We are finally getting some much needed rain and while the Adirondack Park is quenching its thirst, I am spending the afternoon writing, an activity that is hard to get to when the weather is so beautiful, day after day. In today's excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm, Rod Phinney's amazing handiwork has not only made it possible for two more horses to spend the summer at MRF, but also reminds me of a time when I could only take care of horses in my imagination.
The Summer Barn"Anne, would it be possible for me to bring my two boys, Voltaire and Traquejo to stay at your farm this summer? I want nothing more than to trail ride with them in the Adirondacks," pleaded Carin in her beautiful Italian accent.
This was not the first time that Carin had inquired about keeping her horses at my farm. Before this year, my answer sounded something like:
"I'm sorry Carin, but there just isn't any room in the barn. In fact I already have one horse living in a temporary stall in the Indoor ring all by himself. Turnout is limited too," I replied apologetically.
The truth is that before Rod built the barn, he wanted me to confirm the maximum number of stalls that guaranteed not having to build an addition in the years to come; an addition to house the endless number of horses who would surely find the way to Moose River Farm. Rod was only trying to prevent what he had lived through in our early days at Lakeview Farm after he had built me my two stall dream barn. Within two years, my needs changed as I began to establish myself as a riding instructor. Suddenly two horses, became three and eventually a boarder's horse moved in. Dutifully, Rod added two more stalls to accommodate the new occupants.
As the horses aged and became less enthusiastic about training, I began to seek out younger prospects to fill the empty niche so that my aged animals could gracefully settle into retirement. Since my horses are with me for life, the equine population increased rather quickly. With the construction of Moose River Farm, more room could provide adequate space and resources for the blooming herd. However, even MRF has limitations in terms of manpower, not to mention funds. After careful consideration and calculation, I decided that an 11 stall barn was ample and would even provide an extra stall for the goats.
With this number etched in stone, the barn was constructed accordingly. For four years during the construction phase I walked around the sight, dreaming about the day when our whole family could finally take up residence and establish a daily and yearly routine here. I must admit that at times I felt a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the barn and its potential number of occupants.
"Who is going to care for all of these horses?" I wondered. What was I thinking when I settled on eleven stalls?
The first winter that we lived at MRF, I cared for five horses and felt that I had hit the absolute maximum that I could possibly care for in addition to my full time teaching job. By summer I had accepted my first boarder's horse and also decided to keep my niece Amy's horse permanently, now that she had graduated from college. By the following winter, my Friesian filly arrived. Sadly, an older horse was euthanized later that same year, but his stall was later filled by a newcomer the following spring. And then two older horses that had been borrowed for several summers became year round residents at MRF. Two years later I found a horse on the internet who I had already passed up once. I was not about to let him go the second time he came up for sale a year later. Since his arrival two other older horses, sadly, had to be euthanized which meant when a free horse was offered last fall, I had a stall for her. If you are keeping track with accurate math computation you are fully aware that the number of horses that I care for while also tending to my full time job waxes and wanes around the number 11. Carin's two horses have brought the number temporarily to 13 which in itself may only be temporary as Carin's third horse, Gladius, is hoping that he can vacation in the Adirondacks as well.
Since necessity is the mother of construction, the Summer barn was erected so that two of my horses could move outdoors leaving their stalls vacant for Carin's two horses to vacation in. With little protest, Welby and Sandi moved into the Summer barn and now whinny for meals and attention within 100 ft. of the back of the main barn. Although, far from completion, the Summer barn is providing these two horses with shelter from rain and sun while allowing breezy air to keep them cool. Of course the Summer barn has also provided me with two additional stalls to keep clean.
Since the Summer barn is still in its novelty state, I must admit that I love going out to tend to it. In fact the little two stall structure reminds me of the barn that my toy horses lived in when I was a child. It was nothing more than box stalls that I assembled from the cardboard that my father's shirts returned from the dry cleaner on. Under an antique breadboard table in my bedroom, the stalls were constructed to stable lots of horses. I spent hours in my room tending to the needs of my eclectic herd that included plush and plastic horses. Each horse had a stall with a water bucket and a grain bin. Since the shag carpet on my bedroom floor contained variegated green and aqua colored wool yarn, the horses spent the day out in the 'field' grazing which meant that I didn't have to clean their stalls! In my imagination I was truly caring for living horses with all the knowledge that I had gleaned from books and from the precious two hours spent in a 'real' barn after my weekly riding lesson. Many of these same strategies are applied today in the care of the 'real' eclectic herd that resides here.
Tending to Welby and Sandi in the Summer barn takes me back to that time in my life when living with real horses seemed like the impossible dream. Alex, one of my riding students, frequently beats me out to the Summer barn to complete chores because she too is beguiled by its simplicity and loves maintaining it while in the presence of the two occupants who live out there.
The 'Summer' barn's name reminds me that it will not house horses in the winter...
Therefore, its occupants can only take up residence temporarily during the good weather months.