I was planning on writing the last chapter of Eve’s life a few months ago. I’m glad I didn’t finish writing it because it turned out completely different than I had anticipated.
After our experience at our last barn, we searched for a new one. Eve was about 27 around this time, and I really wanted this move to be our last. Even though she trailered well, moving was an unnecessary stressor. I had a list of must-haves for our next barn. It had to be close, have a flat field with no trees, stall board, small herd (no more than 3 horses) and have a competent staff. With the help of Instagram, we found a barn 5 minutes away from Eve’s current barn which was amazingly close. We met up with the management, and I started out by telling them that Eve was a VERY special horse, a delicate not-from-this-earth life form who requires the same amount of supervision and care as your 96-year-old blind and deaf grandmother in a Wal-Mart on Black Friday. I told them about her scar, her random injuries that she’s susceptible to (nosebleeds, eye infections, leg infections, etc.). They said they understood and gave us a tour.
They showed us the small, flat field with no trees Eve would be staying in with one other horse. It was small, but Eve’s safety was our number one priority, plus they had riding arenas and trails I could take Eve on. They blanketed, fly masked, turned out, fed supplements and would keep an eye on my fragile flower. Her field didn’t have a run-in or any trees for shade, but I was told they brought them in whenever it rained and whenever it was too hot. It didn’t bother me too much. I was just glad there were no trees to give her punctures. We talked with management about our horrible past experiences where Eve had injuries that went unnoticed and how we just wanted her to be in a safe environment where people would be around in case anything went wrong. They said that they try to take care of the horses in such a way that boarders shouldn’t feel the need to come up everyday. That was a bold statement to make, and one that I believed. I thought that this would be the barn for Eve to live out the rest of her life. We moved her 2 weeks later.
What I realized from our last barn experience (and this barn experience) is that it’s a gradual process to make the decision to leave a barn. Once you make the decision to leave, you have to find a new barn, move/trailer everything over, have a new routine, work with new staff – it’s all so stressful and scary. Like being in a toxic relationship, sometimes it’s easier to just stay and hope it gets better. But there comes a time when you realize you don’t have a good thing anymore, and you have to say goodbye.
Not long after we moved in, a boarder I was friends with hit me with some hot tea I wasn’t ready to hear as a new boarder. They said they and a few others were leaving because the care had really declined and management didn’t care. They said among other things that horses weren’t getting supplements, their injuries noticed, and management wasn’t enforcing the barn rules to make sure everyone was safe. I brushed it off and went about my day. I was kinda just like sucks, but I’m not having those problems (yet). We just got here. We’re gonna stick it out. And thus our soap opera begins.
The Very Beginning…
Our first winter there was pretty ok. We were trying to put weight on Eve because she was so skinny going into winter from our last barn underfeeding her. She was getting 3 or so scoops of senior twice a day and was slowly gaining. I asked my barn if they could up her food a little more. They said they’d have to charge more if she got more food, but they could add a little bit of this other type of food that was higher in fat to see if that helped. I was going to put Eve on a weight supplement, but was hesitant because she can gain weight really quickly and turn into a beached whale. So I was willing to try a little bit of different food mixed in with her senior first to see if she would gain weight.
Well, something went horribly wrong. I don’t know if there was a miscommunication error or what, but Eve had massive diarrhea and lost even more weight than when she had started. The only way Eve would respond that badly to a feed change is if it was a drastic feed change where they weren’t giving just a little bit, but were giving like a whole scoop at each feeding. I had to scrub the shit off her legs. It was gross. I told them “hey, switch her back to senior. I’ll put her on a supplement, thanks.” I didn’t get accusatory, even though nobody else noticed how she was shit-pissing herself…But she was fine – it was fine. It was just a step backward in her weight gaining process.
She started gaining weight after her food was switched back. I eventually put her on a weight supplement, and she filled out more. It was a small victory. The rest of that year went pretty smoothly until her horrible limping started.
The Achey Grandma
I noticed that in winter when it got colder – keep in mind Eve had never been on a joint supplement before – Eve had a limp that would come and go. And sometimes it stayed. I had noticed at our old barn right before we moved that Eve seemed a little off, but it was so subtle I couldn’t tell if it was because of the footing or she just took a wrong step. But in the cold at this new barn, I knew for sure it was arthritis somewhere. Her stall was the smallest she’d ever been in, so that made her limp even more. I started taking her at night for “physical therapy” in the indoor. I’d just walk her around in freezing temps to get some blood flowing. I also tried liniment oil on the leg I identified as the problem one, which helped a bit. We did this the entire winter in addition to putting her on MSM. After a week on MSM, her constant limp went away. It came back on super cold nights, but generally she was sound again.
I didn’t realize at the time, but Eve’s stall was a constant issue. She was a 16.1h mare in a tiny ass stall. It’s hard to judge the size of a stall when your horse isn’t in it, and stall dimensions mean nothing to me. I kind of figured they were all about the same size in every barn. But nope – I was totally wrong. After her last nasty infection that ravaged her scar leg a year or so prior, it was the new normal to get stocked up in the stall. But it really stocked up in this stall. It was double in size most days, especially if the horses were kept in for the rain. I had to break out her back on track boot and put it on every night to keep the swelling under control. One particularly bad episode required me to cold hose it, walk her around the indoor and wrap it afterwards for days. It was more than doubled in size and looked infected. I was really shocked nobody noticed how badly swollen it was. It was just stocked up, but still it was well beyond her normal level of stocking up. Thankfully, it came down with our routine of cold hosing and running around the indoor and wrapping it, but it was a pain. I also started realizing that I needed to come up everyday because the barn wasn’t actually as vigilant as they said they were. I mean, if you look at a horse’s leg with this massive scar and it’s doubled in size, I think you’d probably want to check it for heat and then tell the owner, “hey you might wanna come look at this. Not sure if it’s normal or not.” But nobody did. Hence why I went up everyday to see her.
But we kept on keeping on that winter. We dealt with her stocking up issues and arthritis, and we were ready for spring to come. And then we had a new set of problems.
The Disappearing Fieldmate
I would usually come up after work or during the day to see Eve, and I started noticing she was in her field alone. I thought that was a little strange, but figured her fieldmate was getting ridden. The next few times though, I realized that wasn’t the case. Her fieldmate was not on the property but “on vacation” the staff told me. Um…ok. So…my horse is alone? It kind of pissed me off. Eve wasn’t super upset about being alone, but she still didn’t have that security of having a buddy while in her field at night. There were horses behind her that she could touch noses with and eat hay with (they shared a hay rack), but grass was here so they often were further away. I noticed her fieldmate would come and go. Like some weekends, she would be gone then come back during the week. Sometimes she’d be on stall rest for days. Sometimes she’d just be nowhere to be found for weeks. I really didn’t know what was going on until a couple weeks past, and Eve was alone. I was about to contact my barn and be like what gives? But they contacted me first and said they had given Eve a pony friend to keep her company while her fieldmate was away. Like, ok. Cool. Problem solved. But that pony friend also came and went. I don’t know if there was a shortage of companion horses or what, but it was irritating. When we moved her there, nobody said anything about her fieldmate being essentially a snowbird and only stayed at the barn seasonally. That would’ve been a vital piece of information to know that was conveniently left out. Thankfully in the fall, her fieldmate returned and all was well again.
The Field Without a Run-In
I mentioned in the beginning that Eve’s small field had no run-in and no trees for shade, but I was told they kept the horses in when it rained and if it was too hot. Apparently though, this meant that if the horses were already out and a stray thunderstorm passed through, the horses were shit out of luck. And this alone probably would’ve been a dealbreaker. There’s a number of times I’d come up during a heavy rain and see Eve standing in her field. It’s not that being a little wet killed horses, but Eve hated the rain and she didn’t have a choice if she got wet or not. There was nowhere to go in her field to escape the rain or escape the heat when it was hot. Some days she would bake in the sun because the trees next to her field didn’t provide any shade until around 2pm-3pm and by that time she was almost ready to come in. I trusted that the barn wouldn’t let the horses bake in the sun or rot in the rain, but that was my fault. I really thought they had a better system in place knowing that most of the fields on the property didn’t have run-ins. But apparently it worked just like any other barn except they lacked a fundamental asset to horse care that most other barns had. They were diligent about checking the weather, but they kind of used their own judgment if the horses could deal with being in a stray thunderstorm or not instead of bringing them all in then turning them back out. Which I know seems like a chore, but if there’s no run-ins, then I assumed that’s what they would do… Most days were ok, but it was those weeks of heavy rain or heat waves that made me really dislike the fact no run-ins or shelter existed.
If it was going to rain for days, they’d keep the horses on stall rest until the rain was over. So this probably contributed more to Eve’s horrible stocking up issue when she was in the stall 24+ hours and didn’t have to be. Regardless, I still treated her for constant rain rot that summer, despite her wearing a sheet to protect her as best I could when she was out. Thankfully the barn put rain sheets on the horses for us (most of the time). In the summer (before they switched turnout so they were out at night and in during the day) when it was super hot and she identified as a cookie on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven, I would bring her in and hose her off. If I got there a little bit before afternoon feeding, I’d bring her in early and cool her off. The heat at that place is probably what triggered her colic that same summer which you can read about here.
Granted my barn was very helpful with the colic, they were less than helpful afterwards when I asked them to soak her food as a preventative measure against colic in the future. I came up a week later and saw Eve’s dry powdered supplement at the bottom of her bucket. If they had soaked it, shouldn’t it be wet? I got there at feeding once and the food never looked soaked – ever. I felt it, and it felt like someone just took the hose and rinsed it off a couple times. It was wet, but not soaked. Soaked means the pellets are more like a mash. Wet is just hard pellets that are a bit soggy. Call me an asshole (I know I am), but I wanted my mare to have soaked food. How hard is it to fill the food with water and walk away for 10 minutes to let it soak? I asked them again to please soak the food. They said they were, and if they weren’t, they’d let the feed person know to soak it. I was like alright. But nothing changed. I also found out they weren’t giving the horses supplements everyday like they were supposed to (but I guess I already figured that would be an issue).
The Stolen Property
Besides what I listed, Eve was doing pretty well here. She was happier (when her fieldmate was around…), she was healthier (besides the colic, arthritis and stocking up….) and it was easier to care for her here because she was so close to my work. I could see her on my lunch break or see her right after work and take care of her. It was so quick. I’d get home so early. It was so convenient for me (when she didn’t need extra care for her ailments….). But what started pushing me over the edge – despite everything we had endured that I could brush off – was that people started straight up stealing my shit. We were at this barn for a little over a year. I came up, took care of Eve and left. I cleaned up after myself. I kept my stuff organized. I didn’t complain to management about anything I was unhappy with while I was there because I figured they had enough going on and my problems were Karen-type extra problems that weren’t important. They never heard a peep out of me unless I asked them to do something for Eve (like soak her food) or gave them an update if Eve needed stall rest or something. A serious boundary was crossed when I noticed my stuff going missing. I felt like my trust was violated.
Now, they didn’t steal my $125 name plated halter or my $100 back on track boots, so some people might roll their eyes at this next part. But they stole my stall guard clips which cost about $.50. Eve’s stall has bars on it, so she’s in a box the entire time unable to stick her head out and take in the fresh, crisp air and sunset views. Horses weren’t allowed to keep their stall guard up because the barn aisle was so narrow. When I came up, I’d open Eve’s stall door and put her stall guard up so she could stick her head out and take it all in. However, on this fateful day, I noticed Eve’s clip was missing. Had it fallen off? Had it been broken? No…Some lowlife peasant who couldn’t afford one for $.50 had STOLEN IT. Thankfully, I had extras because I’ve learned to be prepared living with Eve. But I was still really irked that someone would target my horse like that. Did I offend someone? Did Eve or I do something to warrant this kind of retaliation? Her stall was the first one when you walked in, so maybe that’s why? But they had to open her stall door, touch her stall guard and take the clip off. It was a huge trust violation – like who are you and why are you going in my horse’s stall when I’m not there? The staff said they didn’t know who it was, but they had clips if I needed some. I thanked them, but told them I had extras as well; I was just upset someone had taken it.
A few days passed and the culprit returned to steal our stall guard clip yet again. I was enraged at this point. Yes, it’s only $1 worth of stolen goods, but the money doesn’t mean anything to me. What’s $1 when I’m spending millions on Eve’s routine care anyway? It’s just the fact they had no respect for Eve or my stuff. I wrote a passive aggressive note that went along the lines of “To whoever is stealing Eve’s stall guard clips – PLEASE STOP. When you steal the clips, she cannot stick her head out of her stall when I come visit. They are $.50 at Dover.” I also painted all of Eve’s clips white and wrote her name on them so if someone did steal them again, I’d know it. She didn’t have her clips stolen again after that. But it’s annoying I had to go to such lengths to stop the thievery. Like, I’m sorry you’re poor and/or have no morals, but here’s a dollar taped to her stall door so you can go buy some clips yourself.
In all the barns I’ve worked/boarded at, the only barn thief I ever encountered was my barn owners dog who would greet me at the barn, get pets, then sneakily grab one of my brushes and run away to bury it in the garden. Sometimes if he was caught early, he’d return the goods. But generally by the time you realized what had happened, he was gone. I like to think that humans have a better understanding of stealing and knowing right from wrong. Sure I’ve had stuff go missing at barns before. Usually it was because I left something out and people thought it was the school’s property (like a sweat scraper/brush/halter) and I’d find it in with the school tack or in a different area of the barn. But rarely did anything ever up and disappear. It takes a real monster to break into a horses stall and steal their property as the horse stands there helpless to stop the heinous crime from being committed. It makes you wonder what else is going on when I’m not there?
There was other stuff I had that went missing at this barn. I can’t say for certain if they were stolen, but I never found them. Some of it was expensive things that I would have accidentally left outside Eve’s stall, which should’ve been there the next day. But they weren’t. I tore my tack trunk apart and looked everywhere in that barn over and under things, but I didn’t find any of it. I figured they were either thrown away or stolen, but I’ll never know.
The Season Finale: Coronacation
Ah, yes, the season finale. I’m not sure if you remember, but back around March, there was this thing called the Corona virus or Covid-19, which was causing widespread panic. I was still going to work as usual while the panic spread. It was just another day to me. I went to work, saw Eve after then went home. One night, I went up after work, and the gate was closed. Eve had another episode of stocking up and needed her back on track boot on. I started freaking out hoping the barn wasn’t actually closed. I opened my phone to Facebook and saw a post saying they were closed for the next few weeks. I was pretty upset, mostly because why the everloving f*ck wasn’t this notice emailed to the boarders? I’m rarely on Facebook, so I had no idea closing the barn was ever on the table especially since our governor hadn’t even shut anything down yet. We had no warning. This closure came out of nowhere. My barn didn’t have a Facebook group like most barns. There wasn’t an open discussion page anywhere. It was just their Facebook page and email, which made it even more frustrating to deal with.
Eve had a number of injuries in the time she was there. She had an eye infection, an abscess, bloody nose, colic, random scrapes, swellings and gashes on her legs/body. The staff didn’t catch any of this – any of it. None. Of. It. They couldn’t even soak her feed right, so I had serious doubts they could handle the responsibility of taking care of a 115-year-old fossil that’s about to crack and turn into dust. My confidence in this barn for successfully caring for my clumsy dinosaur alone was already dwindling.
I contacted my barn immediately and told them, “hey, here’s a laundry list of everything you need to do for Eve to make sure she is pristine and stays out of trouble. If I can’t see her, then you need to take care of her accordingly.” I included the fact she’s susceptible to eye injuries and needs to have her eyes checked. They got back to me and said they understood Eve was a special case and that I would be granted permission to visit her sparingly (which to me meant 2-3 times a week which is honestly the bare minimum Eve required). I told them I’d go up after dark when no one else was there and would sanitize everything I touched before I left. This worked out for about a week until I went to see her one night.
I got Eve out of the stall, hooked her up to groom and saw her eye was swollen shut. I was absolutely livid. She had been brought in to eat, and nobody noticed her eye was swollen. Normally I wouldn’t have cared they didn’t notice – I hadn’t cared all those other times – but when they told me I couldn’t come up as often, I expected them to up their game and pay more attention to the horses in their care. If I couldn’t be there to catch something – they HAD TO. There was no other choice. I had even told them in my long list of Eve’s problems that she was susceptible to eye injuries. So how the hell could they not check her eyes if I said she was prone to eye injuries?? Am I going absolutely insane? What is happening. A thorough body check on Eve takes about 2 minutes. Just take a quick glance over at her and make sure nothing is swollen/bleeding/hot/limping.
I went off on my Instagram story – I was pissed. Here I am working long hours dealing with the already incredibly stressful pandemic life, and then on top of it all, I have to worry if Eve is going to survive without me. The stuff I said in my Instagram story was nasty, cold, bitchy and true. I wasn’t holding back, and I’m not sorry for what I said – I just apologize for how I said it with no tact. But in my mind I was thinking who brings a horse in and doesn’t notice their eye is swollen shut? What if nobody caught it until days later when it was oozing shit and she was at risk for going blind? “Oh, it wouldn’t have gotten to that point.” Really? Who can say that for sure? I didn’t know that, and I couldn’t know that. And I wasn’t willing to risk my horse’s health for a “maybe they’ll do better next time.” Do I even trust them to try caring for her again? I contacted them and told them that Eve’s eye was swollen shut, wasn’t sure how they missed it and that my vet was coming the next day. They apologized, and said something along the lines of it’s been a crazy week and humans make mistakes. They sent me a photo of her eye that looked better because I had put medicine in it, and they honestly kind of downplayed the situation by saying it looked better – was I sure I wanted to call the vet? I was already angry, so that made me even more upset. Like seriously? You don’t mess with eye injuries. Vision is one of our vital senses – and Eve already belongs in a museum – she needs all of them in working order. My vet came the next day and saw she had scratched her cornea. They gave me medication for Eve’s eye to be treated twice a day but I was only able to treat it once with the corona restrictions. It didn’t get treated again until we left.
A friend of someone at my barn saw my Instagram story outburst and sent it around to the barn staff. Yeah, I sounded like a nasty, heartless bitch (I am), but everything I said was completely true. How could any competent horse person miss such an obvious injury? No matter what’s going on, the horses need to be looked after. It’s like sending your kids to daycare, trusting they’ll be safe, then finding out later when you came to pick up little Timmy that he ate a half box of crayons and was shitting rainbows in the sandbox. Like hello – did anyone see that kid down Crayola like it was his job during snack time? Who would want to send a kid to that daycare where the staff don’t pay attention? Horses are like oversized toddlers and need to have responsible adults present. There’s more than one staff at that barn that I hope had crossed paths with Eve that night for feeding and nobody saw her injury. If none of the staff see an injury, is it a mistake or is it just poor care?
I was remorseful and apologized profusely when they saw my story. Despite my rage, I could’ve and should’ve used more tact when posting to my story, but I was seeing red at the time. I was going to post the incident to my story regardless. All Eve drama has always gone public. Let’s be real. I’m glad that they saw it though because they replied that they were tightening restrictions, and I wouldn’t be able to come up anymore until things changed. They also said that I was welcome to leave if I wasn’t happy. I told them to give Eve’s eye medicine to her since I couldn’t go there to do it, but I don’t think they did. They were more upset about my anonymous Instagram story vent sesh, than they were about the fact their staff neglected my horse. Which seems a little backwards.
The way the barn was handling the pandemic and the care – which was honestly just average before covid – was so bad. I couldn’t live with myself if I left Eve there and she died from something that could’ve been prevented. I don’t think the barn ever really truly understood how high maintenance Eve was, even when we first moved there. They didn’t see any of Eve’s injuries because I was there taking care of her everyday. They didn’t have to do a single thing with her. They might’ve thought I was one of those crazy meticulous horse owners that was always overreacting since they never got to see Eve at her worst because I never let it get that far. Her colic was the only episode they saw at her worst, and Eve had bounced back literally 4 hours after the colic. So I can understand how I seemed like an overprotective helicopter parent after the barn witnessed Eve’s supernatural self-healing powers.
I texted my original barn fam (Eve’s second home) and explained the situation. They called almost immediately and were like you need to get out of there right now. That is not at all ok what’s happening. That is really sketchy. I’m going to make some calls and see if we can find Eve a temporary place to get you two out of there, and worst case Eve can come stay in a stall here until we find something else. Well, we found a place at my friend’s barn where Eve could stay. My barn fam picked us up literally the next afternoon after work. I told my barn, “hey, I reconsidered. We’re leaving tomorrow. Bye.” I’m sure they were relieved to have us GTFO. (And after this whole episode, I know for a fact we weren’t the only boarder there to peace out).
I literally walked Eve off the property and onto the trailer at the end of the driveway where my barn fam had parked and dropped her off to my friend’s house. Then I went back to collect my things from the barn. I was crying as I did it. I really did love the property and the barn itself; I just seriously questioned their ethics. I was a tad distraught because now we had to find a new barn to keep Eve, even if we had found a temporary place for her. I had to move Eve again, search barns again. It was just more stress for me and Eve. I didn’t WANT to leave, but if the barn is going to kick everyone out and then keep doing the same amount of care as if nothing has changed – then obviously we don’t have a choice. It sucked the way it ended, and I couldn’t have predicted it would end that way. But it did in typical 2020 fashion. But everything worked out in the end. I was able to look back and see all of the things wrong with the barn that I had overlooked before – the small stall, the small field, the flaky fieldmate, the feed issue. I truly, sincerely believe everything happens for a reason. Every shitty part of our life has led us to a better part. We just got to be strong and stick it out, then we’ll make it to the other side.
And make it to the other side we did when we moved in to Eve’s “foster home.”