I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 9, “The Dream.” This is a ten part blog series about the year I decided to pursue my lifelong interest in horses, based on an article that appeared in Equus, March 2015.
What has kept me from my dream of owning a horse is complicated. Money, of course, is key. There’s no denying that owning a horse is a huge financial commitment. Even a cat, which is a famously low-maintenance pet, requires proper feeding, training, and veterinary care. A horse eats like, well, a horse. Vet costs can be so crippling that many horse owners learn how to do basic first aid and keep on hand some commonly used medications and remedies. I’ve learned that much of horsemanship involves learning how to prevent illnesses and injuries. Though a horse can often be obtained for free, and affordable boarding is possible, it’s really not fair to try to maintain a horse on a shoestring, particularly if one is inexperienced.
That has always been my dilemma. Lack of experience has kept me out of the horse world as much as lack of money has. So a few years ago I began to think in terms of getting that toe in the door to find ways of being able to afford my own horse without putting the animal at risk.
At the same time my husband and I were having thoughts of moving to a new neighborhood. We’d been in our house nearly twenty years, and began considering selling it and moving to a larger property out in the county to be nearer our son. We wondered how much we might get for our house with a lake view, and I began to hope it might be enough to buy a place with enough land to keep a horse.
So we began looking at what was available outside of Hendersonville. It was so exciting to browse real estate websites. We wanted five acres and enough square footage for a workshop. Expeditions to tour the places that seemed most likely were big fun. Most were disappointing, since locally so many houses on large pieces of land were actually mobile homes on foundations. I couldn’t live in manufactured housing, no matter how “permanent” it might be, so the ones I liked were the fixer-uppers. I loved imagining what a place would look like with some work done, and though a barn was not a priority I would imagine how I would fit a horse into the picture.
Meanwhile, we put our house on the market. We couldn’t know how much we could afford for a new house until we knew how much we could get for the old one. So, according to the marketing wisdom of our real estate agent, we decluttered and cleaned, and fixed broken bits. We painted one bathroom and grouted the other, and fixed a couple of cabinet drawers that I’d been meaning to get to for years. Then began the parade of folks to eye our house and pass judgment.
The feedback wasn’t encouraging. This was 2011, the depths of the housing crisis, and everyone knew it was a buyer’s market. What we were told was that our house wasn’t modern enough. Everyone wanted a new kitchen and bright, shiny bathrooms. More than six months later, we still had not had an offer. As the months passed, the house we were eyeing out in the county was dropping in price and someone was bound to snap it up.
And that’s exactly what happened. The day we finally had an offer on the house, we learned that the house we wanted was no longer available. Of course we’d had alternate choices, but it turned out none of those were available either. All that was left were mobile homes and uninhabitable wrecks. And the offer wasn’t nearly enough to make the move possible. We decided that since the available properties weren’t acceptable on any level, it was pointless to even make a counter offer, and we withdrew the house from the market. For the second time in my life, there went my hope of living in a house with a barn in the backyard.
We’re still living in the house in Hendersonville, and I’m okay with that. I like the area and the neighbors, and the best of it is that in less than four years we’ll have paid off the mortgage entirely. Plainly if I am to ever have my own horse I will have to board. For me that’s not optimal, but at least it may be the answer. In the meantime, I have to get my fix from other people’s horses.