BY DEBORAH JANE NICHOLAS
My perfect yard would contain no liveries, there I’ve said it.
Let’s assume this impossible dream was to actually come true. I would own just a few acres that included a house, an indoor arena, great hacking – ideally located near a quaint English village for road work. Plus I like to peer through windows from my elevated position in the saddle, I’m nosy like that. Or perhaps I have an interest in interior design, you can decide which it is. I envisage an easy life with no one bothering me and I would always have that arena to myself. No-one could dictate where, or for how long, my horse is turned out. No tack, feed or rugs would ever go missing, and most importantly I would never have to watch people making foolish decisions about their horses, or talking nonsense.
In reality I would probably get lonely. I would have to own at least 3 horses so one was never left alone when I’m riding. I would have to harrow the school, muck clear the fields and remove ragwort myself. Then there is fence fixing and general yard maintenance. That’s a lot of work! It would be less work if I could afford to hire staff, but I doubt there would be much left in the bank after purchasing such a place. Also it would mean I would not actually be alone in any case.
Obviously I have been to many different yards over the years. I have heard numerous explanations that people have given when they wish to leave. Poor winter grazing comes up a lot and limited turnout is a problem. The yards with facilities have usually invested a great deal of money in encouraging horse owners to stay at their yards. People want floodlit outdoor schools and covered indoor arenas and these types of yards usually have many stables. If they didn’t originally, then they build more. Although they don’t generally have the land to accommodate so many horses, hence turnout is restricted.
Two of my yards have had great facilities and all year turnout, ideal! Yet the paddocks would become so churned up and muddy over winter my horse would develop mud fever. Therefore I would have to restrict the turnout myself or she would be crippled from pain. Another yard had everything I needed, and the most beautiful scenic rides anyone could wish for. The owners were helpful, and left me alone unless I needed assistance. Yet off road motor bikes ridden by people who didn’t understand horses made my life hell.
Thoroughbred + 10 noisy motorbikes = nightmare situation. Something I probably could have worked on given time and the opportunity. Sadly I didn’t know 10 off road bikers that would give up their time while I school my horse.
My reasons for moving yards have varied but it’s usually because of my specific circumstances at that time. It’s ordinarily down to distance or that I’ve moved house, or even changed job. Only once have I left a yard because I felt my horse was in danger, and only once have I left a yard because the owner seemed so socially awkward and unfriendly that I felt uncomfortable in her presence.
Overall though, the majority of the yards I have been a livery at over the years have been great places, but not perfect.
Almost perfect has to be close enough, and this is where tolerance comes into it. I hear too many liveries complaining about what they haven’t got, rather than what they have got. All yards are virtually the same, there will be many things you love about the place, and a few things you don’t. For those not as seasoned in moving yards as much as I have I can guarantee when you first view your new yard it will seem perfect. After a couple of months, even an entire year, you will start to find a few faults.
Whether it’s a yard with 80 liveries or just 8, that yard has to accommodate everybody, not just you. Therefore, whatever suits everybody most of the time will not suit everybody some of the time. Those that throw their toys out of the pram over small annoyances and leave will soon discover brand new annoyances at their next yard. If a yard is almost perfect, then tolerance is needed. If your yard is a safe and happy place, and your horse is well and settled, then there will just be days you just have to suck it up and rise above the odd episode of discontent.
There is no such thing as the perfect yard.