’m pretty sure that was part of his fantasy as well.
Finally, he asked what I really wanted. After a little bit of soul searching, the answer came relatively easy: I wanted to ride, and the solution that followed seemed equally as simple. There’s a boarding facility about a mile down the road with a small but adequate covered arena. The owner and resident trainer is a nice guy, the horses get good care, and the boarders are low-key and love their animals. And, as my husband pointed out, two or three months of a boarding bill is much less expensive and stressful than uprooting our entire life.
So, I moved Marathon to the boarding facility on the 1st of January to give it a try. It takes me exactly three minutes to get there, so I can easily check him daily, feed his grain, and change his blankets if the weather turns. And, I’ve ridden more in the past week than I did in the previous two months combined. He’s started putting on some condition, and I’m feeling like my happy riding self.
The rest of the fantasy? Well, there’s still no walking to the local coffee shop for breakfast, but I realize I’d rather live 20 minutes from town than 20 minutes from my horses. Plus, I do own a coffeepot.
What about you? Have you ever thought about turning in country life for a boarding stable? If not, how do you make riding work during the winter months?