I’ve been doing self-care for 10 years now. The barn where I board has a separate section of the property for self-care and my gelding had been up in full care until circumstances allowed me to bring back a mare I’d previously leased. Self care was really the only way I would have afforded the two of them, so down they went to the self care part and they’ve been there ever since. I like it. I have my own hay shed/tack shed (and the tack side has its own door so hay doesn’t get all over my stuff) and a little deck my dad and I built from leftover wood from our new house deck, and I have a little bistro table and chairs and potted plants. I built new fencing about 7 years ago, and my horses have more space (72’x24’ corrals). I feed the kind of hay I want rather than what the ranch offers, and have 100% total control over how I want things (and I have a great grandfathered-in boarding fee.) I have full access to the amenities that full care has (3 arenas, the property trails) and trailer storage, etc. It’s the best of both worlds, being able to have my horses live the way I want with slow feeders for the easy keeper gelding and a special diet for my elderly mare, but not having to do the maintenance on fencing or dragging the arenas or anything like that. Plus, I get to be around people (I’m a bit of an introvert and can be perfectly happy on my own, but I do like to chat and ride with my barn community).
The way the ranch is is set up, full care is in one section, and there’s about 4 of us in self care on the opposite end of the property (but closer to the entry road) although one of the mare motels was just converted over to a self-care co-op situation. I used to live farther away (maybe 8 miles) and work was between the house and the ranch, so I’d go feed in the mornings, backtrack to work, and then reverse it in the afternoons (work–> ranch–> home) but I moved 7 years ago, and now the ranch is only 2 miles from home and that’s a quick run in the morning to feed. I generally go twice a day, but have been able to work out the occasional day where someone else will feed for me at least once or twice a day if it’s a day trip. If I’m gone overnight, my dad usually pitches in for me then.
I can’t ever say that I’ve regretted doing self-care. I enjoy it, I like my little private area of the ranch (and love morning tea at my little table if the weather is nice where I can sit and watch my horses eat – also a nice place for lunch while waiting for the hay or the farrier) It can really suck if you ever feel down in the dumps physically. I’ve had one kidney staph infection and didn’t know it … (thought it was food poisoning, still went to feed and clean and drove my gelding that day – total death wish apparently, and cue my shock when I went to the doctor the next day and she got the test results and told me what it was) I was taking care of my horses the morning the doctor told me to go to the ER because they needed to take my gallbladder out (heck, I even rode my bike to campus for class that morning). Self-care doesn’t really allow for ‘breaks’ in life, but it does feel pretty worth it listening to my horses whinny a hello when I show up at the barn. Having a good backup person to fill in for you can be a make it or break it moment. Like when I broke my knee falling out of a cart, and my dad had to fill in for 6 months to do the heavy lifting (at least gallbladder surgery was easier, I was able to feed on my own once they left me go home from the hospital, which was 2 days after surgery, but Dad wouldn’t let me muck for another week after that until the staples came out)
I love ordering my own hay. My easy keeper gelding needs certain hays (the ranch feeds an orchard or something similar grass and that gives him the runs so he’s on teff and bermuda and I order that myself since we’re in self care). I don’t have a lot of room to store hay, but I have a regular supplier and I have set up a hay group for 2 other people in our self care and 1 of the full care ladies who’s horse needs different hay than the ranch provides. I order, they get me the money and then I’m there to pay and direct my hay guy as to what goes where. It’s taken me a while to learn to manage time and prioritize, but I’m pretty confident I’ve got stuff down pretty well now. I have enough time to clean and ride (having tidy horses helps since they go at the end of their corrals so it’s just a quick scoop up, I don’t use shavings under their shelters except in winter because they don’t poop on their mats the other 3 seasons of the year), and then dinner is fed when I’m done riding.
I honestly feel like I’m happy where I am, and I think to get me to want to move my horses to my own property, I’d probably need a gazillion dollars (even if I won the lottery for a million, they’d probably stay put, I’d put that money to use buying a better hauling vehicle than my ancient Jeep). I love what I have been given in terms of my self-care space, and how private it feels, yet I’m totally connected to the whole ranch community because full care people ride down all the time to do that little trail loop. It’s the best of both worlds, in my opinion.