I haven't updated about this yet because I wasn't exactly sure (and am still not exactly sure) what to do about the situation.
Last weekend Johnny's current owner called me and told me that she is thinking about retiring Johnny from her lesson program. Not because he isn't working out, but simply because she has run out of kids who are capable of riding him...and the ones who are capable are wanting to start attending schooling shows in the hunter divisions, a place where Johnny unfortunately does not win ribbons. I completely understand where she is coming from and I honestly figured that this might happen sometime soon. I know that Johnny has barely been ridden at her barn all summer...and in a lesson business, a horse that is not paying his bills generally doesn't get to stay.
She's taken wonderful care of Johnny over the past year...she's put money into him in vet bills that she knew she would never get back out of him all in the name of being a good horsewoman who takes care of her horses. It breaks my heart a little bit that she really has no use for him anymore...I was really hoping that this could be a forever home for him.
So, this is the third time now that Johnny has been offered back to me. It seems like every person who takes him keeps him for about a year and then decides that they can't use him anymore. It's frustrating really...not because I don't want him back, but because each time I think that I find him a suitable home (although the second one was NOT suitable and I was happy to take him back) something falls through. This was probably one of the best situations/places for him...why does this have to fall through also?
And of course, it's the time of the year where the bf and I are getting ready to move Cool and Emmy back to a boarding barn for the winter, which means that we now have to pay board each month. While the boarding barn we are going to is reasonably priced, it still is more money that it would cost to keep the horses at home, plus with them at home we can spread out costs over the course of the month versus having to pay a lump sum all at once.
Needless to say, my big dilemma is: what do I do now? I know that its my fault that I keep ending up in this situation...rather than selling Johnny I have continued to send him out under contract that I get the first right of refusal to take him back in the event that he can no longer be kept by the current owner. I have no obligation to take him back, just the option. I refused to sell him years ago because I was worried about where he might end up...he's the worlds sweetest horse, and since he was given to me by someone who knew I had his best interest in mind, I could never live with myself knowing that he ended up in the wrong hands or at some cheap auction somewhere. I feel like I chose to take on this horse as a project and take him out of the barn where he could have lived peacefully for the rest of his life...and now I feel responsible for where he ends up. Of course, each time this has happened before I have contacted the woman who gave him to me and asked if she would like him back...each time the answer has been "not really." I suppose than, it's not totally my fault, but I still feel like it is. If I would have just left him alone to begin with I would have never put him in a situation of an uncertain future.
So here is where I'm at right now: without a steady, substantial weekly paycheck from a reliable job, I absolutely cannot afford him. Honestly, I can barely afford Emmy. She is going to be paying for half of herself this winter by being a lesson horse to a teenage girl whether she likes it or not and she is advertised everywhere as being available for a half lease as well. I've been putting in applications and calling places all summer. Short of going to work at Walmart or a freaking fast food restaurant, there just aren't many jobs to be had. A few of the equine jobs that came my way earlier in the summer I turned down a) because the bf didn't like me working weekends and b) because I thought I had something worked out with the barn of my previous 6 year employment...which of course, also ended up falling through. Since then, I have been putting in non-horse job applications and working every part time horse job that I can get...a few days a week for one trainer, teaching a couple lessons at one barn during the week, a day of lesson on the weekend at another, and grooming at horse shows whenever I can, but that's not enough to support two horses and the weekend job is going to go away in early November as that barn shuts down its lesson program for the winter. This past weekend I emailed my resume to another small animal vet clinic out of desperation...and would you know that they actual emailed me back and asked me to stop in and fill out an application because they were hiring? Of course, I did this first thing Monday. I'm still waiting to hear back about an interview (if I don't hear anything by the end of the week I am going to go make another appearance and follow up with them). I am praying to God that his one pans out...someone out there please align some stars for me? The bf is furious with me for even considering taking Johnny back again. He thinks that he's old and worn out and a pile of vet bills just waiting to happen. This has caused numerous fights between us already...sometimes I even think that I'm ready to call quits on the whole relationship, but I know that he's just trying to put the big picture in perspective. Johnny is 19 going on 20 years old. He has uveitis in one eye and the beginnings of navicular in one foot which requires maintenance (although I want to see the xrays myself and get a second opinion on that). It would be one thing if we had a huge field with a run in shed and three stalls. He could come back and live at our house no problem, but we don't. We have two stalls with a small run pen attached to them, one 100x200 grass paddock and 25 acres of untamed wilderness with no substantial money available right now to add another field (that was supposed to be the plan this summer until my full time job fell through). As the bf told me "It's not that I don't want you to have him...it would be one thing if we had a big field that he could go live in with a shelter and that would be that, but I know that you can't do that. You're problem isn't that you can't take care of all of them, its that you can't not take care of them. You do it too well, you can't ever just leave them alone to be horses. They always have to be sound and ride-able and show worthy no matter what. For god sakes...look at Emmy. She's 25."
Honestly, he's probably right. It's not that I lock my horses in stalls and never let them be horses, but I take pride in them...I want them looking their best and feeling their best no matter what; don't we owe that to them as their owners? I'm proud that I can still jump and show Emmy, that at 25 years old she doesn't look a day over 10. I tried to argue with him, telling him that if we had those things (a big field and a shelter) it would be a different story and I would let them be more "like horses" as he says and maybe not be so control freakish over them. In reality though, even if we did, I don't know how much I could really "let go." All I grew up with was Emmy...one horse who was already 16 years old when my parents bought her for my 13th birthday. She was already old, she already had problems but I had to make it work and make her work for me because she was all I got. There wasn't going to be another one or a better one or a younger one, it was just her...and she liked to get hurt...a lot. So, I got crazy about her legs, crazy about keeping her sound and healthy...I had to. I had to preserve what I was given and make sure that she felt the best that she could feel all the time. It's the only way I know how. And if that's the case, than all logic points me in the direction of helping to find him another
place to live, other than with me...but can I be honest here? I MISS
HIM. I miss the crap out of him and for some reason he just keeps
finding his way back to me no matter where I send him. Does that count for anything?
Here is the good new though: I already have someone who is very interest in leasing Johnny should I decide to take him back. This of course, is pending his trial ride on the horse, but he's interested none-the-less. The other good news: we have a WONDERFUL boarding barn owner who just so happens to love Johnny from when he lived there previously. I contacted her about the situation and she offered me a slight discount on his board, which is very sweet of her to do, especially since she is reasonably priced to being with and doesn't generally offer multiple horse discounts. The discount, plus the half lease would mean that Johnny could potentially pay for more than half of himself (as long as we don't lose the lease....this is another one of my worries and fears.) A fellow STB friend of mine also has a kid who has been bombing around on her horse and is interested in moving up to taking some lessons. She said she would be more than willing to send him my way (she's already sent me two lesson kids). I've done the math and with a half lease and 1 lesson a week, Johnny would literally cost me $5 a month to board. The shoeing expenses I know I can deal with, but its the unexpected bills that worry me; the vet, the loss of a lease or of a lesson student. Of course, none of this is happening if I don't get that job...and then his current owner and I will be stuck trying to find him yet another home.
So what do I do? There isn't a huge rush to get him out of his current barn, so I am exploring all of my options at this point, asking friends to keep their ear out for anyone interested in a pasture buddy, trail horse or low level jumper (his right lead canter problems don't matter there!) I also contacted the woman that I got him from (again) to see if she wanted him or knew of anyone who did...so far I've gotten no response and I'm honestly not sure that I will. Any STB friends out there...do you want or know of anyone who wants a 19 year old Standie? Or would you like to contribute to the Johnny fund? I'm taking donations as we speak.