We visited a really nice boarding barn/training stables this weekend and I must say, I suddenly felt sorry for my "rustic-living" horses. They don't know what they are missing!
The stalls at this barn were huge and really nice. Each had a small barred window facing the outdoors and full-height solid walls separating the horses from each other. No face wars in this barn! The indoor arena, large and impressive. Huge wash stalls, stately grooming/tacking areas, gorgeous hay, soft shavings and wide aisles.
The horses living in the stalls were sleek and glossy, blanketed and looked fantastic. Really nice horses in very nice stalls wearing warm blankets. Not a blemish in sight...no scrapes or kick marks to be seen marring the perfect coats on any of them. They were very obviously well cared for and in excellent health.
I had forgotten how spotless and shiny stalled, blanketed horses are, especially when I am faced with mud-covered, hairy horses every day. No matter how often I groom them they will immediately go out and find the biggest, slimiest mud hole they can find and wallow around in it for awhile. If it's not stuck in their ears, they aren't happy.
They are filthy and hairy and fat.
The horses in those big, nicely bedded, clean, dry stalls looked great, but none of them seemed very happy being inside. Turnout was very, very limited and the horses didn't appear to have the chance to take a roll in a big mud puddle and just be a horse. Their lives are confined to those four walls and the arena with occasional turnout in a small paddock for a couple of hours.
I had forgotten what an angry, unhappy horse face looks like, even after working for years in big, high-dollar barns and seeing those unhappy, angry faces every day. I'm now so used to relaxed, happy horse faces it was a shock to see the pinned ears, the hard eye and tense mouth again. I don't miss working with the weavers, cribbers, teeth-scrapers (one of the worst habits ever...scraping teeth up and down stall bars, ugh!), endless stall circlers, bar-attackers, hole-diggers and wall-kickers. Not to mention the bucket-poopers and wall-eaters.
Sure, I'd LOVE to have always clean horses...it sure would save me a lot of time. I'd love to know that Gabe isn't going to come in from playing with his pasture buddies sporting a new scrape or bite mark on his ribs, neck or butt. I'd love it if all my horses kept their true color during the summer instead of bleaching out to some yucky shade (yes, even grays bleach, believe it or not).
But, I'm not willing to trade their health and happiness just so horse-keeping is easier for me and they look prettier.
So, sorry boys...you're going to have to keep livin' in the country slums. Mud and all. I'll stock up on curries and mud brushes.