DIY horse yards: Finding the perfect yard
Horsemart reader and blogger Melsi describes herself as a ‘forty-something back in the saddler’. In this post she takes a look at how she found the perfect DIY horse yard...
Finding the perfect DIY yard
After the privilege of running my own yard many moons ago, I knew it was always going to be tough finding the perfect place to keep my Irish Cob Bob, (Robert if he was naughty). I was a back in the saddle, an 'oldie boldy' and I was troubled at the thought of having to mix with strangers on a DIY yard. I was also worried whether my highly strung horse would settle with the comings and goings of owners and horses at all times of the day, (and night sometimes).
Another worry was going to be how friendly my fellow DIY’ers would be. Let’s face it ladies, some girls can be just plain old MEAN. Being a bit of a scaredy cat with any kind of confrontation I just knew that to make the whole 'back to the saddle' experience a good one and one I would not regret, I would have to pick a yard very carefully.
So I put together a tick list. Price and budget of course mattered, and also facilities, (although an Olympic size indoor arena was not vital), safe and decent hacking, travelling distance from home, tidiness, and also the age of the other DIY’ers, ( I did not want to be the only one who remembered the 80’s, or 70’s come to that). How the other horses looked and were cared for mattered to me too. Sorry, but to me this would tell an awful lot about the people you are going to be mixing with. I have enough things to worry about; in fact I worry about worrying so I did not want other people’s horses to worry about too!
Support of other DIYers
Ladies and gents we are all so different and the same goes for our horses. There are going to be some DIY’ers who prefer to come and go and not get involved with anyone or yardlife and who want to keep themselves to themselves, so don’t take it personally – but to some, part of the fun of being a DIY’er is the environment and support that fellow DIY’ers can give each other. We can all worry about our horses health, feed, performance, and what show to go to, how to get there, what bit to use, what blacksmith to try etc, that is where the DIY environment can come into its own. All that aside, it can also be a joy to sit and clean tack over a cup of tea discussing life away from horses, (if there is such a thing)!
Probably not your usual thought for a horse owner while looking at DIY yards, is how considerate the other DIY’ers are to each other. You are after all spending many hours with those fellow DIY’ers, so you have to feel comfortable and happy in your special place without pulling your hair out or bursting into tears. You can have some owners whose only care is their horse and that is of course their prerogative, but if you want more and are lucky, you can meet fellow owners who are understanding and who appreciate that a little give and take goes a long way.
For example, Bob was a 'cling-on' and there is no escaping that fact. If all the horses were out in their paddock Bob was a happy relaxed chap, enjoying the pleasures of life munching and chilled. However, start bringing those horses in on a blustery, wet winter night leaving Bob out alone with scary monsters and evil dwellers, would guarantee him taking to racing up and down the fence line screaming and hyperventilating. Bob would be oblivious to anything else, carrots, polos, ME.
Totally fixated and almost in a blind panic he would leave a track like an army trench which could be seen from space using Google imagery. On these occasions I would always have to lead Bob in wearing a chifany, which was never nice and never a pleasurable experience and almost certain to dent my professional demeanour. Swinging off the end of the rope while being dragged in like some pathetic weakling. (I have legs like a Rugby player and arms like Garth so believe me, I am NO weakling) can be upsetting, annoying and embarrassing!
Embarrassing is a word used a lot when involved with animals, especially horses. Yep, horses can be embarrassing and it doesn’t take much to feel like the parent of an awkward child at nursery school. It can also be stressful. All you want is calm, you don’t want to upset the status quo of the yard, and you don’t want people talking about you and your problem ‘child’ that is upsetting the applecart. So, how nice to be around likeminded owners who honestly care. Who are happy to wait that extra 10 minutes for you if they can, so your fruit and nut can be led in from their field at the same time thus bringing peace and calm to your horse, respite from your heartburn, while bringing harmony to the yard. It can also be wonderful to have another rider to hack out with, another issue I had with Bob, DIY yards do have their benefits, they really do. Unless the other horse and rider you opt to ride with are the psycho pair from hell that is!
Of course it is not always going to be like this, but sometimes you can make allowances and you can help in what small way you can. After all, I would do the same for someone else, and it can be such a bonus to have someone else think outside the box when they know your horse can be a tad pathetic.
We are all in the same boat so to speak, so that simple thought and act of kindness can make a big difference to a person’s spirit, and even the behaviour of their horse. Oh to have had a horse I could just turn out and who would munch happily all day without absorbing the comings and goings of a busy yard. For those of you who have horses who build up attachments for others and fret, you will understand what I am talking about. Bob was rather a complex character and I did all I could to help him, but how others reacted to him, and me, also counted.
Tidy DIY yards
I also happen to be a bit of a 'tidy up' freak, (funnily enough this is not the case at my home, so my hubby reminds me). I hate to admit it, but I do have a bit of a broom fetish. The thought of being around people who aren’t bothered by tumbleweed hay and shavings blowing across the yard, or who just leave ‘things’ laying about out of laziness would send my OCD into overdrive. Even now I can feel my face and eye twitching manically watching someone sweep up, as I know they would have missed ‘bits’. I usually end up sweeping up AFTER their sweeping up (when they have left as I certainly don’t want to insult anyone) – after all, one person’s tidiness is not always another's.
If I can see a huge dollop stain on the floor, or an empty haynet or brushes decorating the floor outside the stables, surely everyone else can see them too? I hate to say that there is that selective blindness disorder though, like my Labrador has selective hearing when out for a walk or my teenage daughter has when asked to take the ever-growing pile on the stairs actually UP the stairs.
I probably sound a right old grump but this is me, sorry, I need a tidy environment and it doesn’t take a minute to put things away does it. (Melsi carries out coffee mug and picks up old sweet wrapper from living room floor). You also don’t want to be tarred with the same brush. All it needs is the owner of the yard to have an impromptu walk about and discover Armageddon while you are quietly mucking out or grooming.
Being last on the yard is not always a good thing in those cases.....and don’t get me on the subject of a yard owner leaving Stick-It notes everywhere... "Try to be tidy DIY’ers, it doesn’t take long to sweep up and put away”. Surely it is nicer to walk onto a yard that is mess and stress free. In a way, you are a team like it or lump it. Like our horses we are different personalities, we have different shapes and sizes, some of us have raging hormones, hot flushes, Monday morning grumps, home problems, money problems, life problems and health problems, love problems and of course horse problems but up at our yards we are still horse loving DIY’ers, we are TEAM DIY!!
The OCD statement is also for real by the way, and if any of you suffer with this I promise I am not taking it lightly. A lifetime of weight issues and other tendencies such as pulling the light switch on and off ten times before hitting the hay, can have a big impact on your day, especially if you are in a hurry. This OCD can creep in to my yard life too. Checking, double checking, even triple checking. Sometimes I have convinced myself that Bob is stuffing himself into a sweat in the hay barn after walking through his open swinging door, and will drive back to check my horse’s stable door is closed properly which of course it is, need I go on.
Now I am happy to ask whoever is around to check the door for me. They know it is one of my little quirks’, and if having someone else checking my stable door means I can then sleep peacefully at night, then so be it. Yes, yes I know, I probably sound like a very strange bod, (picture of Peter Kay twirling his finger at the side of his head), but it would surprise you to know how many people have OCD tendencies. If in doubt, ask! I have to say I do think my OCD is catching though, because now I see others on my yard checking and double checking too. (Much to the amusement of the horses)!....I am now have creeping OCD with the yard kettle and radio plug so watch this space!
Sadly I have experienced first hand how unpleasant things can be as a DIY’er, so when my friend Rachel offered me a stable at her own little private place after the loss of her dear old chap, I jumped at it. From the very first moment my boy Bob walked away from my old DIY yard, and off the horsebox ramp at Rachel’s yard he changed. The relaxed and friendly environment was perfect for his personality. He acted as though he was on holiday and after the first week he positively walked around with a smile. He loved his new home as much as I did.
The peace and quiet really turned him into the calm and sensitive chap I always knew he could be. His whole personality changed from being permanently alert and jumpy, to laid back doody, and he loved Rachel, his new horsey family, and the other select few oldie boldy riders on the little yard. I am just happy he experienced this before he was put to sleep. I know that not all horses mind the clutter and bustle of a lively yard though. A friend’s horse positively loves to be nosey, and is really happy to watch the daily shenanigans from his box, ears pricked up like antenna. As they say, “Horses for Courses”...
DIY yard should be a sanctuary
Some ladies may also prefer the larger yard with the bustle of activity and chit-chat and if you have been fortunate enough to settle with a super group of fellow DIY’ers then how wonderful for you. If you think, apart from our home and work it is the place where most of our hours are spent so it HAS to be a pleasant experience. You don’t want to have to rush in and rush out and be apprehensive about what sort of time you are going to have there and if the other DIY’ers are going to be nice to you.
We are all in the same boat, we are investing a huge amount of time, money and love into our animals and for many of us, the yard is our sanctuary, somewhere we go to 'chillax' and share thoughts and worries with likeminded people. If you are not happy, you may find your little sanctuary elsewhere, so never give up hope of finding it, don’t put up with being unhappy. Remember, a happy rider and owner, can mean a happy horse too, and that is what we all want and aspire to.
London 2012 Olympics equestrian events - my pick
Meet Jimjam the Ginger Ninja
Buying a veteran horse
Scottish teenager punches and throws rocks at horse
Radio 1 DJ injured in horse riding accident
Punter wins £210,000 from 1p horse race bet