Adjusting to changes is part of life for all of us. We all say we don’t like change, and there’s a real psychological “thing” called “change fatigue,” but we all have to do it, like it or not. As with people, some horses adapt to changes more easily than others.
Bars has never in his life been the sort of personality that adapts to change easily, and the last two years have seen a lot of changes in his world. His two best friends have died, and the once bustling busy barn where he’s lived for the last 17 years has grown ever emptier until, most recently, it was announced that the barn managers were closing the business.
Finding a new place to live on 30 days notice is something many people have struggled with. Finding the “right” place to keep your horse is an equally daunting prospect, and finding even a good place for a geriatric horse is more daunting still. Not every barn manager is willing to accommodate the needs of an aging horse, and not all barn staff—the people who clean the stalls, feed the horses, and maintain the facilities—are as vigilant as others. When searching for a new place for your horse to live, all of these things go through your mind. There is also some form of momentary panic, the inevitable “how will I possibly find a place I like as much as this one?” or “OMG, all the things that have to get done in less than…….” On top of all this Mr. I Don’t Like Change has lived in the same stall for the last 17+ years—more than half his entire life.
The last time he moved to a new home, he had his brother Tecate with him. Tecate was a complete bulwark of a horse—very little bothered him, and he looked out for Bars. As long as Tecate was around, Bars had some sense of security and continuity. Since Tecate died nearly two years ago, and Bars’ other best friend, Sierra, died in July, we knew this transition would not be easy.
Luckily we were able to secure him a place in a fantastic small barn. It had a very peaceful “vibe,” nice trails, pretty scenery, and managers who were not intimidated in the least about an older horse with some special needs. As an added bonus, a horse who once lived at our old barn was already there, so there was a familiar face.
We are still working through this transition. As it turns out, Bars’ anxiety over this change has affected him in some unanticipated ways, including a depressed appetite. He’s so bonded with his neighbor, the familiar face, that he frequently pauses eating to make sure she’s still in the stall next door. He fusses and calls when she’s taken out of her stall and if he’s taken away from her. He has improved with an acupuncture treatment (don’t laugh) and will now eat more and fuss less, but we’re still working on convincing him this is all going to be ok.
Meanwhile, the humans are likewise adjusting to an alteration in traffic plans and schedules. For more than 17 years our lives have revolved around a geographic triangle of work, home, and barn, and other errands like groceries, hardware stores, garden stores, and so forth have mostly all fitted into that triangle. Now, like anyone moving into a new neighborhood, we’re adjusting to a new triangle, new traffic patterns, different feed stores, and the like. Some advance planning is now needed to keep stocked with our preferred brands of horse cookies and dietary supplements, for example. More adjustments, more alterations, more shifting around of life’s daily patterns.
The upside is that, in an effort to help Bars adjust to his new environment, I’m spending more time on the ground with him and less in the saddle. As a result, I’m getting a little more exercise and groundwork is always the best way to strengthen your relationship with your horse. So, we’ll get through this together, with time. In the meantime, the new trails are really pretty!