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Selling the Farm, having a hard time - where are my people?

For those who don’t know me, the summary is: we have a small horse farm, ran it as a boarding business, did a metric crap ton of work updating the property, closed the boarding business for other reasons, and just had my own horses…and now we’re selling.

We’re selling because my body is no longer up to the work. I’m having a nerve ablation done to see if that can eliminate the pain from my back issues, but my hip issues are still an issue. Essentially my body is giving out after 35+ years of abuse. I’m tired. I’m physically and mentally tired. Being in pain for the last 15 years has broken me. It’s not getting better. The treatments should help, but the doctor said I’m not to fall off anymore. Which makes sense - I’m broken enough that more even insignificant falls could cause major issues.

I’ve always, since I was a kid, ridden the spicy, exciting, weird, and occasionally crazy. Initially I did that out of necessity - my family didn’t have money so I rode whatever came my way. But then I developed it into a skill - riding the quirky, the not-dangerous-but-not-exactly-saleable. The sensitive. And NOW I’m not supposed to do that anymore because of the risk. If I ride at all, I’m supposed to ride the more stable…the easier. The less risky.

I’m also selling/rehoming all but one of my horses since boarding more than 2 is just not financially smart, and possibly euthanizing my old guy (DSLD), which would bring me down to 1. The horse that I’m keeping (my ASB) is stuck with me - I got him as a youngster and made him a promise when I bought him that I would never sell as he’d been bounced around quite a bit and treated poorly. He has rewarded me with doing absolutely anything I wanted him to do with a cheerful smile on his face (obviously not literally). I don’t know if I will be able to continue to ride, but he’s my whole heart so I’ll be boarding him. He’s still spicy and sensitive but does his level best to keep me up top, so we may occasionally ride. I taught him to drive early (with help) in case my hips gave out but I’m not sure if my back will hold up for that. Anyway…

I fed this morning, and one of the horses I’m selling was being an absolute sweetheart and it just broke my heart. He was a horse that came in with a severe balking issue, terrible for the farrier, almost unmanageable and dangerous on the ground, and now has turned into this absolute love that I can lead with a neck rope, stands quietly for the farrier, and LOVES his cuddles. We didn’t get as far as we wanted to under saddle because of my issues but I felt really confident that they were solveable as everything else had been figured out (he just had massive holes in what he knew). My old guy looked so happy to have his morning routine, and the other one that I’m selling nickered as I came in the door.

I KNOW it’s the right decision. It’s the financially correct decision. It’s the rational, right, correct, grown up absolutely perfect decision. I’m sure I’ll get over it, eventually and I’ll say “yes, that was a good decision”. But in the short term, my heart is absolutely breaking. I really didn’t expect my body to give out just when I could finally start to afford the life I wanted with horses.

If anyone has gone through this, I would love to hear how you got through it. How you adjusted. How you stayed horsey without being involved to the degree you thought you could be. Or if you’re still going through it - I’d love to hear from you.

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Think of it this way. If you take a troubled horse, make him into a sweetheart, and then sell him to a great home, it’s a win. You’ve done well by that horse.

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Soooo…,I hesitate to share this, but I’m going to. I board and have a long waiting list. On my list is a lovely woman who sold her farm due to her husband’s health. She is very sorry she sold it as she is having trouble finding a suitable place to board. I believe her, and if I had a way to add horses, I would for her. We’ve become friends. She told me if she’d known how tough it would be to board, she’d have kept her farm.

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I’m going through this exact thing right now and it’s destroying me mentally. Horses and the horse life is who I am and who I’ve been for almost 50 years. I’m feeling so very lost, like I’m losing my identity.

I have no helpful words for you but just wanted to know you aren’t alone

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It is completely normal for you to be having a hard time. This is a major change in your life. You can KNOW it is the right thing (financially, physically, rationally) but that doesn’t prevent you from going through all the stages of grief over the change. And pain is an additional challenge to coping skills.

My approach to adjusting to major life challenges has been to imagine what my changed life will look like (in the short-term). Looking too far out can be overwhelming. Does your new boarding situation allow for opportunities to work with your ASB from the ground? Maybe you can find someone to help with the ridden work while you “coach” from the ground? Once your ablation is complete, are there any other activities/hobbies you have even a slight interest in?

I am sorry you are going through this. I hope you find comfort in the responses you will receive from this forum.

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Thankfully I am well connected here and have had a barn that I was happy at who I will board with. Giving over control is tough, but she has been a friend and I feel comfortable with her. If/when we finally move (I think I will move the horses first) - now that I know the areas we will move within it will be easier when we first came to the area and had to “sample” barns.

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Is it possible to hire someone to do the physically demanding work? That way you can just feed and enjoy the horses. I hired someone that comes 3 days a week (because I’m running out of time in the day), and he does the chores that I just prefer not to do (moving hay/grain, picking the field, putting shavings down, etc).

I also have an excellent farm sitter (and a few back ups) that allow us to travel, which is a HUGE mental boost. I know it’s hard to find good people, so might not be an option for you.

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I did this 4 years ago. My husband’s health was deteriorating, so we needed to be somewhere less remote and demanding, and I couldn’t really handle all the work on my own. We’d been there 20 years and I’d put my heart and soul into it. I knew and loved every inch of that place.

Our new house is lovely, my husband is safe and happy, my horses are well cared for in their boarding barns. I have nothing to complain about and many blessings, but I mourn it still and can’t drive past the old place.

But, on snowy winter mornings, it is nice not to have to go start the tractor and plough the road, and worry about being able to get out if there’s a colic or an accident, and I don’t have to spend my summers with the horse trailer hitched up, watching for smoke.

I did have to euthanize my very old horse. It wasn’t fair to move him from his peaceful retirement home of 20 years to a new boarding situation. I rehomed another and boarded two out. That was all hard and emotional to deal with as well.

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I am so sorry you’re going through it (are you sure you’re not me? lol)

It does feel like a complete loss of identity. It’s tough.

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This is a fine decision. So perfectly rational.

When a decision is right, it is natural to still have some angst. We are creatures of habit, but what I read was not only a love letter to your horses, but one to your lifestyle. It poured straight from your breaking heart.

I hate to do it, but I’m also going to encourage you to rethink the sell.

Really rethink your options. Could you trade board for chores? If you need to downsize a few, no worries. You’ve done right by these guys and given them hope for a good future that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The horse world has always been a complicated place, but it is so different now. I can’t count the barns around me that are closing—-successful operations that have been there for years, some generations. That perfect boarding situation you find today may be gone in a couple of years. Maybe sooner.

Search your soul and wait until it is on board.

Best of luck and I’m so sorry that you’re even faced with the decision.

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I have someone who cleans stalls for me now every evening, but that does mean they only get done once a day (I tried picking lightly one day that they were in all day for weather and I paid heavily for the next 3 days).

My husband has been moving grain etc but even just in the hay room with 4 horses I have to put a bale on the wagon to take outside. I have to wait for him to fix things like gates when they come off and he travels for work so when that happens I’m hosed and using bungee cords which is just not my standard of horsekeeping. I hate it - even though he is more than willing - I’ve just been so self-sufficient for so long I’m not sure I can put that on him as he ages too (he is 6 years older).

The farm needs a lot. Even able bodied it was a lot. I’m watching all the projects I worked so hard on cleaning up deteriorate. I can’t sit on the tractor seat to drag the ring (it’s too bouncy). I would realistically have to hire a full time groundskeeper and that is not in the budget.

Sorry - I sound whiny…I’m just sad.

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I understand, I have 5 at home and I know how much work it is (and how bouncy the tractor is!). Sorry that’s not a good solution for you. :confused:

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I have empty stalls from when we closed the boarding side down so this is possible, but trading work for board can be fraught with peril. I’ve had it go well and I’ve seen it go completely sideways. When I bought the place I inherited a boarder who had been working off a portion of her board since she had (unbeknownst to me at the time) stiffed the former BO $3k in back board fees. She was a nice and enthusiastic gal, but impossible to get to do a good job. I had another gal who was great but could only do once a week, and piecing together a schedule of staff is rather brutal.

I’ll keep your thoughts on board as I think through everything. We haven’t listed yet (although we have met with the real estate agent) but it’s been on our radar for a little bit.

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I totally get where you are and am certain in the not so distant future I will be in your shoes. I am down to 3 horses from 5 and totally lost my fabulous help (she went to school) and live in an area where finding even bad help is next to impossible. So I will keep doing the chores for my 3 until my body gives out. One of mine is retired and not doing great so when I get down to 2, boarding could be an option. But like you, I love the life, the work, taking care of the horses. I feel for you but we are all headed there. Getting old is not good in any way. Hang in there!

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No words of advice, just immense sympathy. It’s normal to grieve and worry about these decisions and this is up there with the hardest. Sending you good vibes.

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No advice, just sympathy and long distance hugs.

I can’t imagine how hard and how much thought you are putting into this decision.

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I thought I had replied to this but I’m so sorry, I had not.

I have lots of other hobbies, just nothing as “all consuming” as horses have been since I was a kid. I’m one of those annoying people that got into the horsegirl phase and never left it. From the time I was little, I collected every horse magazine and book, watched every movie and training video, and then when I grew up in addition to my “real jobs” I worked at barns, catch rode, and had my own horses competing. I taught lessons and broke babies. I tried all the disciplines (well, not every discipline, but a hecking long list of them, my tack collection is…obnoxious) and love to learn everything I can about horses. To say that it was a huge chunk of my personality is putting it mildly. What is it people say now? She made it her whole personality? Yeah - that’s me.

When teenage life got tough, I had horses at home to pick me up (I grew up with my horses at home). I lived on horseback from the time I got my first horse, as it was the only freedom I had from overbearing parents. It was the one thing my mother couldn’t pick at me for because it was so foreign to her, and my horses were my confidants when I struggled in a new school socially. My animals have always been a solace.

I’ve been beautifully spoiled to be honest which is also making it hard. My husband figured it out shortly after we were married that if he wanted me, the horses had to be there. And he has been so supportive. He wasn’t even an animal guy, definitely not a country boy, and now he can make an abscess wrap that rivals the vet’s. He knows all about bedding and feed, and can talk fairly deeply on training philosophy (to a point). He doesn’t even ride. It’s just rubbed off on him. I’ve always worked so he wasn’t paying for them out of his salary, but they were always huge in our marriage. He comes to horse shows, has taken me on horsey vacations, he gets it…

I’m smiling a bit as I’m typing this because it’s helping me think about how lucky I’ve been. Sure - this is terrible and it hurts like heck - but how amazing have I had it that I’ve kept horses since I was a kid. I’ve managed to prioritize them in my life even through raising 3 kids, different jobs, moves across the country - and my DH has very patiently been there. Not many get this opportunity, and I’m lucky to have even had it at all, even though my body is now saying no. I’ve had a lot more opportunities than many. :slight_smile:

To get back to your question, I’ll be able to work my ASB pretty much however I’d like. I don’t know that I’ll have anyone else ride him again - we went down that path and it never turned out terribly well - but I can certainly have the BO long line him or longe him as needed. I used to board there, and only left because it was a long way from the house I had and I needed someone to continue his dressage education when I had some surgeries, which was not her specialty. However, now it doesn’t really matter, and he doesn’t really need any additional riders - even if he’s never ridden again, provided I keep his brain engaged so he doesn’t get bored - he’ll be fine. He’s wicked smart, and I know that he’ll do whatever I ask. He’s already done all the groundwork (both more traditional and straightness training), done dressage, jumped, driven, done obstacles, trail ridden, ridden saddleseat, hunt seat, and western - I mean, this horse literally does everything. I’m sure he’d rope cattle if I asked him to too :slight_smile: He’s just that kind of a guy. So if I can think of something that I can physically participate in, I know he’ll step up to the plate.

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You have our permission to whine on here all you want. Things change, we get older, finances change, somebody dies, divorce, medical problems. Whatever.

Shyt happens and we all must face the changes. Sooner or later. Please don’t feel like a failure or hopeless. Just keep going forward and don’t devote much energy to regret what you can’t do anything about.

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Thanks - I think I just feel guilty because I’m emoting all over the place! No one wants emotional barfing, and that’s what I feel like - an emotional blubbering idiot :slight_smile: I’m not a crier and that’s what I’ve done on and off all day even though this decision has been in process for awhile. I made a move to move one of the horses yesterday (he’ll go into training for a few months to get him under saddle to sell) and that must be what triggered it. Before it was more of an abstract “hey, we should really think about this” concept and now the balls are rolling. Much easier to emotionally deal with when it was still just conceptual.

To be fair - this could be a much more tragic issue. I could be dealing with something far more awful than just being unable to ride and do the physical labor in the barn.

And I’ve been lucky - so so so very lucky - to have this all in my life. Though I won’t reach my original competition goals that I worked really hard for (which is bumming me out, but it’s a REALLY minor part of the bummer part), I did accomplish a lot both for the horses in my barn and people who I interacted with. It wasn’t for nothing. And it will live on, since I did find a shoe to embed in the aisleway when we concreted it. So long as that barn stands, there will be a record that I was there. Well that, and the horse I’m selling on - it was his shoe.

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I don’t think you sound whinny at all. In your position, I would be very sad also.

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