There are two boarding stables that are less than ten minutes away from home. This is the closer of the two, within walking distance. It's cheaper by about $150, so I was leaning towards this stable rather than the other.
I pulled into the driveway to be greeted by two barking dogs, mutts, by the look of it, that weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds. I sat in my car waiting patiently for them to quiet down a bit and stop leaping up at my door so that I could get out. Five minutes passed, and then ten, until finally the barn manager came out of her home and pulled the dogs away from my car. She appeared to be in her late sixties, and as we headed down to the main pasture, we discussed board rates. Yes, she was incredibly cheap, but her services were limited. No, she would not feed my horse the food I supplied; that was my job, apparently. No, she would not blanket my horses at night - who did I think I was?
The pasture was about an acre and seven or eight horses were grazing near the gate. They looked healthy and well fed, if not totally overweight, and as we approached they ambled over to say hello. I asked if these were boarders and she shook her head dismissively.
"These are my babies," She told me, sticking a hand out to pat a fat chestnut pony's neck. Figures.
We headed down to the barn and I took a good look at the stalls. They were in horrible condition. I had to breathe through my mouth rather than my nose, because of the stench. These poor horses! They looked as if they were standing knee-deep in manure. Ah... so these were the infamous boarders.
I'd seen enough, and by now, I was ready to file a complaint against animal cruelty. Luckily I had the patience to confront her and ask her why these animals were being treated so poorly.
"It's the owners fault," She told me matter-of-factly. "I'm not a slave. I put a roof over their horses' heads; the least they can do is look after them!"
I was incredulous. Hadn't she ever heard of working late? I pictured a woman in a suit, typing away at a secretary's desk, with no idea that her horse was in an unhealthy environment.
I checked to see that each horse had water, and, satisfied that they did, I checked the hay nets. About half of them were filled, and the rest were empty.
I was so appalled, I didn't even bother being polite. I stormed off to my car in a huff, ignoring the dogs that chased after me, nipping at my heels, and slammed the door shut behind me. I wheeled out of that place so fast that a few horses startled in their enclosures and galloped to the other side of the pasture.
In the end, I filed a complaint with the local sheriff, who drove out to this woman's property to see that the horses weren't suffering from animal cruelty or neglect. I haven't heard a word from either, but I do hope that those poor horses have found better homes. I might drop by again someday, to see that no horse - or any animal, for that matter - was without food, water, a clean and safe place to stay, and fresh air to breathe.
Can you believe some people?