I can’t even remember the last time I blogged. I think I left off the week before Pearl and I were supposed to attend our first jumper show.
Unfortunately, the show was cancelled due to heavy rain in Raleigh (which somehow completely missed us). So, being that it was my birthday weekend and my Dad had already agreed to watch the kids, I took Pearl to Uwharrie instead. It’s admittedly kind of weird riding at Uwharrie alone. We had a lot of fun and got to swim in the lake (which was the main reason I wanted to go). However Pearl is currently barefoot and due to the amount of rainfall we’ve had this year, a lot of the trail had washed out, exposing more rocks than I ever remember seeing there before. She did very well but I could feel her getting a little ouchy towards the end.
A week later my boyfriend unexpectedly got the weekend off and I went to visit my friend M in Blowing Rock. M is the one who gave me Pokey years ago. I decided at the last minute to bring Pearl instead of Pokey because he hasn’t been ridden in a long time and I wasn’t sure if he was up to it.
I also took Justice to the Salem Lake Trails for the first time. It is a heavily used trail but we had a good time. The one thing that surprised me was how tender he was on the footing (mainly hard packed dirty with some pea gravel). Even though he was booted on the front, he kept veering off the path and tried to keep to the grass as much as possible. In the end tho, this was okay because it meant he pooped in the grass and not on the trail and I was slightly taken aback to see signs that read “Clean up after your dogs and horses!” Personally, I don’t mind using a stick or something to try and move poop out of the trail (some may find this annoying but I like to be an advocate for multi-use trails) HOWEVER I was NOT prepared to “cart it out” as was clearly expected.
I have been using a war bridle with Justice lately, garnishing a lot of interest and comments on Facebook and Instagram. I did try it with Pearl too but she hated it. The jury is kind of still out with Pokey because he was recently sick with a bacterial infection and so I’ve only ever used it once on him (but he did well when he had it).
I did start a new job lately at a second barn about 30 minutes south of here. It’s been interesting, you could say. It’s a lot more work than SStables imo, but we need the money and I can bring the kids if I have to. A lot of the horses there are owned by adult amateurs with fancy well paying jobs, a few retired high-end show horses, a pasture full of surrogate broodmares, and there are a couple sale horses too (reasonably priced at $10-15k). It’s well beyond my comfort zone and the boarders are very picky. I never really felt like a lowly stablehand at SStables but I definitely feel it at WB. However the BM has been nice to me, so that makes it worth it. I guess. Or something.
Ulimately I REALLY miss endurance riding. Like, horribly. And it sucks not knowing when I’ll be able to make it to another event.
The truth is, we have been struggling for a while. I have lived in NC for 12+ years now, but never really loved it. My boyfriend is from Florida, but isn’t a fan of the heat and has no desire to move back there. In November when Baby K was born, my boyfriend was slated for a promotion at work. I was told it was a sure thing. But it fell through. Then I was told to “hang on” until June as he foresaw another opportunity on the horizon. But that too just slipped away.
You can look at numbers all you want and tell me that NC’s unemployment rate isn’t that high, that things can’t really be that bad. But honestly UNLESS you have a degree and are trained in a specific field (neither myself nor my boyfriend really are…though he did attend heavy equipment operator school years ago), you are going to struggle to find work. I have had 2 Facebook friends move to NC within the past several years and I warned them that work was hard to find. They didn’t believe me and both have really struggled. One STILL hasn’t found a job after 2 years of living in Raleigh. That should tell you something right there. If I loved NC it would make this worth fighting for. In a few years Kolton will be starting school and I can return full-time to the work force. But I honestly have no hope of landing a good job here. If I loved this area, it would be worth fighting for. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I hate it here. I despise the heat with every fiber of my being. I don’t care much for the culture or the people in general (with the exception of a few friends–aka Ashley!) and there is no scenery or color to this place. I am a very visual person – my one true love aside from horses is photography and although I don’t have professional equipment anymore I revel in nature’s beauty and seek to document it and enjoy it as much as I can.
Simply put, we’re honestly starting to seriously consider relocating. We have discussed places like Washington State, North Dakota, Minnesota, New Hampshire–states where the numbers indicate there are ample jobs. There is just one problem. For us especially, any move would have to be incredibly strategic. Joe doesn’t have the experience or skill set to land a job from afar (although he MIGHT be able to transfer within his company). He would need to go ahead and land employment and find a place to live before the rest of us would be able to join him.
Aaand this is where it starts to get interesting. Joe actually has family already in…wait for it…
You guessed it.
So anyone who really knows me knows it has been a lifelong dream of mine to live in Alaska. (Or Iceland, but we know THAT’S not happening!!) I am an outdoorsy girl. I don’t mind extreme weather (so long as it’s not heat lol). I am also an introvert. I love photography and trail riding because I can escape and lose myself in nature. Alaska is the best of all of that. And being that Joe already has two relatives near the Anchorage area, he would be able to obtain an insider’s perspective beforehand, and also get a “foot in the door” so to speak. Hopefully anyway.
Of course, nothing is set in stone. I haven’t told anyone yet. We are just now starting to look at it as a real option, and everything could change in an instant but for the first time in a good long while, I’m seeing a glimmer of hope.
Of course, this would dramatically impact ALL our lives. My daughter would likely be flying back here for several weeks each summer to visit her father, my parents and my Aunt (who is basically her adoptive 5th grandparent). AND, as you might guess, it will have a HUGE impact on my future with horses.
This is where it gets hard. As you might imagine, keeping horses in Alaska (while definitely doable) is not cheap. Hay and grain (like everything else) are mostly shipped in from BC or the lower 48. Any real boarding facility has invested in an indoor arena so that riding in the winter isn’t impossible. As such, the cost of board is exponential. (At least compared to here!) What I’m trying to say is, I would only be able to afford/bring one horse.
Realistically, Justice would be the first to be rehomed. As much as I love my big red Morgan, I have never been able to develop the same bond with him as I have Pearl and Pokey. So there is a definite possibility that I will be looking for a free lease-to-own situation for him soon.
As for Pokey and Pearl, the thought of giving up either makes me sick to my stomach. Realistically, Pearl would be my first choice. While Pokey can no longer chew hay/grass and needs shoes to stay sound, she is the easiest keeper ever and could easily stay barefoot year round. Honestly, that pony is tough as nails! The only drawback I see is she does not like the cold (however I think I could remedy this with a few heavyweight blankets with hoods?!)
But the thing is, I know I could give Pearl back to her previous owners and they would probably keep her forever. Hell, they had her for 11 years and weren’t overeager to give her to me to start with. She would be in a pasture by herself, but next to her equine crush (Ashley’s Thunder) so she wouldn’t be entirely alone. And Ashley would be able to keep me updated on her well being. The only thing I really worry about though is her gaining 500lbs again and foundering on their lush pasture. But she lived in that same pasture for 11 years and only foundered once that anyone knows of. Soooooo yeah.
I am still in touch with Pokey’s old owner, and can (and would) offer him back to her as my first option. However, I tried to give him back to her a few years ago (when I was going through my separation from Grace’s father) and she kinda flipped. It was an unexpected reaction, and enough to basically convince me that she is not open to taking him back again. Like ever.
But Pokey is my other heart horse. Of all the horses he is the most bonded to me. (He seriously gets sooooo jealous of any attention given to Pearl). I’ve also had him the longest and ultimately, if push comes to shove, I would have to keep him. Right now my game plan is to wait as long as possible before making any solid decisions, but to be prepared either way.
Thus I’m taking the time this summer/fall to do all the things. I’ve managed to accomplish a lot of my bucket list with Pearl, but Pokey is another story. Whatever happens, I want to do what I can here, so I can look back someday at all the photos and say, “We did this!” And stupid as it sounds, I want to be able to look back and say “I did this, with my horse!” (As opposed to, “Hey, I did this with a horse I USED to own.” Does that make sense?)
Because I’m a Cd/Dc personality and I like to prepare and analyze and analyze and overprepare and overthink everything… I’ve been researching and planning like there’s no tomorrow.
One of the things I’m doing (short term) is making a list for the fall consignment tack sale. (We will likely still be here for the spring one as well but everything is subject to availability at the time). I’m mainly looking at size 70 medium and heavyweight winter blankets (with hoods). Size 70 (and even 68) should fit both ponies for the most part. I want at least two of those and at least another waterproof sheet if I can find it. As well as a fly sheet (I used to live in Maine and know all about how bad the black flies can get!) I also need to sell a lot of stuff. All oversized horse blankets, boots, extra bits…anything that doesn’t fit Pokey and/or won’t be regularly used in the future.
The biggest challenge that I can see about keeping horses in Alaska is the lack of farriers and vets. Now, we will be in a pretty populated area so I don’t expect them to be non-existent, but from what I understand everything horse-related is much more expensive up there. I fully intend to stock up on banamine/bute before we leave here, as well as anything else my current vet recommends I take. Now, I am completely capable of barefoot trimming, but shoes are another matter. Therefore I’ve been researching something that sorta worked for Pokey before – ground control shoes. Apparently ground control shoes (while typically nailed like traditional horseshoes) can also be installed using drywall screws, which sounds positively medieval but apparently it works. This is also supposedly is a good option for horses who don’t tolerate nailing (which Pokey is really bad about). I’m not stupid tho, and I’m not going to run out and try this tomorrow. My poor brother is gonna think I’m crazy, but I’m going to try and get him to help me apply the first time and supervise every shoeing for a while until I feel confident I can do it on my own.
Boarding. Boarding is expensive in Alaska, due to the high cost of hay (to my surprise though grain isn’t really any more expensive than here). Pokey can’t eat hay anymore so anywhere he go I would be providing the majority of his feed, just as I do now. Right now board at SStables is $325 (but I’m not paying that because I work it off). I pay $225 for J to stay at CS but that’s considered cheap. The going rate here for full board is anywhere from $300-500 (with pasture board running from $125-300). However individual turnout is rare. Up there I’m seeing the cost of full board run from an average of $450-650 (with a few exceptions). There really is no pasture board, but I wouldn’t want pasture board in that climate anyway. The good thing is that individual turnout is quite common up there. There aren’t really many big pastures from what I can tell (I’m assuming because of the abundance of wildlife?), but most stall board includes an individual run attached to the stall. Which means that said horse is going to be in a pretty small space for the most part. I’m not personally too concerned about this because I ride quite frequently but (again) it does mean I really wouldn’t be able to have more than one horse at a time. (Here I don’t feel too bad if one of my horses has a couple weeks off because they get at least 12 hrs turnout time in a large pasture. And Justice is out 20 hrs a day.) The one amenity that I never felt I needed before but would desire in a boarding facility up there is an indoor arena. Because if you know anything about me, I ride year round. Rain or shine. Hot or cold. But I’m not going to ask my old horse to plow through 6 feet of snow every time I want to ride him over the winter either.
The good? Self care boarding is a thing up there. Here I only know of one or two facilities (among dozens) that offer this. You’re still stuck paying anywhere from $250 and up a month but that’s significantly better than $600 for sure. I am the type of person who is at the barn daily anyway and I like to have control over my horse’s environment so cleaning his stall and feeding once a day is NBD for me! And yes, I already have a specific barn in mind. Because I’m that crazy lol.
Like I said tho, I haven’t told anyone about this and probably won’t for a while. Like my pregnancy, I’m posting about it here first because my mind is just so full of thoughts it’s about to explode. Seriously.
I’m sure by now y’all (whoever actually reads this) think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. Sure, it’s a seriously bold move…maybe even impossible. However, I’m grasping at straws here. We NEED a change. F’real.
You may be thinking, She could lose everything. Honestly? I don’t want to sound negative but we are pretty close to that point already. My boyfriend’s job is going nowhere and he hasn’t had any success finding anything else. Our bills are more than our combined income, and have been for a while. I am working at 2 barns right now, and no longer enjoying it. Simply put, we’re on a sinking ship already.
Also, I’m tired of living in my siblings’ shadows. My youngest brother is in the military and my sister just got a job as a deputy sheriff. My other brother (the MMA farrier) will graduate college in the spring and last I heard plans to move to Colorado asap. My Dad is travelling the world with his new GF whenever possible, and whenever I see my Mom (rarely), she just gripes about Dad and how he ruined her life. And here I am, unmarried (not that I want to be, but my parents raised us all religious & shit) with 2 kids & 3 horses, and working as a fucking stable hand for a “living” (if that’s what you call it).
I want to start over. Let me rephrase. We need to start over. This move could do it. It would force us to ditch the baggage we’ve held onto (for whatever reason) over the years. Literally all we would take to AK would be 1 dog, 1 horse, the truck and the horse trailer (and some assorted luggage like my saddles/tack/feed, dishes, computers, TV and various knick knacks, a few clothes, and keepsakes. Our furniture here is so crappy and beat up (thanks to the cats!) that we wouldn’t even be bringing any. We would likely sell Joe’s car before he ever left for AK so that he could buy another up there in order to get around.
I’m not saying this move would be the answer to all our financial problems. Not at all. I’m well aware that Alaska’s unemployment rate is technically higher than here, as well as the cost of living (but the rate of pay is higher there too – with the minimum wage being a whole $2 more than here). There is also less competition for jobs there. I guess what it comes down to is, if we’re going to struggle, I’d rather struggle somewhere I love. And I don’t love it here.
As far as my boyfriend goes, believe it or not this whole thing was actually his idea. He broached the subject, and I may or may not have taken it and run. (In my defense, he has always said he wants to get out of this state as well).
I’m a problem solver by nature and although I don’t pretend this is the be-all end-all, I believe it could be a step in the right direction. So pray for me. Change has to happen. Change is starting now.