Like most nineteen-year-olds, I am a broke college student, and when you add being an equestrian into the mix, it only makes things worse. This summer, my parents expected me to get a job and to start paying for most of my horse expenses. I would be ending my lease on a wonderful OTTB in May and I’d started looking for a new horse to ride for the second half of the year. I was hoping to find another half-lease situation but had trouble finding a horse that suited my needs. I tried a friend’s horse in March, an adorable Trakehner gelding named Levi, and I loved him. However, I would have to full-lease him, find a barn to board him and be responsible for all his other expenses. I sighed, wished I had a job that would cover those expenses, told my friend I would keep her updated, and put horse shopping on the backburner.
Flash forward to May, and I was back home, hoping to find a job and a horse before I returned to Kentucky for the remainder of the summer. A position opened up at my university’s Equine Office, and I applied for it and got the job! I was ecstatic.
I decided I could start looking for a horse more seriously. I sifted through countless sale ads, but again, I kept coming back to Levi. I bit the bullet a week before flying back to Lexington and texted my friend that I wanted to lease him. However, in order to pay his lease and still have money left over, I would have peanuts left for board. My only options, therefore, were pasture board or self-care. My best friend’s barn has an inexpensive partial-care option, where you provide hay, grain, shavings, buckets, and are responsible for evening care and stall cleaning. I ended up choosing this farm because Levi had never been on pasture board before, so I wanted to have a stall for him.
“The summer, riding-wise, was fabulous, and he taught me a lot. But everything other than riding taught me just as much.”
In June I picked up the wonderful little nugget and our adventure began. It was a summer of firsts for both of us; first big-girl job and first full-lease for me, and the first time at a new barn with a new person in a very long time for him. After a brief adjustment period, we were working well together. Once he knew the farm wasn’t going to kill him—and I tried my best not to ride like a drugged monkey—he was the sweet, kind, forgiving horse I had tried months before. The summer, riding-wise, was fabulous, and he taught me a lot. But everything other than riding taught me just as much.
Having to go every single night to the barn, whether I was riding or not, feeling well or not, felt like it or not, was a big commitment. Don’t get me wrong: it was totally worth it. I got to see Levi’s cute little face every day (and was always greeted with a nicker because he knew I was the one that fed him). I got to know him pretty well in other ways, too.
I can tell you that he will always pretend he is eating his grain for about three minutes longer than it actually takes him. I can tell you how much water he drinks each day and the exact spots where he likes to poop and pee in his stall (all important things when assessing a horse’s health!). I know he is very spooky going from light to dark areas and vice versa, and that he loves to itch his legs on the fence in his pasture. I could barely finish cleaning one stall in twenty minutes at the start of the summer; now I can do it in under ten. I would not have learned any of these things had I not chosen partial-care board. It made me closer to my horse and taught me important horsemanship skills. However, I learned some other lessons as well…
Adulting Lesson One: Everything always costs more than you think it will.
Everything. I factored in enough money each month for his shavings, hay, etc., but then random extra expenses would come up, so I ended up putting almost nothing into my savings account the entire summer. (I’m sure the real adults reading this have rolled their eyes to the back of their heads by now, but some things you just have to learn the hard way!)
Equestrian Lesson One: Good horsemanship and horse management skills are second to none.
It translates into your riding, and of course, improves your general understanding of the horse. I was lucky to learn it and use it this summer from my best friend and all the wonderful boarders at the barn.
Adulting Lesson Two: Time management is SO important.
I have especially learned this since the school year started and I have to factor in barn time with school work, class times and work hours.
Equestrian Lesson Two: Full-time horse management is a whole different ball game.
Especially if you’ve never done it before. Not all shavings, buckets, etc. are created equal, nor are the methods of daily horse care. Having to be responsible for all the things provided in full care board is a lot of extra work, but it teaches you a lot, and it gives you an even greater appreciation for your barn staff!
My lease on Levi is coming to an end and I’m beginning to reflect on all of these things and realize how truly valuable this experience has been. It was not exactly what I expected, but it made me grow up quite a lot in all the right ways, and I will always be thankful for Levi’s wonderful little chunky-bay self, and our partial-care summer together.
About the Author
Maddie Regis is a college student in the heart of horse country: Lexington, Kentucky. After being a lesson kid since the age of 12, she discovered the hunter/jumper competition world and hasn’t looked back since!