I liken this to saddle shopping, only worse.
The problem I am running into is that I have already checked out all the close facilities and they didn't fit the bill a year ago and don't now. The next layer of barns are all about 30-40 minutes away, but if I find the right place it could actually save me time in the long run.
Here is the math:
Barn: 5-7 minutes from house
Arrive and hook up trailer - 10 minutes
Load up Gem - 10 minutes
Drive to trails - closest set is 45 minutes away
Unload and tack up - 15 minutes
Untack and load up - 20 minutes
Drive to barn - 45 minutes
Unload, put Gem out and unhook trailer - 15 minutes
Drive home - 5-7 minutes
Total time for a ride of any duration on trails (not including riding time): 2 hours 55 minutes
So...if I pick a barn that is 45 minutes away, but has trail access from the barn with no need to trailer at all:
Drive to barn: 45 minutes
Tack up: 10 minutes
Untack and put back out in pasture: 15 minutes
Drive home: 45 minutes
Total time for a ride of any duration on trails (not including riding time): 1 hour 55 minutes.
This would save me at least an hour plus all the gas to trailer.
Problem is finding all these magical mystical barns with trail access. They seem few and far between.
After a lot of internet research and contacting some friends, I found a list of 7 possible barns. I called them all and was able to talk to 4.
Barn #1: Personally recommended to me by a fellow hunter pace rider. $300/mo for modified pasture board. Basically the Dynamic Duo would get a pasture (not sure of the size) and a two stall barn to themselves. They would be out except for really bad weather. Lighted arena to ride in during the dark days of winter. BO was super nice, is a highly accomplished eventer and a saddle fitter. Cons: Only 1.5 miles of current trails with the possibility of maybe getting access to a neighbors 200 acres to ride on. This means I would still have to trailer, but I also need to talk to my pace friend and see where she rides. Maybe there is something close by that I am not aware of. Bonus is that my friend lives literally next door. Going to see the place on Friday.
Barn #2: $350/month. Pasture only with use of run ins per a long wait list. Horses pared up per personality not by some strict mares versus geldings only. Hay and grain as they need. Absolutely beautiful facility and hosts a pace each year. This is the place Phillip Dutton, of eventing fame, built. Numerous arenas, full blown massive cross country course and more trails than I could ever ride accessible right from the property. Biggest con is the price. We currently pay $200/horse so it is a big jump for us. Seeing it Saturday.
Barn #3: Lady was crazy. Seriously, bat shit crazy.
Barn #4: $275/horse. Gem and Pet likely to be kept together, but may need separated based on interaction with the other mare they would be in with. Honestly, the crazy lady fried my brain a bit and I am a little fuzzy on all the details on this one. They have an arena with lights and host events throughout the year. Lady was really nice, seemed a bit unprepared for two pure pasture horses and prefers stalls, but willing to work with me. No trails on property, but right across the street is a city owned equestrian park that we get free access to. Only thing I can find online is that it sits on 65 acres and offers trails. I called and left a message to find out more info. Seeing them on Saturday as well.
Just based on descriptions, I'm torn between Barn #1 and #2. Barn #1 has everything I would ever hope for in housing. The Dynamic Duo would be together again and kept privately with a barn in case they need it. If Gem were to get hurt again, she would have a place to rehab for no extra fees. My friend lives next door and the BO was super nice, chatted away and could look at my saddle for me ;)
The downside is riding. 1.5 miles isn't enough. I'd have to still trailer out somewhere which makes going riding a drag. To have to drive 45 minutes just to pick Gem up and then drive even more would take up my entire day which is something I am hoping to limit. I just don't know if I can do it.
Barn #2 has all the bonus amenities I could dream of: full cross country course with water complexes, lighted arena with fancy footing, at least one other arena I saw when I was there and, oh, lots and lots of trails. No trailering unless I just want to go somewhere new. But, the expense is killing me. To jump from $400 to $700 a month on the horses is really hard to swallow. I can counter it a bit with the money saved in gas hauling the trailer to the trails, but that would only account for like $100 a month.
I don't know. Maybe some mystical barn with everything I could hope for at a price I want to pay will suddenly appear. One can hope.