The Haunted Barn

I don’t believe in ghosts. I feel like that’s an important point on this entire ghost story. Sure, Paranormal Activity had me jumping at every noise in the night, but that wore off. If I watched it now, I bet I’d have no reaction to it. Especially now that they’ve made those god-awful sequels. If it had been a single movie, then yeah, maybe I would have figured it could possibly happen. But now I know it’s a cash grab, so thanks a lot, movie producer, you’ve made me immune to “ghost activity”.

Sure, there was a moment when I first moved into my house and figured out that a dying person had lived here, and possibly died here. What if he stayed and haunted the house!? That thought lasted about two weeks, and then I removed the handicapped features of the house, so I wouldn’t have to be reminded. And also, I figured I’ll never need such things, because clearly I will be a fit, healthy person for the rest of my life until I suddenly drop dead for no apparent reason when I’m 90 years old. 

I’m not even scared of things that go bump in the night. I go out to my barn in the dark every morning, and during the winter months, in the dark every evening. In the beginning, I carried a gun, because HOLY CRAP, WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN. Then I carried a wooden rod because that could probably fend off something. Then I dropped down to nothing but a lantern, and on nights I smell skunk, I shriek like a banshee to scare it off so I don’t get sprayed. It’s also a good excuse to shriek, because how often is that accepted in everyday life? Certainly not in my everyday life.

The point of all this is that I don’t believe in ghosts, or vampires, or zombies, or gargoyles. I do believe in bears because I saw a bear here once, but that was in the daylight, so it’s probably okay. Although I do remember that story of the guy who had a personal zoo of big cats, and one day he let all the big cats out, so I guess that could happen. But, I am not aware of anyone with a personal zoo, so it’s probably okay…. at least I hope it is.

“The hounds are calling Emily! Let’s rent something at Blockbuster!”

Going back to the point, trainer Sarah has been telling me ghost stories about her barn for as long as I’ve known her.

Factual things she’s told me:

  • There was a confederate campsite on her property. The property has been metal detected to death, and lots of buttons, coins and random artifacts have been found.
  • There was an old house on the property, but it was falling apart, so it was torn down many years ago.

Ghostly things she’s told me:

  • There’s a confederate soldier who hangs out at one end of her barn and scares the horses. One time, late at night, she was cleaning a stall, and he appeared leaning against the stall wall. She swears he was as clear as day, as clear as I was, which at the time, I happened to be standing right in front of her. She said she yelled at him to stop spooking her horses and go away, and he vanished.
  • She and her brother have had ghost hunts before. Her brother has some kind of visual dectecting device, and it saw a thrashing figure in her arena, right in an area where the horses spook a lot. 
  • She has had very vivid dreams of being at a confederate camp, and having to run away to hide in the woods.
  • She woke up suddenly in the middle of the night to find a native american head in front of her. She reached out her hand to touch it, and it vanished.
  •  There’s a vortex where the old house used to be. I’m not sure how she came to this conclusion.
  • She and her boarders all have sightings of ghosts. She said that she hasn’t even said anything to her boarders, and they will come to her and tell her about ghostly sightings. There’s at least three distinct ghosts that haunt the barn.

On the evening of Saturday’s horse show, Sarah had invited ghost hunters to her barn. D’Arcy and I were politely invited, so naturally we took Sarah up on this. It’s time to hunt some ghosts!!! 

Having never been to a ghost hunt, I was not sure what to expect. It started with me being told to shut my yapper, because I was being too loud and they couldn’t hear the ghosts. Fair enough. 

They set up three cameras to watch the aisles. We walked around with one man who had some kind of device that reads different radio waves. I really have no idea how it works, but supposedly it’s supposed to facilitate ghost communication.

As we walked around, it was apparent the ghosts weren’t in a talkative mode. I think they were asking the wrong questions though. If you’re a ghost, and you’re hanging out in a barn, do you want to relive the way you died over and over again? I mean, why is that the only thing people are interested in? Maybe the ghost wants to discuss other things, like how their Saturday went, or if they’re following any sports teams.

We weren’t having much luck getting the ghosts to talk, and eventually, we made our way to the confederate soldier side of the barn. (Sarah has a seriously huge barn, it’s like 36 stalls or something crazy). They were asking the ghost about what his secret was. D’Arcy and I went with another line of questioning.

“So, do you like the horses?”

And then, IT RESPONDED. OMG, the voice thing said, “I do.”

 We all exchanged a glance. Like, whaaaaaaaaat.

Unfortunately, there were no other responses. So we still don’t know why the soldier likes to spook the horses. Maybe it’s on accident?

“Why don’t you get in the back of my van and I’ll drive you home.”

We continued onward. They had another device that somehow deciphered words from thin air, and then it would say the words. So, when the ghost was talkative (maybe) the device would random spout words. It named Sarah’s brother, by name. Maybe it’s a coincidence? It told us to go outside by a tree. We all went. The tree was super creepy looking like definitely a tree people would get hanged on. But, logically, the tree probably wasn’t that big 150 years ago, it wouldn’t have been strong enough to hang people. It would have been just a tree back then.

We were all standing around like idiots by this tree, and Sarah wandered into the adjacent field with one of the devices because that’s where the old house/vortex had been. D’Arcy acquired a cat out somewhere and was holding it and loving on it. The cat was appreciating the attention, when it suddenly went on alert, staring at the ground, following the movement of something up the tree, watching something in the tree, and then following something back down the tree. Ghost? Or stupid cat?  I guess we will never know. Although being out in the dark by a creepy looking tree definitely made it feel like a ghost.

After standing by the tree for way too long, we headed back to the barn. That’s when we were intercepted by the other half of the ghost hunting team, which consisted of “official” ghosthunters, and also, one of Sarah’s working students.

They breathlessly explained how they have been watching the cameras in one of the breezeways when they suddenly heard footsteps in the loft above. It wasn’t just one person’s footsteps, it was multiple, and they heard a chain rattling, as though it was worn around the ankles. 

I wouldn’t have believed just the ghost hunters because they seek these kinds of things, but the student, who previously had been very skeptical, was adamant that she had heard it, too. Naturally, this made everyone want to go to into the loft. But, naturally, since there you had to climb a ladder to get to the loft, the number of people who actually went up dropped down to just three: Sarah, D’Arcy, and random ghost hunter man.

I determined that the best use of my time would be setting up a chair in the breezeway, watching the camera, and listening for ghosts. Naturally, perhaps due to my non-belief, absolutely nothing happened. But, I did get to hear the activity in the loft as they tried to get the ghosts to communicate with them.

The ghost hunter asked the ghost to talk to them. He asked them to touch them. At one point, there were loud gunshots, which startled everyone. But it turned out he had just bumped the device. As far as I can tell, the ghost did not indicate its presence. 

“Hi, Billie Mays here for Super Scrub!”

After a while, they came back down. The next place to check out was the arena, where the thrashing stick figure had been. We went out with them, but at this point, it was getting really, really cold. We only had sweaters on, and it was dropping down to 45 degrees. It was very uncomfortable, so we went back up to the barn, which had a very warm tack room.

After hanging out with completely normal german shepherds, who are only looking for love, Sarah eventually returned and told us we had to come back down to witness t he activity. She was really excited, so we agreed.

The official ghost hunters had disappeared to get more equipment, so Sarah just took us down with a device that would light up for activity. Its default was green, and it would light up through yellow, orange, and red, which somehow indicated a ghost’s presence. 

We stood by the entrance to the arena, and asked questions to the open air.

“Are you a woman?”

Nothing.

“Are you a man?”

Nothing.

“Are you a pirate?”

It lit up all the way to red.

“How can you be a pirate so far inland?

Nothing.

“Do you like pirates?”

It lit up to red.

“Are you being funny?”

It lit up to red.

“Can you stop spooking the horses?”

Nothing.

We asked a few more questions, and everytime pirates came up, it was a red. Our line of questioning determined that it was a little boy who likes pirates. We went back to the barn, and Sarah said that he could not come in the barn, so it did not follow us.

Back in the barn, she told everyone what had happened. When she started talking about pirates again, the device lit up to orange. Apparently the ghosts in the barn like pirates, too. 

We headed out at that point. That was enough ghost hunting for one night. 

Everyone agreed that the ghosts were being very quiet that night, but still – I have absolutely no belief in ghosts. I don’t know what those devices were picking up, but I can only assume they are programmed to pick up random things to make it seem like there are ghosts.

Although – have you had ghostly experiences? Perhaps your barn is haunted? Let’s discuss! 

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An Explosion of Chicks

In the span of a week, my flock of chickens has doubled. 

It started one warm afternoon when I walked up to my chicken coop. I peeked in to take a look, and I heard little cheeps. My first thought was, that better not be what I think it is. I crawled into the coop, and found a little nesting hen. I lifted her up, and two little chicks tumbled out. 

My first reaction was annoyance. I don’t want more chickens. I’m content with the few that I have. But, I brought them inside, set up the brooder, and placed them in it. The next day, two more chicks hatched. They grew on me pretty fast.

Awwww, who’s a cute little chicken!?

A week later, Dave was at Tractor Supply. He’s checking out the chicks are selling, and he sees some standard chicks with bloody backs that are apparently being abused by the bantam chicks that are in with them. Dave brings it to the attention of employees, and is told that they can’t sell the damaged chicks, so they will be sent back to be destroyed…unless Dave buys them. Dave informs them he is not interested in purchasing the chicks. They ask if he will just take them free. He agrees, and now we have 5 more chicks.

This one has feathery legs!

And also…I agreed to go in on a chick order with my neighbor. I have four more chicks arriving in June. 

I have a chick problem.

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My Non-existant Life Balance

Above is the closest I’ve been to riding a horse recently. And that’s not even me playing it! That’s Dave playing an online horse jumping game. He would miss the jumps, but magically, the jumps would become transparent for him to just canter through. This was only a safeguard to avoid injury though, the rider was still very disappointed in Dave’s performance.

"You need to work on your spacebar skills!"
“You need to work on your spacebar skills!”

I wish I could work on my real life spacebar skills. I haven’t ridden since my guest lesson, and I am feeling an itch that a powder won’t fix. It’s been unseasonably warm, but it’s been very wet. So wet, I would not be able to get my tractor to my arena to drag it. I can’t even remember the last time it was dragged.

Now, keep in mind I can still only do this on the weekends. Most of my week looks like this:

PSX_20170118_095825
Don’t worry, traffic was at a standstill, therefore allowing the picture to be taken safely.

My opportunities for riding during the week are slim to none. Occasionally, we have a holiday. But then it’s cold and it rains, or snows. It’s been a mostly mild January, but usually it’s mild during the week – those times when I need to be at work. I like my job and my company, so I’m not complaining about that aspect. I just need some telework, or it needs to get sunny again, and stay sunny until like 7pm.

Recently, we had a company event, and due to the hours, I decided to stay in the city. I stayed with my friend and got a reminder of apartment living. I can see why people would live in a stacked column of housing, especially when work is mere minutes away, as well as an entire mall an elevator ride away. Although we are a bit older than the last time I was living in an apartment, so we weren’t exactly snacking on ramen.

Salmon!? I distinctly asked for lobster frittala!
A free salmon dinner?! Ugh! I distinctly asked for lobster!

I also did some fine arts and crafts. Who knew I was so talented at the pipe cleaners?

Only $1600 on my etsy store!
Only $160 on my etsy store! Act now, and I’ll throw in used play doh I’ve collected in my travels. 

I’m basically waiting for to get more free time. Eventually, I’ll be able to ride during the week again… I’ll start taking a lesson every week again… and keep advancing. It’s just another period of life where I have to accept that not riding now will benefit me in the future, career-wise. The waiting isn’t so fun though.

I’m brainstorming some ideas to get Berry working again while I’m at work, none of which sound appealing, financially. But, it could end up extremely beneficial to send Berry to a trainer for a few months until I get more time.

Or I could install some arena lights. I kind of like that idea. What I don’t like is the thought of doing anything on my mud slick of a pasture.

On the positive side, since I’ve been stuck inside on the weekends, I decided to seriously tackle redecorating my house. Before and after pictures to come!

Good job to all of you that make the riding/work/life balance work. One day, I will be among you.

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Around the Farm

One of the most exciting things that could happen, happened at my little farm. I got a delivery of stone dust.

It's...the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.
It’s…the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Stone dust means possibilities. It meant I could finally fill in the lost footing in my arena. It means I can level out the horse stalls, level my driveway, and fill in the area around the barn. Also, it’s just so beautiful – all powdery, like newly fallen snow. Except if you try to play in it, you discover it’s actually coarse, hard and will tear up your skin. Just like the graceful, but aggressive swan, it is best admired from on top of a tractor.

The smoke of old stone dust, soon to be covered by new, not yet dusty stone dust.
The smoke of old stone dust, soon to be covered by new, not yet dusty stone dust.

It took some rain to loosen up the old stone dust, but afterward, it became my zen garden again.

ridingarena

Although, I didn’t add any stone dust until I had fixed the drains. I rerouted the drain, starting on the hill above the arena, and continuing all the way around. So far, the drains are working out perfectly. My neighbor even noticed, as she asked me why her field was suddenly getting new rain paths. Success!

It might look like a muddy mess, but this is actually a successful drain.
It might look like a muddy mess, but this is actually a successful drain.

For the longest time, I had thought my tractor mower was broken because it would not engage. I hadn’t mowed since last fall, and everything was starting to look messy. But, I got the tractor guy out and it turned out that I just didn’t have the right gear engaged. Whoops. He didn’t charge me, as he understands these things happen. After all, he fixed my tractor for me before by putting it in gear. Yes, this happened more than once. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson this time.

With my mower working, I was able to get some serious mowing done. Behind my pasture, I have another acre or so of overgrown messy plants, just begging to be cleared out and fenced in. I aggressively took the bushhog to it, mowing down entire trees while laughing hysterically at the power I yield. We like to have fun around here.

clearing

Considering it looked like a jungle before, I’m feeling pretty good about this. Now I just need to figure out how to get to the other side of the jungle to mow.

The entrance has sealed itself off.
The entrance has sealed itself off.

A lot of bunnies live in this area. More bunnies than I have ever seen around the property. We are theorizing that the foxes are so full of chicken, they don’t need to chase down bunnies. But the abundance of bunnies has triggered Dave.

"Come here little bunny..."
“Come here little bunny…”

He is trying to catch a wild bunny. He decided he really wants a bunny as a pet, but he doesn’t want a pet store rabbit. He wants those beautiful wild rabbits. I’ve tried to talk him out of this. I even said he could get a pet rabbit, which I thought was pretty generous of me. But he insist upon a wild one, claiming he will tame it. This seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I’m sure my next update on this will be from the hospital.

On a sadder note, I’m finally down to my last bale of hay.

roundbale

Its lasted a long time, but I am looking forward to a new supplier, hopefully one that doesn’t include splinters in their hay. I’m getting just a little bit sick of pulling off hay, only to feel little stabs in my hands.

And on a final note, not really related to the farm, my computer is still not working. Dave “fixed it” and then it blue screened. Such is life.

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Chicken Drama

I thought my chicken keeping experience couldn’t get any worse after my beloved Fluffers died. But, it turns out that chickens continue to be expendable, and a few weeks ago, some predator came in and killed over half my flock. Killed, and then left their bodies scattered around my property, and my neighbor’s property. So many of the chickens that I loved, and doted on are gone.

There was one survivor that was under attack, Smog, our big white cochin. I guess I came out at the right time, and stopped the attack in progress. Even though she had only lost feathers on the outside, there must have been internal damage, and a few days later, she to succumbed to her injuries.

We were left with five hens, the fewest we’ve had since we started keeping chickens. It was eerily quiet with no rooster crowing. We were paranoid about losing our remaining hens, so they weren’t allowed out of the run anymore. Sometimes, they stayed locked in the coop with their food and water. Since there were so few of them now, being locked in the giant mansion of a coop was no hardship, and sometimes they just stayed in there even when door to the run was open.

Survivors Y'grette and Twank.
Survivors Y’grette and Twank.

There seems to be a common quality over half the survivors had. They are all little bantam chickens with the ability to fly. Y’grette had run over to my neighbor’s house when the attack happened (I got a call from her), and when we came out, she heard me and decided it was safe again and came back to my property. We thought we had lost Twank, but she showed up at dusk to go back in the coop. I have no idea where she hid for several hours.

Teeny, birdlike mini Dora.
Teeny, birdlike mini Dora.

Mini Dora showed up immediately as I was bringing Smog back to the coop. She must have have just flown up in a tree. She’s the best flier of the bunch.

The other two survivors, big, hefty full sized hens, survived because they had decided their life’s ambition was to hatch some eggs. While the slaughter went out outside, mere feet away, the predator did not go into the coop to get these two, and these two were either blissfully unaware, or just way too intent on hatching some eggs.

hens
Buffalo G. Orphington in the back, and Salmon, who is bald because of the now deceased roosters. Hopefully it will grow back, because she is just scary looking.

But, wait a moment – What’s the little poof of cream next to Salmon?

Egads! It's a chick!
Egads! It’s a chick!

We decided to let them keep the eggs they had been sitting on. Normally, we take them away immediately, and do not have any chicks hatch, but we were feeling very strongly that we loved our flock so much, this was the only way for all our little pets to live on. So we let them keep the eggs, in the hopes of getting the children of our lost flock.

So far, we have three chicks. This silkie cross is the oldest, born about two days ago, and is the most out going and seems to constantly be getting into things. There’s also a little chipmunk looking one, born about a day ago who I only spot occasionally, and then there was another one hatched this morning, who I only saw because I lifted Buffalo G. for a moment. It was all damp and shriveled looking, so I decided it was best not to interfere. The hens get upset when they are messed with, and I’d rather them just concentrate on those babies, and not how to get me away from the nest.

They always look pretty angry to be disturbed.
They always look pretty angry to be disturbed.

Hopefully everyone will survive, and we’ll be able to replenish our flock a bit! Although it’s a bit sad since they will always be locked up now. Part of the fun of having them was having them wander around in the yard, and come up to visit the house. But, they are better alive, so maybe I’ll make a playground for them in their run so they have some amusement.

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Hunt Country Stable Tour Part 2

Continuing on with the tour!

Takaro Farm

takarofarm

Takora Farm is a private facility, with two barns, the one above, and another stone one, but bigger with a center stall block with the aisles on the outside, and a huge apartment above it. The owners ride and train their own field and show hunters, but there are two trainers based out of there.

Heather Wright LoCascio owns Longwood Rehabilitation and Stables, a full service rehabilitation and boarding facility. She has successfully rehabilitated horses with suspensory tears, fractures, severe wounds, and eye issues. She’s also a super nice lady, and Dave and I (mainly social butterfly Dave) spent a while talking to her. Unfortunately, this was during the demonstration ride, so perhaps not the best timing. There was a brief, hilarious, “Heather, come here for a minute,” and then she never returned to us. Womp womp.

takarointerior

The other trainer is Tiffany Catledge, who runs as Allforit Farm. She specializes in starting young sport horses for multiple disciplines. I knew of her as an eventing trainer, but for the demonstration ride, she brought out two thoroughbreds who are going to Upperville in a few weeks for some hunter classes. They were so amazing gorgeous, I think anyone who saw them would forever want a thoroughbred.

takarointeriorbarn
He thought I had treats, so he spent some time going through my pockets.
thoroughbred
O-M-G, what a pretty thoroughbred!!

M.A.R.E. Center

The Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center was established in 1949, covers 420 acres, and is home to Virginia Tech’s internationally regarded equine research and education programs.

Back in the stone ages when I was a teenager, the MARE center had a breeding program with about 40 foals a year, and every year they would auction off all the babies. All the babies had a VT branded on their necks so they would always be recognizable. I knew a lady who had one of these horses, and one time I attended the auction to check it out. At the time, they were all thoroughbred babies, and they sold for thousands, which seemed crazy to me as a teenager. Auctions are supposed to be cheap!

stallion
The last remaining stallion son of Secretariat. He was not interested in talking to us.

I watched them for a few years, and their breeding changing to warmblood breeding, reflecting the current breeding trends. So when we visited, I was expecting lots of foals around. Not the case – they do not do that anymore.

foal
3 babies a year now!

They are now nutrition based research, although they have a few babies a year, so the students get experience caring for pregnant mares and foals. I was a little disappointed not to be in foal heaven, but that’s okay, nutrition research is very important.

VT

They are selling off last years foals, now yearlings. Two colts and a filly, private sale, information available to interested parties.

Unrelated to the horses, they had an orphaned lamb, rejected by her mother at birth, raised by some teenage boys. The little lamb loves men.

lamb
Dave, the farm animal whisperer.

Now Dave wants a lamb.

The Oaks

The barn of love.
The barn of love, bringing couples together since 1939.

The original property is basically exactly what Virginia horse country is about. Look up Virginia Horse Country, and this is the definition.

Sadly, not part of the tour, hence why I had to take this photo from nearly a mile away.
Sadly, not part of the tour, hence why I had to take this photo from nearly a mile away.

What was actually part of the tour, was this enormous barn and indoor.

theoaks

This was by far my favorite stop. This barn is so gorgeous!! I can’t get over how beautiful it is.

theoaksbarnaisle

Sloane Cole bases her business, Spring Ledge LLC, here. She competes in major Grand Prix competitions all over the U.S., and trains horses and students for hunter, jumper, and equitation ring.

You never know when you might need a hoof pick, or an impressive ribbon.
You never know when you might need a hoof pick, or an impressive ribbon.
davechalkboard
Dave is ready to move in.
Apparently champions eat giant grain pellets.
Apparently champions eat giant grain pellets.
indoor
I love this indoor. The walls are cinderblocks, it looks so old world.
theoakssecondbarn
The second barn.
secondbarnaisle
The narrowest aisle I’ve ever seen, but it works.
Halter plate said "Land Dragon", which is one of the coolest names ever!
Halter plate said “Land Dragon”, which is one of the coolest names ever!
Land dragon was in love with Dave.
Land dragon was in love with Dave.
Serious love.
Serious love.

Salamander Resort and Spa

equestrian center

The tour focused on the Equestrian Center at Salamander Resort and Spa. The facilities include a 22 stall barn, a huge outdoor, and miles of trails. When we showed up, they were having a polo demonstration.

polo

polo2

polo4

Turns out, polo is really fun to watch. It could have just been because this was a demo, and the players knew the commentator, but there was lots of funny banter back and forth as both teams raced up and down the arena.

My camera ran out of batteries at this point, so I was reduced to using my phone.

salamanderbarn

Everything about this barn is huge. The stalls are huge, the aisles are huge. They also had a huge carriage, just to have more huge things I’m sure.

barnaisle

Also, a huge horse.

drafthorse

We walked up towards the main building, but it seemed much too fancy for us, and we turned back around.

sign

We ran out of time to see anymore of the farms. This tour really requires a full day to do. Next year, we will plan to start first thing in the morning!

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Hunt Country Stable Tour Part 1

This past weekend, the 57th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour was held by Trinity Episcopal Church. It’s a self guided tour all around Middleburg and Upperville in Virginia of some pretty amazing barns. So if you’re looking to be jealous of fancy, scenic barns, this is exactly what you need. So here they are, in the order in which we viewed them – Prepare yourself for the jelly you will be emitting.

Salem Oaks Farm

salemoaksbarn

We started with Salem Oaks, a breathtaking property just a few miles from me, although my farm is literally on the other side of the railroad tracks. I told Dave this is what we should live in. Gorgeous barn, with enormous apartment (or full house!) on top. It was incredible. Also, Dave didn’t seem opposed to the idea, so I think I know what our next house will be!

This farm is unique to the area because they practice both English and Western here. The daughter competes in hunters, and the parents raise Quarter horses.

barn steps
Lovely stone stairs that lead from someone’s house (not sure who’s, not but it’s the owners) down to the barn.
Gorgeous interior, I loved the exposed beams. Also, horse looks semi grouchy, but actually was quite friendly.
Gorgeous interior, I loved the exposed beams. I can honestly say I never expected to say that about a barn. Also, horse looks semi grouchy, but actually was quite friendly. She can’t help the resting bitch face.
Idea to steal: This organizational board, with all the horses in magnet form to show turnout. Easy to change and reference.
Idea to steal: This organizational board, with all the horses in magnet form to show turnout. Easy to change and reference.
I always super jelly of huge arenas with nice footing.
I’m always super jelly of huge arenas with nice footing.
The upper broodmare barn. Not clear if there is a lower broodmare barn.
The upper broodmare barn. Not clear if there is a lower broodmare barn, if so, we missed it.
He was sticking his head out a minute before, but I'm not sure if my friend wants to be identifiable on the internet.
He was sticking his head out a minute before, but I’m not sure if my friend wants to be identifiable on the internet, so just just admire her beautiful hair, or pretend she’s Cousin It.

Country Fair

countryfair

Next on our route was the Country Fair, held at the Trinity Episcopal Church itself. First off, this church is gorgeous. I love looking at unique buildings, the older, the better. This one had a main building and several smaller buildings. It also had a courtyard, and I love courtyards. One day, I will have my own courtyard.

courtyard
One day, you will be mine. Or at least a copy of you, I’m not planning to invade the church.
Country Fair Vendors
Country Fair Vendors

One of the vendors was Old Buttermould Pattern Products, from Pennsylvania. Using old molds, they create these sand pictures. I will admit to only half paying attention when she explained it, but Dave really liked them, and we got a hen.

sandchicken

The description included says:

“Hen” A Sandcast old butter mold pattern collectible! This is a really nice pattern. Patterns like this are not as common for the collector to find. Therefore, we are happy to have this little pattern to pass on. This came from a big collection of butter molds and butter prints from Michigan. All the coloring in our work is dyed sand! We never use paint! This pattern took one month to complete! We hope you will appreciate our part in preserving a small portion of history.

There were a bunch more vendors, including hats, bronze statues (way out of our budget!), wood making, and a consignment tack store. Also, neat signs.

I was thinking about getting this sign, but my chickens are angels.
I was thinking about getting this sign, but my chickens are angels.

Trappe Hill Farm

trappehillfarm

Trappe Hill Farm offers horse swimming, right off the dock in the picture. I would like to do horse swimming, preferably while on the horse, so I think I would be a great fit here, hopefully they will invite me back.

Very friendly mom and baby.
Very friendly mom and baby.

They also breed and raise thoroughbreds for racing and sale, and have a few retired horses.

Apparently they breed for whisker quality. This foal had an extremely impressive amount of whiskers.
Apparently they breed for whisker quality. This foal had an extremely impressive amount of whiskers.

The barn was so amazing cool on a hot day, I was very impressed. It’s exactly the kind of barn we all need to have. Also, they had a courtyard with a stone mounting block.

The best possible thing you can have in a courtyard.
The best possible thing you can have in a courtyard.

I met the manager’s endurance horses, who were all gorgeous, and looked amazing for their ages (approximately low 20’s). They all traveled everywhere to compete in Endurance, and one of them actually went to the Pan American Games!

This is the one, and this impressive creature has been all over the world to compete.
This is the one, and this impressive creature has been all over the world to compete.
The owner let me introduce myself.
The owner let me get close to this one. The horse is a bit wary of the weirdo in her stall.

Unfortunately, at that point we ran out of time to get to the other farms. They would have to wait until the following day.

Other than just seeing these beautiful farms, I’m really impressed with how welcoming the owners are. They are certainly under no obligation to allow strangers to tour their properties, but they opened their doors, and they are present to talk to the people who stop by, even offering (like above) for me to go into the stall and say hello.

Part two coming up!

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The Grand Horse Giveaway

People keep offering me their horses. Only the title is actually misleading, they aren’t offered them to me to keep, most of the time, they are offering for me to take their horse to care for it, until they are ready to come get it. As though I won’t mind at all, what’s one more horse to take care of?

There was one time I didn’t mind. My friend had two horses, she was in college, and then something happened that severely cut back on her available time. She offered me her nice jumper horse, one that she had been actively competing, and is just a good horse. I don’t mind being offered nice horses. People can definitely offer me lots of nice horses, not that I can always take them. But I will respect that offer.

Most recently, as in, today, I was offered the privilege of taking care of another horse. The owner decided she wants to move, and her Go-Fund-Me to pay for her horse’s move isn’t working out, so she wants to find a place to leave the horse for a while.

The horse in question.
The horse in question.

Horse is a lovely thoroughbred mare. The owner and I used to ride together, I helped her with flat work, she helped me with jumping. She wasn’t a bad mare, she was just green. I haven’t seen this horse (or friend) in about 6 years now, so I really don’t know how they are now, but I think the horse is mostly the same, as the owner didn’t put her in any kind of training program after we went our separate ways. The point of all this is that the horse is mostly fine, probably a bit green for her age at this point, but nothing seriously wrong. She’s still a good horse.

I cannot take the horse, and here are the reasons I gave the owner:

I cannot take on the financial obligations of a horse I don’t own. Not only do I just not want to pay for another horse (because if I did, I would already have said horse), I do not want to have to pay for someone else’s horse’s bills, right up until the moment they swoop back in to take their horse back. Only moral obligations would in any way make them pay me back for whatever vet and farrier bills that pile up from this horse’s care. Would they do it? I honestly do not know, and it’s not just this person, there’s very few people that I believe would truly pay back the money I put into this horse. Because if the bill isn’t in their name, it’s easy to just give it the side eye and move on. They could justify to themselves, “Well, it was a free lease, that means she’s supposed to pay the bills on this horse while she has it.” It was not. It was me helping out by taking care of their gigantic pet, and then I end up having to pay for it. That is not a chance I’m willing to take. Honestly, if they are being put in this situation to began with, they probably don’t even have the money to pay me back to began with. You can’t get blood from a stone.

I explain above (in way less words) to owner, and she replies with, “I’d pay you!” Well, even if she did (which I have my doubts due to the blood from a stone), that still means that I have to take the time to physically take care of the horse. I know we all (should) know this, but horses do require care. At the super minimum, they need those feet picked out so they don’t get horrible hoof problems. If you have a rugged one, it could probably go without grooming, but most of them require grooming to keep their coat clear of fungus and scratches. One more horse means one more stall to clean (if I had an empty one, which I don’t!), it means the trough gets dirty faster, it means the pastures get muddy faster, it means more hay to throw out, it means one more horse that needs a big serving of grain to keep their weight up. Since I don’t have a stall, it would mean figuring out where to separate this horse to feed, and where to put her when the weather’s bad. To sum it up: One more horse means a huge amount of work for me. I don’t want to sound snotty, but there’s a reason I stopped doing working student positions and got a job. I’d much rather be paid lots more money to lazily sit in a chair than earn peanuts doing physical labor. And if I believed she would pay me, that would be the compensation I would get.

One visit to her barn, I lunged Dave. He was a bit frisky on the lunge line.
One visit to her barn, I lunged Dave. He was a bit frisky on the lunge line.

My home owners insurance does not cover boarders. I do not wish to lose my home owner’s insurance, as it was annoying enough to get a farm insured in the first place. There’s a whole different insurance for people who want to make boarding income off their properties, and I do not have it. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking having boarders will offset the cost of their farm. I don’t know the details of it, so I won’t go into it, but if your home owner’s insurance doesn’t know about your boarders, there’s a high chance they will be pissed off to find out you have boarders.

Finally, the reason people think I should take their horse is because then I get the privilege of riding it. Well, first off, I have three equines, and it’s hard enough to find the time to ride just one of them. Second, in most of these cases, (minus girl above with nice jumper) I would be doing them a favor by riding the horse. In the case of the jumper, if I had taken the horse and had lessons on her, I would have been improving my skills because the horse was better than I was. In the case of everything else, I’m better trained then the horse, so it just be me training the horse for free. Most of the time, these horses are either super green, or just relatively green, and therefore, I’d be more like a crash dummy to train their horse than someone who’s benefiting from riding it. What a deal that would be for the owner, free care and training!

I did not explain the last reason to the owner, because most people do not like to hear such things. My offer to her was, if you give me the horse, I will find her a new home, but I will not take her without you signing her over. So far, she has declined. Which is fine, I hope she figures out how to transport her horse. If she changes her mind, I may post about it: Lower teens, 16.2 chestnut tb looking for new home! Training level uncertain, but she does know how to launch herself over a jump.

chestnuttb

This seems a good a time as any to bring up a woman I used to know, Jeanie, who presumed to place her horses at my farm. The backstory: She owned the farm across the street from my parent’s house. She is the perfect example of why it’s a very, very bad idea to spend lots of money without thinking it through.

The property was a horse property when she moved in, with 10 acres, 4 stall barn and pastures. She took out a huge loan to put in a HUGE riding ring, add 6 more stalls to her barn, two huge storage sheds, two huge tractors, and hay baling equipment. She thought that she was going to be able to keep 10 horses on the property, with two acres taken out for the riding ring, and yet still bale hay. Not sure about that one…

She was in way over her head. I boarded Vintage there for a while, and she would frequently ask me, or Dave to help her with farm work. A classic example is right after Dave had spine surgery, she asked him to move a load of square bales into the barn. He told her he just had surgery, and she responded, “Oh, that’s okay, it’s not that much hay.”

She would provide discounts and all sorts of incentives to her other no-show, non-paying boarders, but for me, who paid on time, and helped her out with barn chores (at first, willingly, and then because she would constantly ask me to), I didn’t even get a thank you. It didn’t take long for me to become very sour of this relationship. I don’t like being used, and I don’t like being treated like a servant when I’m a paying customer.

Her daughter had three horses. Jeanie decided that was too many horses (I would agree), so she lied to her daughter and told her that one of the horse’s old owner’s was demanding the horse back, and she had to return it. Her daughter was heartbroken by this, and the horse was sent a way. For whatever reason, the mom actually told me she lied to her daughter about the horse. She could have just told her the truth, which was, you have barely any time and three horses. You don’t need to have three horses.

So she was a bit of a trainwreck, and eventually, she sold the house. I’ll let these bits of email tell the rest of the story…

jeannie just called.  She has sold the house to the people who don’t have horses.  She wants to take the run in sheds with her

 

so jeanie sold off all the gates on craigslist, and now the new owners want to sue her because the gates were supposed to come with the property. She’s now begging my mom for gates so they don’t sue

 

she was asking my mom for help because she coudln’t get it herself. She keep saying stupid shit about how they didn’t want it as a horse property, and they clearly do. The 15 year old daughter wants a horse.
the new owners were asking my mom where the gates were and my mom had no idea. And for some reason jeanie is bitching to my mom about it
jeanie was trying to tell the new owners that none of the fences were missing, and the owners asked my mom if a fence had been in the empty openings between the fields. Which my mom said yes, because of course they had been. and then jeanie started bitching to my mom that none of the gates were missing, and there were never gates there
and then she asked my mom for her gates and my mom never answered her.
jeanie keeps harrassing my mom.
And then she emailed me directly to tell me she was taking her horses to my property.
Good morning Courtney,
I heard that you bought a house with some acreage with a small barn. Congratulation&lt:-P party….
Your Mom mentioned that you might be close to were I am and was thinking if you have space for 2-3 horses.  I know Jennifer would love that. Well? Let me know I/we are very interested in this. Right now I have a temp place on the way to Leesburg and Pavla and I have all 5 together but it’s to far for her and she is moving to Lincoln the end of the month, now Lincoln is further from me and I do not think I wanna drive so far to see Jennifer’s horses. Just let me know and I hope everything is well.
Regards
Jeanie
Naturally, I asked my mother about this.
Me: jeanie emailed me
 Mom no it looks like pasture mix

me:  asking me she can keep her horses at my property

 Mom:  don’t do it
me:  obviously…
 Mom she is a nut
me:  yes she isit’s not even a possibility
the way she worded the email was that you told her she could keep her horses there
Mom:  no such thing
I have not spoken to here
me:  i figured you wouldn’t do that
lol
 Mom her
me:  i found it a very rude email like it was assumed that I would take her horses
 Mom:  she keeps calling about the gates and on Sunday she left a long message about needing a place to put HER boarders and wanted to know if you were close by and could you take them for a while
me:  oh jeez
yeah one of her boarders (dave and tank’s owner) went to my old boarding barn to ask them if she could move there
sarah was there when she went by
Mom:  good for her, it is a much better olace
place
me:  yup much better
Mom She keeps trying to find out where your property is located and I will not tell her
me:yeah don’t tell her
Mom:  I won’t
So I replied to her:
Hi Jeanie,
I do not offer boarding, but I do know there are tons of cheap places to board near Culpepper. The further south you look, the cheaper it gets.
I hope all is well.
To which she replied:
If you have list that would be great, like to be close to Route 29 or 3.
Thank you
It could just be because I was fed up with months of helping her out without even a thank you, but I found this extremely annoying. I replied:
why would I have a list? Search Virginia Equestrian, craigslist and google for a place to board.
You should consider boarding them near Virginia Tech so your daughter can actually see them during the school year, since they are her horses.
She replied she thought I knew of private boarding situations. I decided it was time to just cut it off then. Horse people are crazy.
The good news is that I never heard from her again, although I did later see an ad for one of her daughter’s horses on craigslist. Unregistered grade horse for $8k. I doubt it sold.
We have been offered other horses, but they didn’t come with particularly remarkable stories. We’ve also been offered dogs, and goats. Having a farm just attracts unwanted animals. We simply do not have time or room for them, and it makes me sad that so many animals are unwanted.
So now you know what a bitter, angry old woman I have become. I need to go on a mountain retreat or something, to regain my faith in humanity.
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On This Weekend

Let’s start with a follow up to my whining post about being covered in mud, because I got to have more fun, covered in mud.

drainageditch

I may have made a gross, muddy mess of the edge of my arena, but the important thing is now there’s a nice ditch around my arena. Hopefully this will be enough to divert the abundance of rain we have coming our way. I don’t want to complain about the rain, as it is kind of essential for life, but dang it rain, can you just hold off for a bit? You are destroying my arena, keeping my horses mostly locked up except for when they are out destroying my pastures, and you have successfully destroyed my chances of riding at home. Ride in the rain, you might say? That’s a big negative, because it would rip up what’s left of my arena, rip up my pasture, and I can’t go ride on my neighbor’s land and rip up their fields because that would just be rude.

If my new drain works, I’ll be able to order more stone dust to replace what the rain washed away, and then my arena will be functional again. Hopefully it will work out, and we will have a happy ending.

But, to stop being a big Debbie downer, I can now go ride at my trainer’s, because my trailer has been fixed.

Now I've got some fancy chrome on the back.
Now I’ve got some fancy chrome on the back.

My trailer is an ’85 Shoop. It is an old trailer, but it has a solid frame, and it’s still usable. I plan to keep this thing going as long as possible, but that does mean it will need repairs every now and again. This time, it got its ramp handles replaced, and the ramp was fixed. The ramp handles were an fairly easy fix, and new handles were just welded onto the old handles. I think that was $15 of the entire charge.

The big kahuna was getting this ramp fixed. I wish I had a before and after picture of the ramp, that would have shown it way better, but the ramp was rusting out along the bottom edge. As in, I could see the wood of the ramp poking out underneath. (I also learned that horse ramps have plywood, or at least old horse trailers do.) The plywood had gotten wet and was rotting, and that moisture was being held against the ramp causing it to rust out. It’s scary to think of, but as the ramp weakened, my horses could have stepped in the wrong spot, and their hooves would have gone right through. Yikes.

The rubber on the ramp was removed, the plywood underneath pulled out and replaced with new treated plywood, and then the rubber reattached. Then, on the outside, I got this sweet chrome trim to hide the ugly rusted out edge.

In case your wondering how much a repair like this costs (I know I’m always nosy about these kinds of things), It was approximately $495 for the ramp and the ramp handles to be fixed.

If you’re in the Northern Virginia area, and wondered where to get your trailer serviced, I highly recommend Taylor Boyz, in Midland, VA. They were recommended to me by my trainer and my neighbor, and I plan to go back to them for any other work/servicing my trailer needs.

Now that I have my trailer back, I obviously had to go test it out, so I went on down to my trainer’s for a lesson.

"Back here, huh?"
“Back here, huh?”

Obviously, we had the slow motion scene where my trainer and I spotted each other, and then ran at each other through a wild flower field while dramatic music swelled. Then she told me about the exciting things that had happened while I’ve been missing, like how she smashed her own storm door with a rock thrown by her lawn mower. It had exploded like a bomb went off. She really does tell me the sweetest things.

She also rode my friend’s horse, which I really would have wanted to see! My friend and I shared a lesson, and she told me about the lessons I missed, and I got to be impressed by how much her and her mare improved. She’s doing so well, I think I texted her like 10 times afterward telling her how great she’s doing. Eventually, she stopped responding. I don’t fault her for this.

But as to the actual lesson, Berry was a bit fresh, since I haven’t ridden her in over a week, but eventually she settled down. We were doing a lot of flatwork, and at first it was a bit lackluster. Then, my trainer walked up to me and literally pinched my shoulders together with her hand, in an effort to get my chest up, and to sit up straight. Surprisingly, this actually helped, and I remembered the pinch of her surprisingly strong fingers the rest of the ride. Berry became so light in the front, and I could feel her using herself so well. I had the best canter I’ve ever had on her, and I didn’t want it to ever stop. Then we jumped a bit, and it was thrilling to be doing that again. It might as well have been a dream, because everything just felt so nice. But Berry did clip one of the jumps, and she liked to drop her head and drag after the line, so there were a few reminders so get myself together. Overall though, I will remember the vice-like grip of those hands as a reminder to get it together.

I set up my next lesson with my trainer, and I mentioned it might get rained out. She looked me right in the eye and said, “If we didn’t ride in the rain, we would never get to ride.”

I guess I might be riding in the rain this week.

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Farm Owner Woes

Before I moved out to my farm, I had a very specific vision of what my life on the farm would be.

Man, I love that video.
Source. Man, I love that video.

Instead, turns out it’s a whole lot of this:

Always covered in dirt.
Constantly being covered in dirt.

Recently, I’ve been just wishing I boarded. Life would be so much simpler! Prepare yourself for a complaining post!

First, I have to think of the irony that I moved onto a farm to save money.

HAH!

HAH!

I only saved money in the sense that since I have three equines, I would have been paying for three equines board. But I wouldn’t have three equines if I didn’t have my own farm. I admit it, I have an equine hoarding problem. I can’t be content with just one, I have to collect them all, I need the full set. I have my semi-retiree, my active riding horse, my pony that I don’t really know what to do with, but dammit, I wanted a nice pony. And I have plans in a few years to buy a warmblood foal, because I need a prospect to show! By then, I’ll have forgotten how annoying green horses are! Thus, the cycle of buying horses will go on forever, and I’ll be one of those people hoping that the retired horses do actually die so they will fall off the payroll, but knowing my luck they will all live until they are like 40. Of course, I’m just going to assume I’ll have Pony until I’m 70, because they last forever.

To actually work all these animals, I needed a ring. So I built a ring. And that ring cost a few years of board money. Whoops, guess I didn’t save any money there either… Additionally, turns out even if you have a ring, it can’t just exist perfectly for you to ride at all times. While luckily I don’t have to spend more money on this, I have to groom the dang ring at least weekly, if not more. If it rains, I have to groom the ring, because if I don’t, it becomes as hard as a rock. I can drag it in about 20 minutes, but Dave manages to do it in 10. I don’t mind doing it, but it’s just one more thing in between me and being able to ride immediately.

It's like a zen garden afterward.
It’s like a zen garden afterward.

When I was a young kid, I would tell people I wanted a pony, and they would generally say, “Oh, but they are so much work! You will have to shovel poop!!” As though shoveling poop is the worst thing in the world. Let’s be frank, shoveling manure is not hard, it’s super easy, and not even that gross. Yes, it’s poop, but as far as poop goes, it’s not offensive.

The real hard work is the general farm maintenance: Fences need to be fixed. Grass needs to be mowed. Weeds need to be sprayed. These all sound basic, but for various reasons, I hate doing them. Fences are just hard. I helped put up fences at my parents farm, and I will always, always hate it, and it’s so much easier to pay the huge sums to get someone else to do it. Spraying weeds is okay, until the sprayer malfunctions, explodes like a liquid bomb, and then you’re covered with herbicide. Or it gets on your hands, and you’re paranoid about touching anything until you can take a shower. “Oh no, I wiped my mouth, I might die.” Yes, I have cleaned out my own mouth with soap, and yes, it’s nasty and horrible. But I’m not taking any chances!

I don’t mind mowing grass. But I do not like buying or maintaining the equipment to do it. Tractors cost as much as cars. Hurrah! Another payment to make! More money that could have been spent on boarding! Then, when the tractor needs maintenance, you can’t just take it down to Jiffy Lube, you need to either learn to do it yourself, or schedule someone to come to your house to do it. And it seems like there’s no actual tractor repair company, it’s individual farmers to be located, and then convinced to come do it. If they have time, that is. If it’s a busy season for them, your tractor’s going to sit a while.

During the winter, the tractor doesn’t get used as much, leading to the scariest moment of tractor ownership: Sitting on your tractor, turning the key, and praying it’s going to start. Please, please please! I don’t want to have to deal with this! JUST START ALREADY!!

It would be so nice to not have to worry about any of this, and just go out, tack up, ride, put away. Someone else can deal with the buttercup infestation, or worry about the exact ratio of chemicals the grass needs this year to grow.

There’s the loneliness. Dave doesn’t ride. Most of the time, it’s just me, all alone out there. Sometimes I don’t mind, because I want to work on things, but other times, it would be much more fun to ride with someone. It’s surprisingly hard to convince people to come ride. I feel like the free candy van man, except I’m trying to lure people in with free pony rides. Come on, come ride my pony!

It's completely legit!
It’s completely legit!

If I wish to not be lonely, I have to trailer out someplace. Trailers cost more money, both to purchase, and to maintain. My trailer is currently out for repairs, so I can’t trailer anywhere. But if I could, there’s also the 45 minutes spent hooking up the trailer, cleaning out the trailer, loading the trailer with tack, hay and supplies, loading the horse up (thank god she loads easy!) and then however long spent driving to my location. This is how my one hour riding lesson ends up taking three or more hours to complete. I need a nap by the time the horse is turned back out.

Then there’s also the things we gave up to come live out here. We used to have a carefree, maintenance free, city life, able to go on vacation at a moments notice. Well, Dave sold his fancy car for us to put a bigger down payment on the house. We obviously can’t leave all these animals to care for themselves, and I have anxiety when I’m not the one taking care of them, so we nearly never leave. And (horrors!) there was no good internet out here. As two of the internet generation, this was unacceptable. We have to have the internet. But it costs a pretty penny, more than enough to pay the monthly board.

So what I have now is an expensive, time consuming property, and somehow I’m riding less than I did when I boarded, despite them being only 100 yards from me at this very moment. What on earth was I thinking?!

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate farm life. It is nice to have so much space that I could go the whole day without seeing any neighbors. It’s nice to look out and see my horses grazing in the field. I just need a staff to take care of the property for me, and also a house big enough that I won’t have to see my live in servants, unless I wanted to. And if I do, they will curtsy meekly.

But, I do love seeing this sweet face daily…

content horse
I need to make a photo album of just Berry’s various faces.

I’m really just bitter that it’s been raining for like a week, and I haven’t been able to ride. I can’t ride in the arena when it’s wet because it’ll punch through to the clay underneath. I need more stone dust to fix the problem… that’ll be another few months of board…

Maybe one day all the costs will even out, and then I actually will be saving money. Then the bitterness will all fade away… Fingers crossed!!

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