We found out this week that the horse stables down the street from us was bought by a developer and is destined to become a neighborhood containing both single family dwellings and duplexes. It’s devastating news. And, let me tell you why because I know that many of you may have the same type of situation close to you, where a beloved community barn or stable is pushed aside for more. More neighborhoods. More people. More construction. More infrastructure strain. More. Resulting in less. There are underlying things that these developments are throwing away. It’s not just the land they’re taking.
How will children, or anyone of any age for that matter, have the opportunity to discover and interact with horses and farm animals?
Many of us horse people got our love of horses sparked at the local stables at a very young age. As a child, I adored horses. I longed to groom and ride and just be with them. The local barn gave me that opportunity. It cured the horse itch that I still carry with me to this very day.
How will pony-adoring little girls learn to ride?
I say little girls, but little boys get the horse itch too. It normally starts innocently with a week-long Summer camp at the barn, but then it turns to much more. I say little girls because any local stable you go to, you see the group of “live-in” horse girls, the ones that begged their parents to drop them off at the barn for the day so they could spend every waking moment near the horses. Or who got there at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday to get the horses ready to get to a show. Little girls just love horses.
How will youth learn the responsibilities horses and farm animals inadvertently teach? How will they learn the meaning of extending care beyond themselves?
There’s a common misconception that horses are “for the rich.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are all walks of life in the horse and farm world. I’ve known many a youth that has come from low-income families flock to the barn to work for their rides. I would say my family was a middle-class family, but I did the same thing. If I wanted to ride for one hour, I worked for that hour with multiple hours of cleaning stalls, mucking paddocks, scrubbing buckets, feeding/watering the animals or cleaning tack. It teaches a responsibility that is unique to working with animals, but this sense of responsibility applied to every corner of your life. Working around animals teaches you to be very selfless. They come first in all circumstances. Their care is of the utmost importance, and it’s up to you to provide. It gives you a wonderful sense of worth and fulfillment unlike that of any other kind.
How will lesson horses who otherwise would have low value find loving homes filled with multiple people who adore them and their sweet stubbornness?
I own three horses. They are in my backyard, and some days I look out at them and notice how bored they are. Yes, I ride them. Yes, they are spoiled rotten, but I can’t spend every waking moment with them. Lesson horses are some of the most stubborn-but-willing, sweet-but-salty horses you will ever meet, and they are ADORED by many. They are constantly being groomed. They are constantly being ridden. They spend their days taking care of the people around them and in return, receive treats and praises all day long. They receive the ultimate gift of time. We all remember our first lesson pony/horse. We all remember their personalities, their quirks, their vices. If you were anything like me, you bonded with every lesson horse you had and begged your parents to buy them for you knowing that wasn’t an option. What happens to these types of horses when local riding barns fall by the wayside? I don’t mean the individual horses at each one. I mean this unique group of horses as a whole.
Where will special needs programs go to allow the people in their care to get the animal therapy they need?
Local barns are frequently contacted by special needs programs of schools or of the community asking if they can visit the barn. They don’t always ride. Sometimes, they bring their packed lunches and just sit among the animals. Sometimes, they get the sensory lesson of grooming. My sister has special needs, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a hundred times, watching her interact with horses is a true pleasure. A peace falls over her and the horses. Sometimes, she still shouts too much or walks behind them without paying attention, but I truly believe they understand that she’s different. They need to take extra care of her, and in return, she loves them with her entire being. Horses and farm animals’ relationships with special needs individuals are incredible to witness.
Where will the community as a whole actually learn about horses and other farm animals?
By “actually learn,” I mean not what PETA tells them and not what they see horses do on TV. They actually learn the proper, extensive care of the animal. What it takes to keep the quality of life of these animals exceptional.
What of the countless horses buried with love?
Unless the stable has an alternative to burial, odds are there are too many horses to count buried on the property. Each horse there died of different causes, but I can guarantee you that the similarity that each shares is that they were loved. Someone loved them. Someone cried when they left this world and had to be buried. Someone remembers them. We had a horse colic when we boarded at our local barn. It was June 12, 2013. We tried everything short of surgery because she wasn’t well enough to get on the trailer to get to surgery. We finally had to make the ultimate decision to send her one her way peacefully. It was gut-wrenching. Every year on June 12th, we venture to her burial spot and toast a beer to her. My husband proposed to me in front of that horse. Her premature death still makes me cry, and now I get to watch as her and other horses’ I knew and loved bones get dug up to make room for plumbing and sewer lines. It makes me sick to my stomach.
What of the trees and the wildlife that use the stables as a harbor?
Horses and farm animals aren’t the only ones that live at the stables. Mature trees and various birds, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, deer, fox, you name it, also use the stables are their home. There’s fresh water there. It’s relatively peaceful in regards to activity. They can raise young. They can search for food. Local barns, especially those in urban areas, are safety hubs for wildlife. They live alongside the horses and farm animals peacefully. When the development comes, they are displaced. The trees are taken down. It becomes another unfriendly, concrete jungle for wildlife.
What of the memories?
So many memories. The first time I rode a horse. The first time I fell off of a horse. The first time I tacked up by myself. The friendships. The horses. The first time I trotted, cantered, jumped. The first time I clean a stall. Where I discovered my love of the simple life. Birthday parties. Pony walks. Ground work lessons. Grooming sessions. Dirt. Heat. Cold. Tears. Joys. Hard work. Pure pleasure.
You see. Buying a stables with the intentions of turning it into a development affects much more than the land itself. It has a wide-reaching effect and is a loss to the entire community whether all individuals frequented it or not. It’s a loss of a way of life that is getting pushed more and more out of urban areas. You can’t get a stable back after a development comes in, and no development will replace the immeasurable value a local stable has to offer. Yes, people will live there. That’s great, but there are other places to live. There are not other community stables. In our case, it’s the last one. It’s the ending of an era, and I am truly and utterly devastated.
P.S. We watched for the sale of the stable like hawks. It never officially came up for sale. It changed hands to the developer quietly, and sadly, we had no chance to reverse what was done.