This Halloween was the 14th anniversary of moving here to Infinity Farm. In the beginning I called it the Howlin’ Cowgirl Rancho. Old friends still like that name better. And the first few years, I did a whole lot of howling at the sky. Moving here was a strategic retreat, a witness protection sort of escape, from a life that was falling apart quicker than I could duct tape it back together.
I signed papers on the farm late in the day. When the dogs and I arrived, we stood on the front porch of our new(?) fixer-up and watched a full moon rise, as the sky lit up with stars. Euphoria. When I looked down to catch my breath, my eyes fell to the flower bed at the edge of the porch. There were probably 20 broken beer bottles sparkling in the moonlight. I burst into tears. What had I done?
Before moving here, I had a cool, urban artist lifestyle. I boarded my horses in wonderful barns with indoor arenas with lots of like-minded friends. My income afforded me nice riding breeches and boots, lessons and clinics. There were no chores to do, it was the muck less and ride more reality. And that’s just what I did: I rode both horses, every day, like clockwork. My horses progressed, we had success and fun, and everything was perfect. I wrote a big check every month, and was happy to do it. Is this what a country club is like?
That same income did not afford me even a marginal horse property of my own.
I wasn’t naive about living in the country. I grew up on a failing farm, and even now it isn’t an easy life to romanticize. What can I say? I ended up with more farm vision and work ethic, than money or common sense. I turned the open garage into a barn, and brought the horses home the next month. The world might have been crumbling around me, but my animals were safe. Did you have a mid-life crisis? Then you know it’s more than a figure of speech.
Which brings me back to my expensive breeches, I trashed every pair I owned the first year. I’d go outside to ride, and instead throw some hay, pull the hose to water, repair a couple of fences, drag some trash to my personal dumpster, muck the barn, and by then it would be time for dinner. I’ve never ridden less than my first couple of years living with the horses.
There were plenty of disasters. On the third day of a blizzard with the power lines down, I learned that my well pump was electric. Who knew? How can you run out of water during a blizzard? I already had a hypothermic donkey in the house. He will vouch for me- I’m just one inch more stubborn than a donkey in a blizzard. Those first years, the concept of 24/7 got redefined a dozen times: no rest, no break, no shortage of death and destruction. I got hurt, I got sick, I was lonely. Is this what pioneer life was like? Can I have my country club back?
Clearly, I needed some new friends. Llamas and goats seemed the obvious choice.
But I could go to the barn before dawn and turn the horses out. By then the coffee was ready, and I could take a cup into the pasture and wait for the silhouettes to come out of the shadow. Wait for the moment white horses turn pink at sunrise. Another thing I didn’t know. Eventually we all grew into a new name, Infinity Farm, other words for heaven.
Back when I boarded my horses, I never found a perfect barn. Some had better runs, some more room for tack, some closer than the usual 45 minute drive. None had enough good turnout, or fed often enough, or had enough acres to ride on. It’s always a compromise. It’s a compromise to board at my barn now and I own the place!
Is there an easy way to own a horse? No, not for most of us. We rearrange our lives for horses, whether we board them, or keep them at home. Even if it’s all going right, eventually horses need to retire, and that changes everything. What works for you? How do you prioritize? Would you do it differently if you could?
It took me a mid-life crisis to find it, but I’m home now. The time change is this weekend, and we lose light during the winter months. Soon, another blizzard will be blowing hard and I’ll wait up till midnight to throw extra hay to keep the horses warm till dawn. I’ll be bundled up thick, trudging through snow banks, only to find a tank heater out. Or a goat will trip me and I’ll land hard. It’s then that I think about how supportive it is to board my horses, and what a comfortable life I had, back before pink became my favorite color.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.